After a 7-0 start, MSU's confidence was at an all-time high. The excitement around the football team had not been at quite that level in a long time. Dan Mullen had the team believing. Since that start, the Dawgs have lost three straight. Each loss has been to a top-15 opponent, as State has faced Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M (who seems to be getting better and better each week) in the past three weeks. MSU is still in a good position because of their fast start, but would certainly like to put together a good game and get a win against Arkansas this weekend to build some confidence going into the Egg Bowl in Oxford on November 24th.
On the other side, Arkansas lost four straight this season after a season-opening win against Jacksonville State. One of the losses coming against Louisiana Monroe in overtime and another coming against Rutgers. Both of those games were home games, however, the ULM game was played in Little Rock. The other two losses came at the hands of Alabama(52-0) and Texas A&M(58-10). During the skid, Arkansas showed no signs of life. Since the streak, Arkansas put together a two game winning streak before losing to Ole miss and then beating Tulsa and this past week getting beat by South Carolina.
To say the least, Arkansas has had an up-and-down season. It closely resembles the offseason that preceded the season, that saw them fire Knile Davis would only add to the effectiveness of the offense. However, no one saw the defense being as bad as it has been.. Many believed Arkansas would still have the offense to be a competitive team in the Western Division. At times, that has been the case. Many also believed that the return of
The Arkansas defense is giving up 30 points per game this season. Even so, those numbers are skewed as their best defensive performances have come against the offensively woeful Kentucky Wildcats and Auburn Tigers. In four wins this season, Arkansas is giving up just over 13 points per game. In six losses, they are giving up just over 41 points per game.
The Razorbacks are giving up over 290 yards passing per game and just shy of 120 yards rushing. They have given up 18 touchdowns on the ground and 19 through the air. So teams have been able to become very balanced against the Arky D this season.
For MSU, I expect much of the same. I expect Tyler Russell to have a good game through the air, as well as Ladarius Perkins and Nick Griffin to have success on the ground. The Arkansas secondary is young and very short on talent. However, where MSU will really be able to control this game is on the offensive line. MSU's offensive line has been good at times this season and it has had its share of bad moments. It is slightly banged up, but look for this to be a game where they can get it going against a far inferior defensive line.
When Arkansas has the ball, they will also look to be balanced. Dennis Johnson has been a weapon for Arkansas this season, as he leads the team in rushing and is third in receptions. He has totaled nine touchdowns this season. Another player Arkansas will use extensively is Cobi Hamilton. Hamilton is perhaps the best receiver in the conference. He is already over 70 catches and 1,100 yards on the season. He has grabbed four touchdowns through the air. The Hogs also like to create mismatches with their big, fast tight end, Chris Gragg, who averages over 13 yards per catch.
The knock on the Arkansas offense is that Tyler Wilson gets hit too much. Also, at times this season, it has failed to establish rhythm, especially in games where it gets in a hole early.
For the Dawgs, it would be ideal to jump on the Hogs early and get the fans rocking in Davis Wade and get the game over quickly. However, if the game becomes a shootout, it would be wise to run the ball and the keep the Razorback offense off the field.