Ask Mike: More Mizzou Game Fallout, A Liberty Bowl Prediction & Can Matt Landers Return In 2023?

By Mike Irwin
on 2022-12-26 21:15 PM

Q. Our first question this week is from Lanny who wants to know: What is up with Missouri? They looked awful against Wake Forest. Their quarterback, who was running all over the place against us, was a no show. Not the same team that played us. Is it really about all this rivalry nonsense?

A. No. I don’t think this is a huge game to Missouri fans. If it was, their stadium would be jammed for Ark. This 2-7 record Arkansas has since Mizzou joined the SEC is more about Arkansas’ slump in football.

Under Sam Pittman Arkansas lost in Columbia by two points with starting quarterback Feleipe Franks hurt. Last Year Arkansas doubled them up at 34-17.

So what happened this season? Arkansas had two huge games right before playing Missouri. They played their best defensive game of the season against SEC West Champion LSU and lost by 3 points. Just needed one break to win it.

They came right back and in another big game they curb stomped Ole Miss. Up 42-6 late in the 3rd quarter, Pittman eased off and Ole Miss was able to make it 42-27. Still it was a huge win. Got Arkansas bowl eligible.

Missouri? Those guys were 4-6 the week before Arkansas. Eli Drinkwitz told this guys, This game will get you bowl eligible and you sure don’t want to be the first Missouri team to lose to Arkansas in Columbia. So they were somewhat fired up.

Arkansas went out and played an okay game and lost by two points. Game could have gone either way.

Look this is not a rivalry game for Arkansas. It’s never gonna be a game like that. Arkansas players are more interested in the teams they play before that game. Teams like LSU and Ole Miss or Alabama. SEC West Teams. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the Mizzou game or that they go in overconfident.

I also don’t believe that Arkansas has to turn this into a rivalry game, as some fans have suggested, in order to beat Missouri.

Forget what happened under Bielema and Morris. Follow this series under Pittman. Arkansas is 1-2. Could very easily have been 3-0.

Q. sgiles asks: How does the Liberty Bowl shape up to you? Some are saying that Kansas will be more fired up for this game than Arkansas because it’s their first bowl game in forever.

A. Arkansas is missing some players who hit the portal. Kansas hasn’t lost hardly any. But as a guy in the media I know said, They didn’t lose many because where would they go?
Kansas will be the more experienced team but if you look at this game Kansas’s defense struggled against the run and Arkansas has all of his running backs and all but one of its O-Linemen. They also have Matt Landers in this game at receiver. So I think Arkansas will be fine.

A lot of fans are predicting doom and gloom. I think the Hogs are mad about the Missouri loss. Kansas has lost six of it’s last seven games. I’ll go with the Hogs in this game.

Q. trumike22 says: A guy said on Hogville that Matt Landers has a year of eligibility left. Is this true?

A. No. There’s been a lot of confusion about that but the official word from the athletic department is that Landers will finish his eligibility in the Liberty Bowl. Props to him for sticking around and playing in this game. He’s going to be crucial to their passing game.

Q. Mousetown asks: How are we doing on the transfer portal? Coach Pittman said he was happy with the class we signed but we needed a bunch more guys from the portal. Hopefully the good ones haven’t already been snapped up.

A. Not bad. On Wednesday Arkansas added a defensive end from Pitt.

John Morgan is 6-2, 265. He looks like the kind of aggressive edge rusher that new defensive coordinator Travis Williams is looking for. At Pitt he had a total of 72 tackles, 49 solo, 23 for loss, 14.5 sacks, two pass breakups and three forced fumbles. He had nine offers including Tennessee, Missouri and Colorado. He’s got one year to play.

Thursday Williams landed South Florida linebacker Antonio Grier. He’s 6-1, 223 and comes in with 228 tackles, 133 solo, one pass breakup, 10 sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions taking one in for a touchdown. Arkansas has some really talented young linebackers but Grier has the experience Arkansas needed to add.

The situation is similar at tight end with an least one four-star coming from the high school ranks and maybe two, but….

Arkansas is putting a full court press on an experienced North Texas transfer. Jake Roberts is 6-5, 250 out of Norman, Oklahoma. This year he caught 28 passes for 394 yards and three touchdowns. He was very interested in Arkansas out of high school but Chad Morris never offered him. He’s also looking at Baylor, Tennessee, and Nebraska but he really likes new tight ends coach Morgan Turner. He’s scheduled for a visit the first week of January. All of this according to our Otis Kirk.

Arkansas is still hoping to bring in an experienced receiver, maybe two. Another defensive tackle. A D-Back or two. We may be looking at seven or eight more guys. But the situation is looking fine for now.

Q. Florida_Man wants to know: What do you think reasonable expectations are as a Hog fan? I am happy if the Hogs make a bowl game every year and know sometimes we’ll get some great playmakers and some breaks and win 9- 10 and some years we don’t get the breaks and have some injuries and go 6-6.

A. If all fans were like you Sam Pittman’s life would be a breeze. Unfortunately they’re not. A lot of those people got all excited last year and wanted the moon this season.

This is not a bad football team. It’s a team that had some key injuries. Lost four close games and some people went nuts.

I think things will be looking a lot better at this time next season. Pitt has hired two new coaches they look like really good hires. Recruiting is fine and it’s going to get better. Pittman will continue to use the portal.

Now, for those who want what has only happened one time, a consistent top 10 program, like in the 60’s, I’m not sure about that.

NIL and the transfer portal has college football in a mess. Some are saying that if something is not done college football will become all about seven or eight schools with huge NIL money. So far Arkansas has not been damaged by NIL but I can’t see into the future.

But I do think that as long as Pittman is here and with Hunter Yurachek as AD, Arkansas will not go back to being a bottom feeder.

Q. robs4516 asks: Can you comment on why Jamil Walker was let go? I’ve seen some interesting comments on Hogville.

A. Lot’s of rumors on Hogville but I have to go with what Sam Pittman said. It’s the strength coach’s job to have Arkansas ready to compete physically with every team they play and he felt like that wasn’t happening. That’s what I saw. So Arkansas has a new guy on board and I’m sure in the offseason there’s gonna be a lot of stuff on Twitter about Ben Sowders and what he’s doing to get these guys bigger, stronger and faster for next season.

It should be interesting.

Q. Dr. Strangepork asks: With the recent football class signed, which was the biggest catch?

A. I think the biggest catch was Jacolby Criswell, the backup QB from North Carolina that Arkansas got out of the transfer portal.

KJ Jefferson missed two games and Arkansas lost both of them. He was struggling physically in three more and they lost those games. The way K.J. plays, the way he doesn’t go to the ground on 10-20 yard runs but plows right into a gang of tacklers, he’s always a play away from being on the sidelines. What this staff did was go out and bring in an experienced player who is a physical run/pass QB just like K.J. They’re not gonna have to change the offense or waste practice time developing a special package for Criswell. He can run Arkansas offense.

Freshman quarterback Malachi Singleton has the same basic skills. So he can run this offense too. This is a huge improvement to the quarterback room.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy wants to know: With transfers going and coming nowadays, what is the required coursework to be completed at the previous school? Or is that being “waived” as well?

A. The NCAA has had in place for many years what’s called and academic progress rate (APR). It’s the minimum standard needed to be eligible to compete. It’s the same in all sports. The same at all schools. So in order to transfer and be eligible to play right away you have to meet that standard. The best way to answer that question is to say that Arkansas not likely going to waste a scholarship on a player that is not eligible.

Q. RazorAlex88 says: I’ve been seeing on twitter how with each commitment in our class that has signed, a billboard in their towns project that they have signed for all to see! That is a brilliant recruiting tool! Is this new or has it been around for a while?

A. It’s new. It’s brilliant and guess what? They’re all gonna be doing this now. That’s the way things work in recruiting.
It’s all made possible by these new electronic billboards that have been around for a few years. You just feed the graphic into each board. It’s up for 30 seconds or so. It goes to another message, and another. It keeps cycling through and for a relatively low cost compared to the old days when only one message could be put up at a time and was expensive to produce. This system is great for giving your recruits publicity in their home town. Their parents love it. The new signees love it and it gets Arkansas’ brand out there in various locations.

But again, I think by next December and maybe by the late signing date in February, other schools are going to be all over this.

Q. There are still some fans questioning why Simmons Bank Arena in Little Rock is not equipped to stream basketball games via ESPN 3 or ESPN plus.

Kevin says: If there is a facility that is not in this decade technology wise, then that is just dumb. And I am not buying it.

A. It’s not a technology thing. It’s a matter of, is it worth the expense of adding everything needed and the staff to operate the system just to use it once a year?

Lets say you have the money to buy an expensive sports car but would you shell out that money to drive it once a year?

Of course not.

The only way games are going to get televised in Simmons Bank Arena is if the network people come in and televise a game there and their expense.

If Muss decides to schedule a name opponent there it could happen. North Carolina came in to Pine Bluff years ago when Eddie Sutton was at Arkansas.

But these days it takes a lot of money to compete in all sports in a conference like the SEC. Games against name opponents are mostly played at tournaments or on campus where Arkansas gets the maximum financial benefit out of it.

Q. lost in swine wants to know: Would you have any way of knowing if Nick Smith would return for another year if he is completely shut down for the remainder of this year due to his knee?

A. This is another one of those rumor mill things. I would advise again buying into the rumors that he’s done. If that were true I think they’d go ahead an announce it. The kid has not had any type of surgery. This appears to be a nagging issue that will probably clear up with proper rest and rehab.

I’m guessing here but I think he might be back by mid to late January. The good news is this team has adjusted really well to his absence.

Q: Carole Ann Moose says: I saw the photo you showed last week of Hal Mumme wearing a Davy Crockett outfit at the Alamo pointing at something. I know you said he’s a big Davy Crockett fan and was Mike Leach’s close friend but what’s he supposed to be pointing at in that picture?

A. Both Mumme and Leach are history buffs. With Leach it was more about the American West and Native Americans. With Mumme it’s the Alamo.

Mumme believes that Crockett was in the small plaza in front of the Alamo Church when the attack began. I was dark at 5 am but through an archway in the wall next to the church
he heard the Mexican soldiers coming from the north. So in that photo he’s walked through that arch and he’s pointing to the north yelling, GET READY. HERE THEY COME.

He probably freaked out a few visitors that day but that’s Mumme. Like Leach he does what he does because that’s who he is.


(Last updated: 2022-12-26 21:15 PM)