No. 9 Missouri put itself in position for a New Year’s Six bowl game with a dominating 48-14 win over Arkansas on Friday.
Running back Cody Schrader continued his unexpected star turn with 27 carries for 217 yards as the Tigers dominated the game after the teams traded punts on their first possessions. Missouri led 20-0 at halftime and had a quick 34-0 lead in the second half after scoring on its first possession of the third quarter and then adding on another TD after Arkansas fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
Both of those second-half scores were by freshman TE Brett Norfleet on wide-open catches.
Arkansas turned the ball over five times and was without fifth-year senior QB KJ Jefferson after the team’s second possession. Jefferson broke a 22-yard run on the first play of that drive but suffered a left knee injury when a Missouri player landed on his leg and his knee hyperextended. Jefferson was helped off the field and never returned to the game. He was replaced by backup Jacolby Criswell as the Arkansas offense couldn’t get anything going.
Missouri (10-2, 6-2 SEC) entered the weekend ahead of Ole Miss and Penn State in the College Football Playoff rankings. Barring anything unexpected, the Tigers will stay ahead of the Rebels and Nittany Lions in the final CFP rankings and easily make a New Year's Six bowl.
Missouri’s massive improvement
The Tigers stormed into the SEC by winning the East in their second and third seasons in the conference. Missouri hasn’t been back to the SEC title game since and also hadn’t gotten 10 wins in a season since an 11-3 campaign in 2014.
Friday’s win means Missouri finishes the regular season at 10-2 ahead of the school’s biggest postseason game in decades.
It’s also a massive statement for head coach Eli Drinkwitz. Missouri hadn’t won more than six games in any of Drinkwitz’s first three seasons with the school and the Tigers were clearly the second-best team in the East — and possibly the third-best team in the SEC overall — behind Georgia this season. Missouri dominated Tennessee in Week 11 and also cruised to a big win at Kentucky.
Arkansas finishes the season at 4-8 overall and 1-7 in the SEC. The team announced after Week 12 that head coach Sam Pittman would return for 2024 after a disappointing 2023 campaign. Arkansas won nine games in 2021 before winning seven games a season ago and winning three fewer games in 2023.