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Arkansas Fight Panel Discussion: Previewing Missouri

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Gathering our contributors' thoughts on the topics of the week.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

1. Over the span of 8 days, Arkansas has gone from fearing the 0-20 tag to talking bowl plans and being one of the hottest teams in the country, at least in terms of national publicity. What's the best explanation you can give for why this has happened?

Grant Cook: I think they finally have played clean games. No stupid penalties, virtually no turnovers. Bielema has said it time and time again, when they deserve to win a game they will. Well it's finally come that time.

Devan: One hell of a coaching job by Bielema. I'm not sure anyone else could've kept a team together after repeated gut punches. Arkansas has gone from no hope for a bowl, and Bielema being on the hot seat next year to being a "SEC West Darkhorse contender" for next year by multiple media outlets. That's all credit to that coaching staff up there.

Jamie: This staff.  I don't know how this staff has held these last 2 seasons together.  This isn’t the most decorated or Rivals starred group of players, but the way this staff has "coached ‘em up" and prepared them for every single game this season has been something that’s been truly special.

Adam F: Confidence, first of all. This team clearly got better in the bye week prior to LSU, developing a good plan for offense and defense. Offensively, Brandon Allen is making fewer mistakes. The biggest change on defense is not missing tackles and not blowing coverages. The defense has been pretty good all year, but they've just hit another level.

Scottie: Coaches believing in the players, and vice versa. After so many close calls and could've beens, it would have been easy just to hang it up. But they kept the faith and trusted one another, knowing the success would be sweet once it came.

Mark: Justice. Competence. Sheer will.

Mitchell: Bielema's plans have finally started to come together. Great proof that he has this program rocking in the right direction.

Graham: Is there a way to explain that everything just clicked? Finally, the ball bounced the good guys' way. The offense hasn't turned the ball over and the defense has looked as good as any other defense in the SEC. Like Bielema has said before, there is senior on every level that is playing great and it's made a huge difference.

Josh: It's just reaping the rewards of all the work since day one of the Bielema era. Contrary to those late night infomercials learning a new language, losing 50, or in this case rebuilding a program are not easily accomplished in a few months, It takes commitment to a plan and being patient enough to wait on the results

Adam P: Hard work. You can not give enough credit to this staff and players about keeping their focus on getting to the dance. Hard work pays off and man, it feels good as a fan.

Doc: All the mistakes that happened between A&M and Mississippi State for the most part haven't happened. They're catching the interceptions. They're not fumbling pitches. They're making most of their field goals and PATs. They're not fumbling snaps. No fumbles at the goal line. I mean, Ole Miss likely scores on those possessions in the end zone if Mitchel and Gaines just knock the ball down instead of intercepting them and the game is totally different.

2. How nervous did it make you when you realized Brandon Allen would not play in the 2nd half and what did you think of Austin Allen?

Grant: Well you have one QB taking the majority of the reps in practice during the week and not having them come back for the 2nd half of the game is a bit scary. That being said Austin Allen did exactly what he was supposed to do. He came in and managed a lead and led the offense.

Jamie: Over this entire season I’ve been nervous about almost every individual play.  So yeah, seing BA not come out after halftime was a pretty big concern.  If our defense hadn’t been playing as well as they were, I’d have been really concerned.  I was very pleased with the way Austin played.  The chemistry between he and Hunter is obvious and I was really impressed with he and Brandon working together on the sidelines.

Mark: I'll admit I was nervous. I hoped 17 was a big enough cushion. Shame on me.

Devan: Scared to death. But he proved me wrong and did just enough to get it done. I'm not sure if he is the next starting QB (mainly because of the QB's that will be on campus when BA is done) but he did a good job of keeping the train rolling Saturday.

Adam F: Austin did well. He showed good arm strength and vision down the field. His pocket presence could use some work as he took two sacks when he still had pocket room available. Against Mizzou's pass-rush, I'll be significantly less confident if Brandon can't go, but I think he can make all the throws needed.

Scottie: I wasn't necessarily nervous because of the way the defense has played of late. All I thought Austin Allen needed to do was lead one more touchdown drive to seal it, and he was able to lead two drives that led to FGs. He did well after being thrown into the fire.

Mitchell: Honestly, very nervous. I was worried this would be enough to shake our team's confidence. I know that our game doesn't hinge on the quarterback position, so I had hopes we could finish the game on J-will's back. Just glad Ole Miss wasn't able to "get to" AA.

Graham: I was more nervous that the defense wouldn't come out and play as dominantly as it had in the first half after the break. While he is a integral leader of the offense, it's not Brandon's arm that wins games. No doubt it was good to have him on the sideline to help little brother through the rest of the game.

Josh: It's a tough situation for a backup to be thrown into and the gameplan will obviously change if AA is the starter. At least this week they have time to work on the situations that he excels in and give him more reps with the 1st team. The only part that makes me a little cautious is the fact that BA probably did not practice much this week, a lot like several games last season.

Adam P: I cursed the gods immediately. I just felt like this was our old luck coming back to haunt us. How dare I doubt thy little Allen!

Doc: I'm always nervous until the game is completely put away. Even after the pick-6 I was thinking they still could score four touchdowns if we're not careful. Austin hit a couple of really big throws and the drive right before halftime (missed field goal) and shortly after halftime (made field goal) were big for everybody's confidence.

3. It's Thanksgiving, and I know we're all thankful for Robb Smith and the new defensive coaches for the absolutely amazing turnaround they've orchestrated this year. In addition to cash, what are you willing to give to make sure they stick around for a long time?

Grant: I'd give up Copenhagen Long Cut. (I can't believe I just said that.)

Adam F: Sorry Fred Smith, but the Robb Smith Football Operations Center has a nice ring to it.

Scottie: I'd stop watching FRIENDS. And if you know me, that's a whole hell of a lot.

Graham: Does any other school have a statue of their defensive coordinator? If that doesn't work, I had an Uncle Robert. The family would buy that I named my firstborn after my uncle but Mr. Smith and I would know the truth.

Mark: Cash, Ferraris, prostitutes. Whatever it takes.

Jamie: I’ll forgive the move from Coke to Pepsi

Mitchell: If I had anything of value I'd tell him it's his. At this point the only thing I have to offer is naming my first born Robb if he commits the better part of the next decade to the Hogs!

Devan: This doesn't look like an Arkansas defense. I'm no longer worried that when the opposing offense is on the field that they are going to score, and we'll just have to respond. If he was here in 2010-2011 Arkansas could've won some championships then. Whatever he wants/needs/desires, you give it to him and do it with a smile on your face. I'm extremely worried some NFL team is going to be calling him this offseason. Arkansas may have to give out some serious cash to keep him, I hope Jeff Long is prepared to do that.

Josh: Well I think the key is keeping him in place for a few years. If some of the other assistants find bigger and better things and Smith wants to bring in some other guys that are up and coming I think that would be the best scenario. Not sure what would be valuable enough to keep him long term, maybe a few 4-star linebackers in this next recruiting class.

Adam P: Well, according to Jeff Long’s twitter, that’s all you need is more cash to keep him. Sell, sell, sell!

4. Many of the intangibles for the Missouri game seem to be going the Tigers' way. They're at home playing for the East title while Arkansas is on the road, already clinched bowl eligibility and a quarterback who's either not 100% or a backup. What are your feelings about this game?

Grant: I think it's a very winnable game for us. You look at the match up of their offense against our defense. There's really no comparison. Our defense is playing lights out right now and with out points on the board it's hard for Mizzou to take home a win. Also, I think our offense is fully capable of wearing down their players and running the ball.

Mark: At this point, I think one underestimates our "intangibles" at his own risk. But Misery is playing for Atlanta, and by extension, I suppose an outside shot at the CFP if it won there. Now that we've hit 6, this feels a little like another free shot for us.

Scottie: I'm excited for the game. My mother and I will be making the trip. But with the team already bowl eligible, I wouldn't take any chances rushing BA and Derby back. It would be a great start to this series if Arkansas could keep Missouri from going to Atlanta, though. Okay, play BA and Derby. Let's get this thing going.

Adam F: If the Hogs are healthy (especially BA) and focused, I think Arkansas wins handily. But I worry that this team may be emotionally spent and not as fired up, having to go on the road with the major season goal of bowl eligibility already achieved. I would not at all be surprised to see a little bit of a letdown.

Adam P: You never want to underestimate an SEC team. You’re stupid if you do. But, it’s hard not to drink the Bielemade after what we have accomplished at home over these last two games. I’ll never NOT be worried about an SEC game, but I can say I’m a little "less" worried.

Jamie: I think it’s the perfect way to kick off a force-fed rivalry, especially if we can pull off another one.  There is part of me that wonders if the players won’t pull off the gas some now that they’ve achieved all they can for the season and the senior game is behind them.  I think it’s gonna be a hell of a game and finally one that I can (hopefully) watch without a constant sense of panic that it’ll all fall apart at some point.

Mitchell: I'm sorry, I didn't catch any of that. I was too busy thinking about how Mizzou lost at home to Indiana.

Graham: Every UGA fan in the state has come to me and let me know they are pulling for Arkansas this weekend (I live in Georgia). It's not fair that they can enjoy the fruits of the Hogs' labor without having to endure the past few years. But that's what you get when the bandwagon starts to grow.

Devan: Bielema is good with rivalry games. He was good at them in Wisconsin, and he's been good at them here. So I feel confident about it. I'm not sure if Mizzou has seen a team like Arkansas all year and I'm not sure if they're ready for it.

Doc: I don't think it's fair to expect another shutout, but I think Arkansas' running game may be successful in a way we haven't seen in a while - as long as the Hogs can show they can throw it if Austin is playing so Missouri can't stack the box.

5. Have you bought into the rivalry with Missouri? Do you hate them with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns? (If not, who is the team you hate most?)

Grant: I haven't yet. It still to new but hopefully we start it out the right way by dashing Missouri's hope at going back to the Georgia  Dome for consecutive years. I'm sure my hatred will grow strong as we sink our teeth into this match up.

Mark: Not yet fully. It'll get there but for now it's more like 2 or 3 burning suns. Honestly, Ole Miss (aka Much Ado About Nothing) may be the SEC team I hate the most.

Jamie: It feels like a real basketball rivalry, but besides the 2008 Cotton Bowl we haven’t played them recently so there’s not a lot of reason to hate them in football yet.  I live in Nashville (TN) and hear a lot about the SEC East over here and even the eastern division fans like Tennessee & Kentucky don’t really pay attention to Mizzou.  I think this game will have some real hate in it in a few years, but right now it seems like a Shelter Insurance fabrication.

Devan: Absolutely not. I hate it. Arkansas-LSU was finally getting somewhere, and they moved it. You can't just force rivalries like they are trying to do. I mean, it doesn't even have a cool name. I've never really liked them, but it's more of a basketball rivalry than a football one. And from what I've read from twitter, LSU people don't like the game in the middle of the season either. I'm not sure if there is a more natural rival for Arkansas other than Texas, and that game isn't coming back.

Adam P: No. I hope to one day carry the hate in my heart for Missouri as I do for LSU, but it will take time. But, I do welcome it. Bring on the hatred!

Adam F: I'm starting to, although the SEC East title stakes are the perfect start to this thing. Can't say I hate them yet but I'm sure it will come with more matchups like Friday's. Ole Miss has my least favorite fans, and I cheer against Florida in all sports all the time, simply due to multi-sport encounters with those sorry losers. I strongly dislike LSU and Texas, but have a bit of respect for both Les Miles (a kind of goofy respect) and Charlie Strong which has toned the hate down a bit.

Scottie: I've bought into it in basketball, but not so much in football yet. I have a more passionate dislike for Ole Miss and Auburn right now.

Mitchell: I hate Mizzou for being in the SEC. I liked our rivalry with LSU and I loved playing it on Friday. Now we're stuck with Mizzou... awesome. Mizzou is barely on my radar at this point. The team I hate the most is easily TAMU. I could go on and on as to why I think they're our biggest rival right now, but I'm in too great a mood after the Ole Miss game to talk about that despicable team.

Graham: I don't hate Missouri, but I'm certainly not opposed to the idea. I had a hard time with the second part of this question. The hatred between fans of so many different schools for such varying reasons is why it such a great conference.

Josh: The rivalry aspect of this game will increase, Right now it's more just hype by the two schools. A close game this year, or overtime would elevate it to the level of the LSU rivalry quickly. Seems to me the theme of this season is deleting all the bad memories and reprogramming these players to expect to win those wins over Ole Miss, and LSU have gotten most of that done, and adding another one in Columbia would be monumental.

Doc: I don't hate them but I really want to win this game. If they beat us, I'll hate them.