STARKVILLE, Miss. — The Bulldogs will play their first game as the nation’s 16th-ranked team on Saturday when Arkansas visits Davis Wade Stadium in the 2020 home opener. The game is set for 6:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on the SEC Network Alternate Channel.
The Bulldogs are coming off their highest-ranked win in a road game in program history after defeating the No. 6-ranked and defending national champion LSU Tigers, 44-34, in the season opener. Mike Leach became the first Mississippi State head coach to defeat a ranked team in his Bulldog debut.
No. 16 is the highest ranking in the Associated Press poll for the Bulldogs since Sept. 16, 2018, when they were ranked No. 14.
MSU’s upset bid of LSU was highlighted by quarterback K.J. Costello. The graduate transfer from Stanford set a new record for passing yards in the Southeastern Conference with 623 yards passing. He also set new MSU game-highs for completions (36) and attempts (60).
Senior running back Kylin Hill posted 158 yards receiving in last weekend’s win. That’s the highest total for a Bulldog running back in program history. Of his 158 yards, which was highlighted by a 75-yard touchdown reception, 155 came after the catch.
Hill, along with senior wide receivers Osirus Mitchell (183) and JaVonta Payton (122), became just the second trio of MSU Bulldogs to go over 100 yards receiving in the same game.
Defensively, the Bulldogs’ leading tackler is sophomore safety Shawn Preston Jr. He finished with a team-high 11 tackles against the Tigers. Sophomore linebacker Aaron Brule and senior linebacker Erroll Thompson each added 10 tackles and a sack. Thompson remains the veteran leader of the defense.
The Razorbacks come to town after being defeated by No. 4 Georgia, 37-10, in their home opener where they debuted a new head coach, new offensive and defensive coordinators and a new starting quarterback.
Arkansas’ transfer quarterback, Feleipe Franks is coming off a 200-yard, two-interception game against Georgia. Franks’ full skillset was not on display, though, as the dual-threat signal-caller managed just 13 yards rushing on five carries. In the run game, Arkansas senior running back Rakeem Boyd has All-SEC talent, but was held to 21 yards rushing on 11 carries last week.
The one bright spot for the Arkansas offense was sophomore wide receiver Treylon Burks. Burks posted 102 yards receiving and a touchdown on seven receptions.
The Arkansas defense allowed just 2.9 yards per rush last week, but it doesn’t look like that’ll have much impact on the Bulldogs’ Air Raid offense because they rushed for 34 yards on just seven carries. The run game may become more important this week, though, if the Bulldogs have more short-yardage situations instead of third-and-long plays like last week.
Fifth-year senior linebacker Grant Morgan leads the Razorbacks with 13 tackles. Redshirt freshman safety Jalen Catalon is also a key contributor as he has nine tackles and forced a fumble after the first week of play. The secondary will also be relying on redshirt junior cornerback Montaric Brown. He came away with an interception and three solo tackles last week. He also owns the third-lowest passer rating allowed by an SEC cornerback so far this season (39.9). Junior linebacker Bumper Pool and sophomore defensive end Zach Williams will also be making plays as they finished with 11 tackles and seven tackles, respectively.
Tune in to the Week 2 matchup at 6:30 p.m. CT on the SEC Network Alternate Channel. Roy Philpott (play-by-play), Kelly Stouffer (analyst) and sideline reporter Tera Talmadge will be on the call.