Who: Arkansas Razorback
Where: War Memorial Stadium, Little Rock, Arkansas
When: November 23, TBA
Last Year: Win, Mississippi State 45, Arkansas 14
In Southeastern Conference football, there may not have been a more underwhelming surprise than the Arkansas Razorbacks. Anything that could have gone wrong for the squad did, starting with the Bobby Petrino saga that eventually led to his ouster in Fayetteville.
The losing season that followed has caused the Hogs to have three head coaches in one year's time, and the Razorbacks will now work to regain their place in the SEC under the care of Bret Bielema, who left Wisconsin.
In 2012, Mississippi State cruised to victory over Arkansas to pick up their final win of the year, the only Bulldog victory in the team's final six games. In 2013, Mississippi State will close with another daunting stretch of games (at South Carolina, at Texas A&M, vs. Alabama, at Arkansas (Little Rock), vs. Ole Miss). The Bulldogs may very well enter this stretch of the season one win shy of bowl eligibility, and with a tough Ole Miss team in the season finale, should the Bulldogs be stuck at five wins, there is no doubt the team will feel pressure to pick up the win in Little Rock.
Sophomore Brandon Allen looks to be the triggerman in the new Razorback offense, having to replace Tyler Wilson in the offensive huddle. Allen basically wrapped up the job in spring practice, and the position was all but given to him when Brandon Mitchell decided to transfer out of the program.
Allen had to play in spots in 2012 while Wilson was injured, and the results were not that great. For the season, Allen went 21 of 49 for 186 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions. That said, most of his action came under duress when he was thrust into a heated game against UL-Monroe and then had to prepare for his first start, a game against Alabama.
What may be more concerning for Arkansas has to do with what happens should Allen miss significant time in a game or in the season. Should that happen, the Razorbacks will most likely have a freshman quarterback under center.
On the running side of the game, the Razorbacks will ask Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins to shoulder the load. Mississippi's own D'Arthur Cowan may have a chance to shine on the offensive side of the ball as well.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Razorbacks return many starters, but these starters return on a defense that finished near the bottom of every statistical category in the SEC. Chris Smith, a defensive end who had 9.5 sacks last season, should lead the defensive efforts of the club.
In last year's game, Tyler Russell went 19 of 32 for 274 yards and four touchdowns. LaDarius Perkins picked up 91 yards on the ground, and Nick Griffin had 68 yards on two carries. Dak Prescott also chipped in a rushing touchdown.
In the end, the Razorbacks still have a way to go to once again reach the upper crust of the SEC. However, this is a game that might very well be a must win for Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs have not enjoyed much success in any sport in the Natural State. In the end, the Bulldogs get the win, but it will not be as easy as they hope.
Final Prediction: Mississippi State 31 Arkansas 21