Linebacker adds spice to Arkansas-Missouri regular season finale

Eric Beisel / Courtesy, Missouri Athletics

Missouri Tigers linebacker Eric Beisel may or may not be a good cook, but he certainly added a little bit of spice to what had been a rather mundane post-Thanksgiving matchup up until now.

Beisel called out the Arkansas Razorbacks, but he didn’t shout the traditional “woo pig sooie.”

No, he basically said if the Hogs knew what was good for them, they would miss their charter to Columbia, Mo., for Friday’s 1:30 p.m., CBS-televised matchup, that’s been dubbed the Battle Line Rivalry.

“I expect Ar-Kansas to prepare this week,” Beisel said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Whether they decide to get on a plane and show up at our stadium on Friday, that’s their call. I tell you what, if they do decide to come, it’s going to be a hectic. Our fans are going to bring it. We’re going to bring it. It’ll be a big mistake showing up in Columbia, Missouri.”

Beisel, who was recruited by the Hogs, continued, saying “We’re going to take some aggression out on Ar-Kansas this Black Friday. It’s going to be a blackout game. They’re not going to see what’s coming. If they do decide to show up, like I said, it’ll be a huge mistake.”

No doubt Beisel’s comments irritated some Razorbacks fans, but maybe his big mouth will end up being a blessing in disguise for the Hogs.

Bret Bielema’s fourth Razorbacks squad has been sort of a flighty team this year, playing well one week and then seemingly losing focus the next. That has led to a roller-coaster season with some highs but way too many lows to keep Hog fans from being restless.

Each year Bielema’s Razorbacks have shown improvement under his direction. Against Missouri (3-8, 1-6 SEC), the Hogs (7-4, 3-4 SEC) have the chance to improve to 8-4 on the season, which would equal last season’s overall win total, with the possibility of adding another win with a bowl victory. But it should also be noted that the Razorbacks went 5-3 in SEC play last season. The Razorbacks need a victory today to break even in league play.

So maybe Beisel’s razzing of the Razorbacks will help the Hogs train their focus on the Tigers instead of allowing it to drift.

In front of the media, Arkansas players and coaches played off the comments in a nonchalant manner, but there is no doubt Beisel’s bulletin-board material will be used in an attempt to motivate the Razorbacks. It might even be considered an early Christmas gift.

Whatever the outcome of Friday’s game, it would seem that Bielema might have some tough decisions to make concerning his staff. Whether by his decision or by other employers fishing in his pond, Bielema has not had full retention of his coaching staff a single season at Arkansas. One way or the other, there likely will be some movement again this season, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

While continuity is certainly helpful, fresh ideas are too. Staff stagnation can grind a program into the ground just like an unwanted exodus.

But the Razorbacks have a regular-season and a bowl game to play before things of that nature have to be considered. Unless there is some kind of true acrimony, departing staffers will work through the bowl game, unless another program hires them away first.

As for the game, the Razorbacks are a 7.5-point favorite, and by the eye test the Hogs have been the better team all year long, playing against a tougher schedule. But on a given day anything can happen, particularly when a team yields as much yardage and as many points as Arkansas has this season.

Even without Little Rock freshman running back Damarea Crockett, who was suspended following an arrest for marijuana possession, the Tigers are going to move the football and score. They average 397 yards passing and 211 yards rushing per game and score at a 32 points per game clip.

Likewise, the Razorbacks should fill up on yardage and points, too. The Tigers are allowing 237 yards passing and 238 yards rushing per game, while the Razorbacks average 255 yards passing and 177 yards rushing per game.

Over the course of the season, the Hogs have been the better football team, but penalties and turnovers have been a common denominator in all four of the Razorbacks’ losses this season. But so have dominant defensive fronts by the opposing team. That’s something the Tigers lack.

If the Hogs play sloppy, the Tigers are more than capable of denying the Razorbacks their eighth win. And that eighth win is necessary to make Razorbacks fans feel a bit better about a season that didn’t feel as successful as Arkansas’ record indicates.

Prediction: Arkansas 45, Missouri 31