Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
How Arkansas and Missouri compare at each position
Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks gives Missouri defender Zion Sales a stiff arm as he returns a kick off against during an NCAA college football game, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019 in Little Rock. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
ARKANSAS Arkansas’ Feleipe Franks (155-228-4, 2,017 yards, 17 TD) threw his first pick in 95 passes against LSU two weeks ago. The 6-6 senior is fourth in the SEC with 252.1 passing ypg and passing efficiency (163.4), and he has been an invaluable leader for the first-year staff. At 68% completions, he’s on course to break the single-season UA record.
MISSOURI Connor Bazelak (117-172-2, 1,304 yards, 5 TD) was injured vs. Arkansas in his first start last year, but he has recovered nicely. The 6-3, 220-pound redshirt freshman ranks 6th in the SEC with 231.7 passing ypg, 6th with a 141.5 efficiency rating and fifth with 70.3% completions. He beat out early season starter Shawn Robinson (20-29-0, 185 yards, 1 TD). Brady Cook is listed as the backup.
ARKANSAS Team captain Rakeem Boyd (82-309, 3 TD) opted out this week, leaving top duties to Trelon Smith (89-469, 2), who was held to a season-low 28 yards by LSU on Nov. 21. The 5-9, 185-pound junior is 10th in SEC rushing (58.6 ypg) and averages 5.3 ypc. T.J. Hammonds (6-24) showed a spark in the last game. Seems freshman Dominique Johnson, who doesn’t have a carry, is the third option.
MISSOURI Larry Rountree (143-650 yards, 4.55 ypc) became Missouri’s all-time leading RB rusher two weeks ago. The 5-10, 210-pounder is coming off a 160-yard, 3-TD showing vs. Vanderbilt in which he averaged 7.6 ypc. Tyler Badie (41-160, 2, 3.9 ypc) gets the ball all different ways and leads the team with 302 receiving yards. Rountree and Badie combined for 154 total yards vs. the Hogs last year.
ARKANSAS Mike Woods (27-553, 4 TD) has 269 yards the past two games. His 20.5 yards per catch average is 16th in the FBS. Treylon Burks (39-598, 6) has three 100-yard games and is fifth in the SEC with 85.4 ypg. TEs Blake Kern (17-180, 1) and Hudson Henry (16-92, 1) have been weapons. Hogs need more production from Tyson Morris (6-59, 1) and Trey Knox (5-42).
MISSOURI Jalen Knox (26-261) is questionable with a lower leg ailment. Tauskie Dove (20-203, 2 TD) has been coming on lately. TB Tyler Badie, Keke Chism (20-256) and Damon Hazelton (20-224, 1) all have 20 catches. Barrett Banister (16-146) of Fayetteville had a game-high 6 catches for 60 yards vs. Arkansas in ’19. The top TE is 6-5 Niko Hea (11-93, 1).
ARKANSAS The Razorbacks are coming off a subpar showing vs. LSU and have now allowed 25 sacks. LT Myron Cunningham and LG Brady Latham have started all 8 games, while C Ricky Stromberg has started 7. Senior Ty Clary has come on since a slow start. Dalton Wagner has started the last 3 at RT. OG Beaux Limmer is expected back while Noah Gatlin is questionable.
MISSOURI Not one of the SEC’s most imposing units at an average size of 6-4, 307 pounds, the Tigers are a powerful unit nevertheless. Rutgers transfer Michael Maietti is at C, flanked by LT Zeke Powell and LG Xavier Delgado on one side, and team captain RG Case Cook and RT Larry Borom (6-6, 332) on the other. Opponents have but 12 sacks, half the amount allowed by the Razorbacks.
ARKANSAS Mainstay Jonathan Marshall (30 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 1 sack, 4 hurries) should be better aided by DTs Isaiah Nichols (15, 0.5 sacks), Xavier Kelly (6, 1 sack, 2 hurries), Taurean Carter (10) and Marcus Miller (6), and DEs Eric Gregory (22, 3 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT), Zach Williams (21, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 hurry), Julius Coates (15, 2 TFL, 1 sack), Mataio Soli (5, 1 hurry) and Dorian Gerald (5, 1.5 sacks) today.
MISSOURI Veteran Arkansas natives Markell Utsey (12, 2 TFL) and Akial Byers (10, 2 TFL) are key cogs on a mostly 4-man front that features the hybrid “Buck” role of edge rusher/standup LB. The play of DT Kobie Whiteside (7) has been on the upswing. Other top players are DEs Isaiah McGuire (15, 2 TFL, 1 sack), Tre Williams (16, 3 TFL, 2 sacks) and Chris Turner (6, 1 TFL) and “Buck” Trajan Jeffcoat (14, 2 sacks).
ARKANSAS MLB Grant Morgan (104, 6.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 6 PBU, 2 hurries) leads the nation in tackles. He was announced as a Butkus Award semifinalist this week and has played with an injured left elbow since Week 2. WLB Bumper Pool (82, 5.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 hurry) has battled through rib and shoulder injuries. Top subs are Hayden Henry (20, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU) and Andrew Parker (8).
MISSOURI WLB Nick Bolton (76, 7 TFL, 2 sacks, 4 PBU, 1 FR, 1 hurry) is a slightly undersized stat stuffer who is a Butkus Award semifinalist. He draws strong praise from UA Coach Sam Pittman. MLB Devin Nicholson (48, 3 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 hurry) had a game-clinching INT at South Carolina. Chad Bailey (4, 1 TFL) and Jamal Brooks (1) haven’t gotten much playing time behind the standout starters.
ARKANSAS Man coverage hasn’t been as sharp for CBs Montaric Brown (20, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU), Hudson Clark (37, 3 INT, 3 PBU), Greg Brooks Jr. (34, 3 TFL, 2 INT), LaDarrius Bishop (9, 2 PBU) and Khari Johnson (8, 1 PBU). Jalen Catalon (86, 2 TFL, 3 INT, 2 FF) sits the first half. Joe Foucha (49, 2 INT), Myles Mason (23), Simeon Blair (17, 2 PBU) and Myles Slusher (15, 1 TFL, 2 FR) are at safety.
MISSOURI Like Arkansas, the Tigers run many 3-safety looks with willing run forcers Martez Manuel (40, 5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2 PBU), Tyree Gillespie (37, 1 TFL, 3 PBU) and Joshua Bledsoe (27, 1.5 TFL, 4 PBU). The top CBs are Ennis Rakestraw (15, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 5 PBU), Jarvis Ware (11, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FR), Adam Sparks (10, 2 PBU), Ishmael Burdine (5, 3 PBU) and JC Carlies (3).
ARKANSAS Returns have been almost negligible, other than a brief blip from now injured KOR De’Vion Warren. Hogs had two penalties on KORs at Florida. LSU’s rolling punts led to way too many lost yards for the Hogs. Punting average is up for Reid Bauer (44.6), though No. 83 net punting (37.4) remains an issue. Kicker A.J. Reed (7 of 11 FGs, 23 of 23 PATs) has a long of 48 yards.
MISSOURI Kickoff man Sean Koetting has 33 touchbacks on 35 kicks. Harrison Mevis (11 of 14 FGs, 18 of 18 PATs) has made 2 of 50-plus yards and leads the Tigers with 51 points. Tyler Badie (18.7 average) is dangerous on kickoff returns but hasn’t broken off a super long one. Cade Musser (8.3) is the top punt returner. Punter Grant McKinnis (43.2) has the Tigers at No. 26 in net punting (40.9).
ARKANSAS The institutional knowledge and inspiration for DC Barry Odom and assistants Brad Davis and Sam Carter can’t be measured, but it is real and it is large. We’ve seen varying results in the SEC from team’s coming off covid-19 postponements, which is the case for the Razorbacks. Without a rivalry trophy in their case at the Smith Center, Arkansas has big-time incentive for a sharp showing today.
MISSOURI First-year Missouri Coach Eli Drinkwitz seems astutely plugged in to all of the inspirational angles for this Battle Line Rivalry, and he is keen to increase the scope and profile of the series. The Arkansas native would like to show the home folks the good work his team has done in his first season. The Tigers have three Arkansans, including two from Fayetteville, on their two-deep.
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