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MU won’t overlook Arkansas State in today’s game

Missouri’s James Franklin throws during the first half against Indiana last Saturday in Bloomington, Ind.

Missouri’s James Franklin throws during the first half against Indiana last Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. Photo by The Associated Press.

Editor's Note: Be sure to check out Brent Foster's gametime coverage on Twitter at @Brent_Foster.

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri is not good enough to overlook anyone.

At least that’s what head coach Gary Pinkel thinks. Coming off a win against Indiana and a week before the start of Southeastern Conference play, Pinkel is sure his team has no intention of overlooking an Arkansas State squad that has struggled to find consistency this season.

“We’re not good enough to breeze right in and play a game, we’d get whupped,” Pinkel said as the Tigers prepare for today’s non-conference final at Faurot Field (6:30 p.m. kickoff on KMIZ-TV and on KWOS radio). “It’s my job to make sure we play well.”

There’s precedent for Pinkel’s reasoning.

Although the Tigers (3-0) have been dominant against non-BCS schools in recent years, that wasn’t the case in Pinkel’s early years. In his first five seasons at Missouri, the Tigers suffered two losses to Bowling Green, a loss to New Mexico and a loss to Troy. Since 2006, the Tigers are 12-0 against non-BCS Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

“Anybody can beat anybody,” Pinkel said. “If we don’t play well, they can easily beat us.”

It’s been a change of pace so far this year in Jonesboro, Ark. Arkansas State is coming off back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history. But continuity has been hard to come by, as the Sun Belt champions are working with their fourth head coach in four seasons.

Bryan Harsin, the former offensive coordinator at Boise State and Texas, is in his first season as Arkansas State’s head coach. He took over for Gus Malzahn, who went to Auburn. Before Malzahn it was Hugh Freeze, who was there for one year before moving on to Mississippi.

“It’s obviously very difficult for the players when you have that kind of turnaround, the continuity,” Pinkel said. “… The tough part is for the players. But it’s a positive because if they are moving on, it means the school is being successful, they are winning.”

Arkansas State’s offense relies heavily on a pair of transfers. Quarterback Adam Kennedy, who came from Utah State, has thrown for 869 yards and two touchdowns. Running back David Oku, a transfer from Tennessee, is averaging 72 yards per game on the ground.

While the Tigers may not be taking the Red Wolves (2-2) lightly, they are heavy favorites against an Arkansas State team coming off a 31-7 loss to Memphis last week. In that game, the Red Wolves allowed 505 yards of offense.

That could be a good sign for a Missouri offense that has been strong to start the season. The Tigers are seventh nationally in total offense, averaging 567 yards per game. Their 47 points per game is eighth nationally and second in the SEC.

Quarterback James Franklin is averaging 291 yards passing per game. He admitted things have come easier for him in his senior season.

“It seems like a lot has slowed down,” Franklin said.

And with the SEC slate on the horizon, the Tigers aren’t about to overlook Arkansas State.

“This is about us playing our best game,” Pinkel said. “It doesn’t matter who we are playing.”

Notes: With a win, Pinkel would pass Dan Devine for second on the all-time wins list at Missouri with 94. Don Faurot is the leader with 101 wins. … Arkansas State’s mascot used to be the Indians, but was changed to the Red Wolves in 2008.

Pre-game podcast:

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Missouri vs. Arkansas State Podcast (Soundcloud)

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