Missouri, Arkansas use budding rivalry as motivation
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) At this point in the college football season, teams know what is at stake.
For some, a coveted spot in college football playoff is the goal. For others, it's conference championships or bowl eligibility.
Missouri (3-8, 1-6 Southeastern Conference) won't be able to check any of those accomplishments of its list this season, but that doesn't mean the Tigers are lacking motivation heading into their season finale against Arkansas on Friday.
A total of 16 seniors will be honored at Faurot Field on Friday, something first-year coach Barry Odom believes can give his team an extra boost.
''I care about those guys and I've said it a number of times, I owe them and I will forever,'' Odom said. ''I want to have success for them. I've said that for a couple weeks here and that hasn't changed … I'm hopeful that I've done enough here over the last couple months that they look at that and that experience has helped them out in a positive way.''
The Razorbacks (7-4, 3-4) don't have a shot at a division title either, but that hasn't stopped coach Brett Bielema from adding extra reminders for his players.
''I think it's something we've been trying to build with our players, the Battle Line Rivalry, with the trophy and all that goes into it,'' Bielema said. ''We'll have the trophy out there (at practice) every day this week, let them understand and feel it and what it represents … It's fun because you kind of embrace the story of it all.''
Compounding the rivalry even further, earlier this week, Missouri linebacker Eric Beisel intentionally referred to Arkansas as ''Ar-Kansas'' and inferred the Razorbacks will be making a mistake by taking the field against the Tigers. Odom said he has addressed the issue with both Beisel and Bielema, adding that the comments are not something the football program is interested in.
''He said it, can't get it back,'' Odom said. ''We apologize, and that does not reflect our feelings making statements like that.''
Bielema said his team has accepted the apology ''as long as (Beisel) learns how to pronounce Arkansas.''
Here are some things to watch Saturday in the third edition of the Battle Line Rivalry:
A year after breaking his neck and being rushed to the hospital for surgery, Arkansas running back Rawleigh Williams reclaimed the SEC rushing lead with his career-high 205 yards rushing in last week's win over Mississippi State. The sophomore now has 1,209 yards rushing for the season and has topped the 100-yard rushing mark six times.
After struggling in two games following a right knee injury, Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen returned to top form last week, completing 18 of 25 passes for 303 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The junior, in his first season as the starter, leads the SEC in passing efficiency and has thrown for 2,804 yards and 22 touchdowns this season.
Missouri linebacker Michael Scherer suffered a torn ACL in a 51-45 loss to Middle Tennessee State Oct. 22, ending his senior season five games early. A St. Louis native, Scherer discussed the prospect of participating in senior day without being able to take the field.
''It's going to be tough,'' Scherer said. ''The toughest part is knowing that I won't be able to put on a uniform again here and be there with the guys who count on me.''
Missouri defensive end Charles Harris has 58 tackles and nine sacks this season, which ties for third in the SEC. After a breakout sophomore campaign, many believe Harris has high NFL draft stock. This week, Harris confirmed that he would not be participating in senior day ceremonies. However, Barry Odom is erring on the side of caution.
''I'm not reading into that anything other than he has a lot of respect for his teammates,'' Odom said.
AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt contributed to this report.
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