Mississippi State is coming off one of its best wins this season by upsetting then-No. 12 Kentucky 31-17. The Bulldogs now have three wins against Associated Press Top 25 teams this year, which leads the nation.
The College Football Playoff selection committee has rewarded them with the No. 17 spot in their rankings. The Razorbacks are coming off their bye week and look to get back on track after struggling with their conference schedule so far this season. In this segment, I am going to breakdown which players are going to be the difference makers on Saturday when Mississippi State travels to Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks.
It has been a rough middle of the season for the Razorbacks. After going 4-0 an earning the No. 8 ranking in the AP Top 25, the Razorbacks have fallen to 1-3 in their last four games. Those three losses were all against Southeastern Conference opponents.
Whether that is lack of execution, poor play calling or just bad luck, the Razorbacks are in desperate need to gain momentum to close out this season. The offense will have to be red-hot to get that momentum back, Head coach Sam Pittman’s offense is run-first.
The Razorbacks will look to their two-headed monster of a backfield in running backs Trelon Smith and Raheim Sanders. Both running backs are on pace to eclipse 500 yards within the next few weeks. The productivity is going to have come from these two if the Razorback offense is to have any success on Saturday.
I have to point out that the defense as a whole is going to have step up because they have been exposed in SEC play. The defense was torched through the air, and it has to find ways to reduce those big plays down field.
For Mississippi State, from now on, quarterback Will Rogers is going to have to play consistently at a high level. Maybe not SEC record-breaking type of performance, but performances of that nature.
This will be Rogers’ first start against Arkansas, so this will be a new test for him. Pittman spoke during his weekly press conference and said that Arkansas is going to show different looks than last year’s matchup. If you can recall, Arkansas dropped eight defenders into coverage and rushed three. It worked to great success.
While I anticipate seeing that strategy early on in the game to test Rogers’ patience, the Razorbacks will not have the luxury of doing this all game because of Rogers’ ability to take what the defense gives him. Staying on the offense side, I am going to give some love to the offensive line unit, The offensive line is the most important position group in all of football. You can have forgivable play at every position except the offensive line. I expect head coach Mike Leach to challenge this group to set the tone and be physical for all 60 minutes. Look for offensive linemen Charles Cross and Scott Lashley to have major impacts on both the passing and rushing attack against Arkansas.
This game is going to be won in the trenches. Who is going to be more physical with the least amount of mistakes? Arkansas will try to come out with a few big shots early in the game to swing the momentum in their favor as the momentum was left in Oxford, Mississippi, back on Oct. 9.
Final score predictions:
Mississippi State: 45