Week 10: Arkansas at Mississippi State Preview

Arkansas (4-4) at Mississippi State (7-0) Nov. 1, 7:15, ESPN2 

Here’s The Deal: Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema keeps saying that the program will break its 16-game SEC losing streak when it’s ready. It wouldn’t be any sweeter than to come up with a win over the No. 1 team in the nation to get over the doldrums. 

The Hogs have been more than competitive, but October 13, 2012 against Kentucky was the last time they won a conference game, and they haven’t beaten Mississippi State since 2011. The running game is terrific, the defense solid, and the pieces are starting to come into place, but 4-4 is 4-4 with the season starting to slip away and LSU, Ole Miss and Missouri still to face. 

Mississippi State had to fight to get by a Kentucky team that came up with a whale of a performance from QB Patrick Towles, but it’s still 7-0 with a chance to get to 9-0 with a win this week and a scrimmage against UT Martin to follow it up before going to Alabama. Was last week’s close call in Lexington a bit of a brain cramp or was it an indicator of things to come? Whacking around Arkansas at home would get everything back on track and mean that the dream season would keep on rolling with the No. 1 spotlight on until November 15th, at least. 

Are you ready for power vs. power? The two running games combine to average well over 500 yards per game, and the fun should continue with one of the toughest games of the SEC season. 

Why Arkansas Might Win: As Kentucky’s Patrick Towles found out last week, the way to hit the Mississippi State defense is with midrange out patterns and by taking a few chances here and there down the field. The Bulldog pass defense hasn’t been too bad at taking the ball away and not allowing the big play, but it’s getting bombed on. To be fair, everyone is trying to throw in comeback or keep-up mode, however, Towles threw for 401 yards and two touchdowns to make the fourth 300+ passer to his the Bulldogs this year. Arkansas might not be dangerous wining the ball around, but QB Brandon Allen is getting sharper, hitting on over 60% of his throws over the last two games with six touchdown passes. If Allen can be as effective as he’s been over the last few weeks, the ground game won’t have to do all the work. 

Why Mississippi State Might Win: The Arkansas run defense came up with a whopper of a performance against Alabama, but it got hit hard by Auburn in the opener and couldn’t handle Georgia a few weeks ago. The defensive front needs the time off – the key to the season is the ability of the offense to hold the ball and control the clock. Few teams do that better than MSU, keeping it for 31 minutes a game and running with one of the toughest ground attacks in the country. How do you beat a bully? You get aggressive and attack, and that’s what Mississippi State has to do with … 

Who To Watch Out For: Josh Robinson, who picked a great time to barrel for a wonderful 198-yard, two touchdown game in the win over Kentucky. It was his third straight two touchdown game and his fourth in five weeks, and now he might have to do even more with QB Dak Prescott limping through a walking boot. He’s expected to be more than fine, but the more the offense can lean on Robinson, the better. 

What’s Going To Happen: The two teams will run all over each other, but the difference will be a relatively even time of possession. Arkansas has to hold on to the ball for at least 35 minutes and has to keep the chains moving, and it’s not going to happen. Mississippi State is going to out-Arkansas, Arkansas while getting help from a +2 turnover margin. 

Prediction: Mississippi State 30 … Arkansas 17 
Line: Mississippi State -10.5 o/u: 64.5 
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