Dave Matter’s SEC Football Rewind: Mizzou faces high stakes in Battle Line Rivalry (2022)

Dave Matter

COLUMBIA, Mo. — There’s far more on the line Friday than the gargantuan 180-pound trophy that goes to the winner of the Missouri-Arkansas Battle Line Rivalry, but Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz is keeping the stakes simple this week.

Mizzou (5-6, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) will qualify for a bowl game with a victory, but Drinkwitz doesn’t want his team consumed with that incentive.

“The only thing we're focused on is it's a rivalry game and it's trophy week,” he said Monday. “And that's it. None of the other stuff matters. The most important thing to us is that they have a trophy, and we want it.”

Mizzou had possession of the trophy from 2016-2021, until the Razorbacks snapped the Tigers’ five-game winning streak in the series last November in Fayetteville, a 34-17 win in a game that the Hogs dominated from the second quarter to the final seconds.

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Fans haven't always bought into a rivalry that the SEC created when Mizzou and Arkansas were assigned as cross-division rivals in 2014. But for the Tigers, it's the closest thing they have to the annual grudge matches they parted with when they left the Big 12 Conference for the SEC a decade ago.

The Razorbacks (6-5, 3-4) have won just twice in the eight SEC meetings and gone 0-4 in Columbia. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. on CBS (KMOV, Channel 4 locally).

Arkansas clinched bowl eligibility with a 42-27 win Saturday over Ole Miss, but coach Sam Pittman insisted there’s plenty at stake for his team Friday.

“There's a lot of differences in 7-5 and 6-6 bowl-wise,” he told reporters Monday in Fayetteville. “Obviously, we can get to 4-4 in conference like we were last year and finish in the top half of the conference like we did a year ago. I think simply because it's our rival game it's a big deal, and we haven't beaten them there since we've joined the SEC.”

For the Tigers, a 3-point underdog, a loss Friday doesn’t necessarily end their season. There currentlyare 73 bowl-eligible FBS teams for 41 bowls (82 bowl spots). That leaves nine openings.

Mizzou is one of six Power Five teams sitting at 5-6 heading into its final game, all needing a win to secure a bowl berth. All six are underdogs this weekend: Georgia Tech at No. 1 Georgia; Miami vs. Pittsburgh; Michigan State at No. 10 Penn State; Auburn at No. 7 Alabama; Vanderbilt vs. No. 11 Tennessee; and Missouri vs. Arkansas. Another 11 teams from Group of Five conferences are at five wins and need one victory for bowl eligibility.

If there aren’t enough six-win FBS teams available, remaining bowl spots are decided by the most recent NCAA Academic Progress Rate scores. Mizzou’s 2021 APR team rate was 983, which tied for No. 27 among all FBS programs. All but four teams ahead of Mizzou in the APR rankings already have secured bowl eligibility or can’t get to 5-7.

There are the four teams with higher APRs who’d get selected before Mizzou if they finish 5-7:

• Rice (5-6) can secure bowl eligibility with a win at North Texas on Saturday. If the Owls lose, they’re still ahead of Mizzou in the APR rankings.

•Iowa State (4-7) needs to upset No. 4 Texas Christian on the road to join the 5-7 club.

•Nevada-Las Vegas (4-7) needs to beat Nevada to reach 5-7.

•Michigan State (5-6) can get to six wins with an upset at Penn State but otherwise will be part of the 5-7 group.

In other words, a 5-7 record won’t necessarily eliminate Mizzou from bowl consideration, but its chances will be slim to make the postseason without winning Friday. That explains Drinkwitz’s messaging.

“This week is all about rivalry week, Arkansas, the Battle Line Trophy,” he said. “And whatever happens after that happens. We're just focused on trying to win that trophy.”

P-D SEC power rankings

1. Georgia (11-0, 8-0 SEC)

It’s not always flashy, but the Dawgs mauled another SEC foe.

Last week:No. 1

Next up:vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday

2. LSU (9-2, 6-1 SEC)

The Tigers dismantled Alabama-Birmingham, face one more hurdle before the SEC title tilt.

Last week: No. 3

Next up: at Texas A&M, Saturday

3. Alabama (9-2, 5-2 SEC)

Mass chaos still could nudge the Tide into the playoff picture.

Last week:No. 4

Next up:vs. Auburn, Saturday

4. Tennessee (9-2, 5-2 SEC)

There’s no shame in making the Sugar Bowl, but UT picked a bad time for a defensive meltdown.

Last week:No. 2

Next up: at Vanderbilt, Saturday

5. Arkansas (6-5, 3-4 SEC)

Look who’s showing late signs of life. A healthy K.J. Jefferson makes a huge difference.

Last week: No.8

Up next: at Missouri, Friday

6. Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3 SEC)

How do you put up 703 yards of offense and still lose by double digits?

Last week:No. 5

Next up:vs. Mississippi State, Thursday

7. Mississippi State (7-4, 3-4 SEC)

Do the Bulldogs have one more fight left for the Egg Bowl?

Last week: No. 6

Up next: at Ole Miss, Thursday

8. South Carolina (7-4, 4-4 SEC)

The Gamecocks cold cocked the Vols in the SEC’s most surprising outcome this year.

Last week: No. 12

Up next: at Clemson, Saturday

9. Kentucky (6-5, 3-5 SEC)

Coach Mark Stoops landed a big raise with just a ho-hum season by UK’s standards.

Last week: No. 9

Next up: vs. Louisville

10. Auburn (4-7, 2-5 SEC)

Lane Kiffin could very well be headed to The Plains sooner than later.

Last week: No. 10

Next up: at Alabama, Saturday

11. Missouri (5-6, 2-5 SEC)

The Tigers never have lost to Arkansas on Faurot Field.

Last week: No. 11

Next up: vs. Arkansas, Friday

12. Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-5 SEC)

The Commodores are on fire, winning consecutive SEC games for the first time in five years.

Last week: No. 13

Next up: vs. Tennessee, Saturday

13. Florida (6-5, 3-5 SEC)

Just when the Gators caught some momentum, they stumble at Vandy.

Last week: No. 7

Next up: at Florida State, Friday

14. Texas A&M (4-7, 1-6 SEC)

The Aggies are headed to their worst record since 2008.

Last week: No. 14

Up next: vs. LSU, Saturday

P-D SEC game balls

Offensive player: South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler (finally) lived up to all the hype with a game for the ages against Tennessee: 30 of 37 passing for 438 yards and six passing touchdowns.

Runners-up: Arkansas running back Rocket Sanders wrecked Ole Miss for 232 rushing yards and three touchdowns. … Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker suffered a season-ending knee injury but not before throwing for 247 yards and three TDs.

Defensive player: Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes intercepted his sixth pass of the season and returned it 82 yards for this third touchdown in MSU’s win over Western Kentucky.

Runner-up: Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders logged 10 tackles, intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.

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Dave Matter’s SEC Football Rewind: Mizzou faces high stakes in Battle Line Rivalry (6)

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