Mississippi State vs. Arkansas: The Big Preview

@cristilmethod

Welcome everybody to week eleven of The Big Preview! This week, we'll buckle down and examine MSU's first of two final games this season, against the Arkansas Razorbacks. State has to win out to gain bowl eligibility, and the state of Arkansas has not been kind to the Bulldogs... well ever. Can MSU break the road losing streak in the natural state against an Arkansas team led by first year coach Bret Bielema? Will Dak be back? What about Tyler? We take a look at all of this and more in this week's The Big Preview: MSU vs. Arkansas.

THE BIG PREVIEW

MSU VS. Arkansas

It's time for week eleven of The Big Preview -- as we mend our wounds after a very physical, grueling 7-20 loss to the #1 Crimson Tide.

State gave a valiant effort on Saturday, but the offense was unable to do enough to climb the 13 point deficit that might as well have been a mountain. As we head into another Saturday of play, State fans are wondering: will we have Dak? What's Tyler's status? Can State break up the painful streak of losing in Little Rock?

In this week's The Big Preview, we take a good, thorough, and completely serious look at the Arkansas Razorbacks by way of our Totally Serious Opponent Report, our traditional Game Preview, and our matchups preview. We'll also bring you a little question and answer session with our good SBNation friends over at Arkansas Fight. Make sure you study up this week, State fans, because it's finals time, and we need to make a 100 if we want to make a bowl!

Click any of the four links below to scroll directly to the section that you're looking for (each section also features a button at the end to take you back to the top of the page):

Game Preview -- Mississippi State vs. Arkansas by justinrsutton
Matchups Breakdown: MSU vs. Arkansas by Metal Building Dawg
Totally Serious Opponent Report by James Carskadon
Q&A with SBNation site Arkansas Fight with BVC

Game Preview - Arkansas

by justinrsutton

Game Essentials: MSU vs. Arkansas
* Game Time: 11:21
* Channel: SECTV
* Betting Line: MSU -1.5
* Location: Little Rock, AR
* All-Time: ARK leads 15-7-1
* Last Meeting: '12 - MSU 45, Arkansas 14

Little Rock, Arkansas will serve as the battleground at Mississippi State and Arkansas do battle in a game to avoid rock bottom in the SEC West. The Razorbacks come into the contest with a 0-6 record in the SEC and a 3-7 record overall. Mississippi State enters one game better than Arkansas at 4-6 and 1-5 in SEC play.

The bulk of the Razorbacks' offense has revolved around three players: quarterback Brandon Allen and running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. On the season, Collins has tossed for 1260 yards and eleven touchdowns against eight interceptions. Accuracy has not been his calling card as he has only completed 46.7% of his passes. On the ground, Collins has picked up 946 yards and four touchdowns while Williams has 783 yards and four scores.

I had a pretty good night throwing the ball last night. I'm going to petition the NCAA to get a few snaps.-Dan Mullen, on being hampered at the QB position

Coming into this contest, the Mississippi State offense remains a bit of a mystery. As of now, fans have been left wondering who will play quarterback Saturday as both Dak Prescott and Tyler Russell have been listed as day-to-day with injuries. Should neither be able to go, true freshman Damien Williams would draw his first career start. So far this year, he has completed eleven of 23 passes for 152 yards and an interception. To his credit, he looked fairly sharp in emergency duty against Alabama, and he had a sure fire touchdown pass dropped by De'Runnya Wilson.

Should Williams draw the start, the narrative of the game would most likely be one of which defense can do the best to support a struggling offense.

MSU comes back to down Arkansas in 1998 to win the SEC West

In that regard, Arkansas ranks as the 64th best defense in the country, giving up just over 400 yards per contest and 5.9 yards per play, and opponents have scored 42 touchdowns against the Razorbacks. On the ground, Arkansas has been gashed for 17 touchdowns and 171.2 yards per game on 4.47 yards per carry. Given the Mississippi State rushing attack, this looks to be an obvious place of attack.

However, the Razorbacks have not had much luck defending the pass either. Arkansas is giving up 229 yards per game through the air, and defenses have scored 22 touchdowns passing.

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Arkansas RB Alex Collins

Running back Alex Collins has been sensational for the Hogs in his freshman campaign -- Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Matchup Breakdowns: MSU vs. Arkansas

by Metal Building Dawg

Dak Prescott

What we saw in the Alabama game, and Todd Blackledge pointed it out several times during the broadcast, was that the Mississippi State defense matches up favorably against a more pro-style offensive attack than it does vs. the spread. Good news, because Bret Bielema loves him some smash mouth football.

There's not much Arkansas has done right this year, but they have run the ball. To the tune of 209 YPG, good for 3rd best in the SEC. State's strength has been the front seven, so the matchup here is good for MSU. The Hogs are dead last in the SEC by a good margin with 149 YPG passing. I really like our defense vs. their offense. Arkansas scored a total of 17 points vs. Florida, South Carolina and Alabama - the three best front sevens they've seen. State is up there with those teams in that area, so I expect us to load the box and force them to throw it, and not much will happen.

Who will play QB for MSU? That's the big question - Dak, Tyler or even Damien? They could all be healthy enough to play or only Damien might be. What we do know is that Arkansas has struggled some against the run (11th) and the pass (10th). Look out for DE Chris Smith - he has 7.5 sacks this year and 10.5 TFL. Blaine Clausell did a good job containing Jadaveon Clowney so hopefully he'll be able to do the same vs. Smith.

Special teams? I'll just assume the Hogs will get us there. State just needs to limit the blunders and if there is a field goal 30 yards and under, I mean, c'mon, that's not asking too much.....make it!

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Injury Report - LSU

Mississippi State Injury Report

Probable

Dak Prescott, Tyler Russell, Deonte Skinner

Out for Season

Dee Arringon, Jay Hughes, Justin Malone

Totally Serious Opponent Report - Arkansas

by James Carskadon

The University of Arkansas, while generally a perfectly nice institution, has the connections to be a top-flight school. With ties to the Walton and Mars families (per the always-truthy Wikipedia), two of the richest families in America, plus ties to former president Bill Clinton, the university seems like it would be in the perfect position to have one of the largest endowments this side of the Ivy League. However, there is no Phil Knight or T. Boone Pickens-esque booster among Arkansas' connections to the 1 percent. Which is a shame, because this deprives us of seeing Houston Nutt and Brett Bielema mingle with some of the most powerful people in the country.

Sure, Sam Walton has his name on UA's business school, but why not make Walmart synonymous with Arkansas Athletics the same way Nike is synonymous with Oregon? Let's take a look at what that might look like:

  • All games played at War Memorial Stadium (the secondary home of the Razorbacks in Little Rock (where they always host MSU) would be marketed as Great Value games. Let's face it, the games in Little Rock feel generic compared to playing in Fayetteville. Might as well embrace the marketing opportunity.
  • Make Starter the official apparel supplier of Arkansas football
  • Brett Bielema would be contractually obligated to say two negative comments about Target at every press conference while also noting the amount of jobs Walmart provides.
  • The annual day-after-Thanksgiving game with LSU would be re-branded as the Walmart Black Friday 37-inch TVs for only $500 Battle for the Golden BOGO Boot.
  • Calling of the Hogs would be piped into the loudspeakers at every Walmart in America before the kickoff of every Arkansas game

Ok, maybe being so heavily associated with Walmart isn't as fun as being funded by Nike. But that shouldn't stop the university from seeing the big picture. The Razorbacks will not be bowl eligible for the second year in a row despite showing some signs of improvement under first-year head coach Brett Bielema. If the Razorbacks wanted to speed up the rebuilding process, they would bring in a mega-booster from the Walton family and embrace the plan outlined above. Until then, the Razorbacks will continue to be an afterthought in the SEC West, which at least gives Mississippi State a winnable game toward the end of the season.

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Q&A with Arkansas Fight

with BVC

1. Just a few years ago, Arkansas was ranked in the top three in the BCS during the season and ended up in the Sugar Bowl. Now, two coaches have come and gone, and a third coach is on the sidelines. How much do Arkansas fans not like Bobby Petrino, and how frustrating has this been?

People are still split on Petrino, and that is probably to be expected considering the circumstances under which he was let go. Especially considering the heights he had taken the program to, and the depths to which it has fallen since. Some still love him, some still hate him, but I would say that probably most are appreciative for what he accomplished while being ready to move on.

The last two seasons have been incredibly frustrating. Things have gone downhill so fast that you can't even call it a death spiral. Just a complete and total nosedive. I'm sure it's fascinating from an outsider's perspective.

2. Bret Bielema seemed like a bit of a surprise hire at Arkansas this year. Are there any fans that want to see him gone already after the struggles of this year?

Bert was definitely out of left field, and I was less than enthusiastic at first, but I think he has a solid plan for building the program. Unfortunately, it differs very much from The Petrino Plan, so while there may not be any outright calling for his head, there are definitely some who seem ready to pass judgement on the Bielema Era. After 10 games. As with any other school, we have some really, really stupid fans.

3. Tyler Wilson had been the face of Arkansas football the last few years. Who are some of the players that Mississippi State fans should keep an eye out for in the game Saturday.

Arkansas has a very capable stable of running backs in Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams, and Korliss Marshall. Collins is the headliner, but all three are impressive with the ball. And Collins and Marshall are freshmen, while Williams is a sophomore, so you'll be hearing more from them after Saturday. Hunter Henry is another impact freshman, a sure-handed tight end who is a matchup nightmare. Defensively, Darius Philon is another freshman making an impact on the defensive line. Want another freshman impact player? Linebacker Brooks Ellis has come on the scene late this season and has been a major contributor.

4. Razorback Stadium is a pretty nice place, so why in the world would Arkansas want to play any of their home games in Little Rock? Do you have any fond memories of games in Little Rock? What is there to do in Little Rock?

Oh, man, I could honestly write a dissertation on why games are played in Little Rock. It is a fiercely debated issue around The Natural State. We call it The Great Stadium Debate, or GSD for short. Long story short, Little Rock has historically hosted games because in the past War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock was a larger stadium than Razorback Stadium, and Fayetteville's remote location (accessed via mountainous highways) was difficult to get to for most of the state's population. The opening of I-540 in the late '90s and the expansion of Razorback Stadium in 2001 made the reasoning obsolete, but tradition has a place in the south for a reason. Still, games in Little Rock are almost certainly going the way of the dinosaur sooner rather than later.

However, despite War Memorial Stadium being small and rather dumpy, it can still be a great venue for football. It has excellent sightlines from virtually every seat, and it can be deafening when the Hogs are winning. Razorback fans still talk about the roars during games such as the 1989 game against Heisman winner Andre Ware and Houston, the 2010 Sugar Bowl play-in game against LSU, and even the 1999 Mississippi State game which came down to the final play. And of course the two Miracles on Markham. I'll always have a soft spot for War Memorial.

I have lived in the Little Rock metro for ten years now, and it's a great place to call home. If you're just coming into town for the game, I would advise staying downtown if possible and taking in the River Market bar scene, accessible on foot from many hotels. On gameday, tailgating on War Memorial Golf Course is a must. It's like The Grove's redneck cousin: larger, louder, and much less buttoned up. Guaranteed to be a shitshow, but that's what make it a blast.

5. Have Arkansas fans finally gotten to the point that they can admit that Brian Hazelwood's field goal in 1998 was good?

Hell no. No way that kick was good. But if OUR kicker hadn't gotten a DWI before the game, it would have likely not mattered.

6. Some oddsmakers opened Arkansas as a 2.5-point favorite, but that gap has closed a bit. Did that surprise you?

Yes and no. I'm not surprised that people are betting against Arkansas, but I AM surprised that there are enough degenerates out there who have a feeling about either one of these team's enough to wager money on the outcome.

7. How does this game play out? What do you see as the final score?

I am a firm believer in the Bama Hangover, as I have watched Arkansas suffer from it many times. I think that in conjunction with Arkansas being rested after a bye week will help the Hogs build a lead with the aid of some big plays. If State cannot get their quarterback situation together, they may not have enough time or firepower to mount a comeback. I'll say 24-17 Hogs.

Thanks for having me, and Woo Pig Sooie!

Alabama RB

War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock has been a house of horrors for MSU since Arkansas joined the SEC. Can the Dogs break the streak of losing this weekend? -- Wesley Hitt--Getty Images


  • Tyler Russell photo included in the injury report courtesy of Bob Levey -- Getty Images
  • Editing, style and layout by thecristilmethod
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