The Missouri Tigers have lost five games in a row, and now they have learned that they will in fact be ineligible for a bowl. Therefore, even if they beat the Arkansas Razorbacks this Friday in Fayetteville, they will not go to a postseason game.
By Matt Zemek
The good news attached to that ruling (even though it was intolerably late, another ridiculous display of behavior by the NCAA) is that if you’re going to have a postseason ban, it might as well apply to a 6-6 season and not a 10-2 or 9-3 season. Missouri isn’t being deprived of an elite bowl destination. It is being denied a lower-level bowl bid.
Yes, not having bowl practices is bad – that is the true punishment here – but in the bigger picture, one bowl game probably wasn’t going to make the difference between a resurgent Missouri season in 2020 and a less promising one. Missouri should just worry about getting this win, halting its five-game losing streak, and knowing that it won’t have a losing record in 2019.
1 – Third-down defense
Missouri’s secondary was banged up against Tennessee, so it’s not as though the Tigers had all their resources available. However, they still did give up 9 of 16 third-down conversions to the Tennessee offense. That will need to be tightened up against Arkansas. The Razorbacks are not a good team, but they did almost beat Texas A&M this year. They actually played LSU well in the first quarter of this past Saturday’s game against the Bayou Bengals in Baton Rouge. Missouri can’t let Arkansas get any offensive rhythm or in-game momentum. Rising up on third down is how the Tigers can make this day as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
2 – Big plays
One play longer than 23 yards. That was the reality for Missouri’s offense against Tennessee. The Tigers didn’t have a run longer than 14 yards. They finished with 280 yards. That was a meager showing. Against an Arkansas defense which has been trampled by ordinary (or even below-average) offenses such as Mississippi State’s attack or Texas A&M’s unit, Missouri ought to be able to hit a lot of home runs, not just some doubles and singles. This would be a way to put a bow on an inconsistent season.
3 – The same can be better
It is a counterintuitive thing to say. It sounds very weird. Yet, Missouri’s defense competed well against Tennessee despite allowing 526 yards. The injuries in the secondary were considerable. This was a shorthanded group already playing without Cale Garrett, a star who was injured midway through the season. Giving up only 24 points to Tennessee, and standing tall multiple times in the red zone, was not a bad showing for a unit which could have lost heart.
If the Missouri defense competes at the same level against Arkansas, and shows the same level of determination, the Tigers should be more than fine when they play the Razorbacks.