Over the last few years, Arkansas has been a cluster of a program and a doormat for the SEC West. Regardless of how good or bad Mizzou has been, the Arkansas game has provided Mizzou with a boost to end the season. In 2014, the victory over the Razorbacks gave Mizzou the SEC East championship. In 2016 and 2017, the Tigers came out with a close but deserving victory that helped build momentum for the next season.
In 2018, this game should provide more of the same. The Razorbacks are finishing a disappointing season with a record of 2-9 and are winless in the SEC. Last week, Mississippi State absolutely destroyed Arkansas 52-6. Mississippi State is a similar team to Mizzou, an explosive and balanced offense compliments a defense that can make plays, but is vulnerable at times.
Like last week against Tennessee, this game should not be close. Instead of going into the details of the game, and who the Tigers need to worry about on the Arkansas roster, I want to focus on the Seniors that will be playing their last game in Columbia on Friday. They have arguably gone through more than any other class in Mizzou football history. 2015 saw the protests and end of the Gary Pinkel era. Barry Odom was brought in as the prodigal son, destined to carry on the legacy of DLine Zou and continue to compete for SEC East titles.
Instead, 2016 and the first half of the 2017 season saw constant disappointment and underachievement. This disappointment culminated with Odom’s famous speech and the turn around. Mizzou finished the season with seven wins and made a bowl for the first time since 2014. The inconsistency has continued in 2018 but as it stands, Mizzou is most likely one win away from being ranked for the first time under Odom.
The most important player under Odom has been Senior QB Drew Lock. In 2018, Lock made the evolution from a touted prospect with a big arm and NFL potential to one of the best QBs in the country and ranking in the top three in almost every SEC career category (except wins). While there is debate about whether or not Lock actually lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him as a top recruit, Lock will leave Mizzou as one of the best QBs in program history.
On the defensive side, Senior Terry Beckner Jr. has had a career that reflects the turbulence of the Mizzou program over the last five years. Recruited under Pinkel and a top recruit nationally, Beckner Jr. has suffered two knee injuries that cut his fantastic seasons short. He has anchored the defensive line for years and has helped the Tigers defense become a top ten run defense. Like Lock, you will see Beckner Jr. playing on Sundays.
Emanuel Hall has been Lock’s most important weapon in 2018 and has been the key to the resurgence of the Tigers. In games he plays, the Tigers are a different team and can compete with almost anyone in the country. His groin injury and death of his father have made his senior year incomplete, but he is one of the most important WRs over the last decade of Mizzou football.
Other important players such as Corey Fatony (punter extraordinaire), Terez Hall, Rashad Brandon, and Kendall Blanton will all take their final snaps at home for Senior Day in Columbia and they deserve every bit of recognition for their contributions to Mizzou football over the last few years. Brandon Lee, Tavon Ross, Nate Brown, Cam Hilton, Dominic Nelson, Nate Anderson, Finis Stribling IV, Roderick Winters, Samson Bailey, Noah Robinson, Kevin Pendleton, Paul Adams, and Walter Palmore all will be honored on Friday.
Most importantly though, these players will not be finishing their careers on Friday. Mizzou is in line to play in a decent bowl against top competition from a major conference. Missouri is once again relevant nationally and we can thank this Senior class for transforming the Tigers from a national joke to a team that can compete on any given Saturday.
On Friday, the Battle Line trophy should stay in Columbia another year and the Tigers will have a chance to get to nine wins. Thank you, Seniors. MIZ