DATE & TIME: November 21st, 11:21 a.m.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Razorback Stadium (72,000) -- Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Television: SEC Network (KAIT)
Home Record: Mississippi St. 1-5, Arkansas 5-1. Away Record: Mississippi St. 3-1, Arkansas 0-3. Neutral Record: Mississippi St. 0-0, Arkansas 1-0. Conference Record: Mississippi St. 2-4, Arkansas 2-4. Series Record: Arkansas leads, 12-6-1.
GAME NOTES: SEC foes will collide in Starkville this weekend, as the Arkansas Razorbacks welcome the Mississippi State Bulldogs to town.
Mississippi State fell to 1-5 at home with a 31-3 loss to mighty Alabama last weekend. The Bulldogs, who are 4-6 overall and 2-4 in SEC play, must win this weekend and next week against Ole Miss in the finale to become bowl eligible. Dan Mullen has shown signs of turning around the program in his first year as head coach, but there is still much work to be done.
As for Arkansas, it has put together three consecutive victories to earn bowl eligibility. The Razorbacks have been a streaky team to say the least, and while Bobby Petrino's group does own a 6-4 overall record, it is hard to get too excited about the 2-4 conference mark. Last weekend, Arkansas took a break from league play to post a 56-20 decision over Troy, enabling the squad to move to 5-1 at home.
Arkansas owns a 12-6-1 advantage in the all-time series with Mississippi State, which includes nine wins in the last 10 meetings.
Mississippi State is averaging a respectable 24.5 ppg this season to go along with 367.5 total ypg. The strength of the club is its ground attack, and tailback Anthony Dixon is one of the most underrated players in the SEC. Despite missing one of the team's 10 games, Dixon has already rushed for 1,082 yards with nine touchdowns, and he has made 15 catches as well. Tyson Lee has taken the majority of the snaps for MSU, but he has been intercepted 13 times while throwing only four touchdown passes. Chris Relf has three touchdown passes with three interceptions in limited duty, and he is second on the team in rushing with 301 yards on only 49 carries. The two quarterbacks were completely ineffective against Alabama last weekend, as the Tide's stellar defense allowed few big plays. Lee was intercepted twice, and one of Relf's three passes was picked off. Dixon played well in defeat, rushing for 81 yards while catching a team-high six passes for 59 yards.
The Bulldogs are a mediocre defensive team that is permitting opponents to score 25.2 ppg while generating 361.1 total ypg. The team has produced average results against both the run and the pass, as there is clearly room for improvement in all phases of the game. Jamar Chaney is one of the best defensive players for MSU, as he has posted a team-high 81 tackles. Chaney has two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles to his credit. Alabama pounded the ball on the ground against Mississippi State last weekend, and the Bulldogs appeared to be helpless at times. They allowed 444 total yards, including 252 of the rushing variety at a clip of 6.3 yards per carry. No takeaways were registered, and MSU failed to record a sack as well.
The Arkansas offense is led by Michigan transfer Ryan Mallett, a statuesque quarterback who has completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 2,882 yards and 23 touchdowns against only four interceptions. His top receiver is Greg Childs, who has 37 receptions for 689 yards and six touchdowns. As for the ground attack, Michael Smith leads a large committee with 396 yards, although Broderick Green has scored a team-high nine touchdowns. Overall this season, the Razorbacks are averaging 37.6 ppg to go along with 450.1 total ypg, numbers that any team would be proud of. Against Troy last weekend, Arkansas racked up 592 total yards and scored eight offensive touchdowns. Mallett was sensational, completing 23-of-30 passes for 405 yards with a school record- tying five touchdowns and one interception. The fact that five different players caught touchdown passes and no one had more than 83 receiving yards speaks to Mallett's ability to spread the ball around.
Through 10 outings, Arkansas is permitting 25.5 ppg and 412.0 total ypg, and the defense has been rather disappointing in some outings. While the play against the run has been fairly solid, the pass defense has been downright dreadful. Opposing quarterbacks have been able to rack up 279.3 ypg through the air with 19 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, averaging 14.2 yards per completion. Arkansas does have 23 takeaways and 20 sacks, but those big plays do not overshadow the lackluster overall performance of the defense. Wendel Davis is a player to watch, as he leads the team with 62 total tackles, including seven TFLs. Sure, Arkansas did allow a rather high total of 455 yards to Troy last weekend, but the Razorbacks came up with three interceptions and recovered a fumble as well.
Arkansas is a better team than Mississippi State, and Mallett is far superior to either Lee or Relf. Expect the Razorbacks to get the job done in front of the home crowd.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas 34, Mississippi State 17