Arkansas vs. Mississippi State - Pregame Analysis


FIVE KEYS TO TODAY’S GAME

1. Be Ready for Anyone

Arkansas isn’t sure which Mississippi State quarterback will play today, but each possesses different strengths. The defense’s ability to recognize who is on the field, how to defend him and execution will be critical to Arkansas’ success in Little Rock.

2. Run Game Success

The Razorbacks have run well against most opponents this season, but face another challenge against a defense Jim Chaney described as “heavy.” Arkansas’ ground game must respond to the challenge in what is expected to be a physical game.

3. Tackle the Problem

Spotty tackling has been a source of frustration for Bret Bielema, who has watched short passes go for big gains and touchdowns because of mistakes. The Razorbacks continued to emphasize tackling during the off week. Execution will be key today.

4. Stay on Top of Turnovers

Arkansas forced more turnovers (2), than it committed (1) at Ole Miss. It’s a step in the right direction. But it has to continue for the losing streak to end. MSU proved it could take the ball away last week, forcing Alabama into a season-high 4 turnovers.

5. Win the Fourth Quarter

It’s hard to imagine any one of these teams running away with the game today, meaning the fourth quarter should be a key to victory. It has been weeks since the Hogs have enjoyed fourth-quarter success. They’ll need it to stop the 7-game slide.

TODAY’S KEY MATCHUP

Arkansas QB Brandon Allen (6-3, 210, So.)

Key Statistics: 46.7 completion percentage, 11 TDs, 8 INTs

Allen completed more than 50 percent of his passes for just the third time this season against Ole Miss. His 193 passing yards was Arkansas’ highest total since the Texas A&M loss. But Arkansas needs Allen to clean up his mistakes — like a costly interception — against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have 5 interceptions in the past two games against two of the SEC’s top quarterbacks (Johnny Manziel, A.J. McCarron). Arkansas will continue to lean on its ground game, but Allen must turn in a sound performance for the Razorbacks to end their seven-game slide today.

Mississippi State safety Nickoe Whitley (6-1, 205, Sr.)

Key Statistics: 40 tackles, 4 interceptions, 5 pass break ups

Whitley leads a Mississippi State secondary that has gotten its hands on a few passes from two of the SEC’s top quarterbacks the past two weeks. Whitley leads the Bulldogs with 4 interceptions this season and has bumped is career total to 14, which is tied for the most among active Football Bowl Subdivision players. Whitley has been at his best in SEC games during his career as well, grabbing 9 of his 14 interceptions. The last came in the 51-41 loss to Texas A&M two weeks ago. Whitley and the Bulldogs will try to add to their total against Allen and the Razorbacks.

EDGE: Mississippi State S Nickoe Whitley

THE NUMBERS

OFFENSE

Passing Yds (NCAA Rank)

Arkansas 149.0 (115th)

Mississippi State 239.0 (56th)

Rushing

Arkansas 209.7 (27th)

Mississippi State 194.0 (41st)

Total

Arkansas 358.7 (100th)

Mississippi State 433.0 (51st)

DEFENSE

Passing Yds (NCAA Rank)

Arkansas 229.1 (63rd)

Mississippi State 226.8 (T-57th)

Rushing

Arkansas 171.2 (71st)

Mississippi State 147.1 (T-39th)

Total

Arkansas 400.3 (63rd)

Mississippi State 373.9 (45th)

POSITION MATCHUPS

Quarterbacks

UA’s Brandon Allen completed more than 50 percent of his passes for the first time in SEC play during the Ole Miss loss; Which MSU quarterback plays? Dak Prescott is the best of the bunch, responsible for 19 of the team’s 36 TDs this season.

Edge: Even

Running Backs

UA’s Alex Collins would become the 2nd freshman in school history and 11th ever to top the 1,000-yard mark in a season with 54 yards today; MSU’s LaDarius Perkins has 458 yards this season and is 6th on the school’s career rushing list (2,470).

Edge: Arkansas

Receivers

UA senior Julian Horton enjoyed his best game at Ole Miss with 4 catches for 66 yards and a TD. TE Hunter Henry caught his second TD pass; MSU junior Jameon Lewis has 4 receiving TDs, 3 rushing TDs and 3 passing TDs this season.

Edge: Mississippi State

O-Line

The UA offensive line has allowed 7 sacks in 10 games this season. C Travis Swanson will earn his 49th straight start; MSU’s Gabe Jackson has started 49 straight. OT Charles Siddoway scored a TD vs. Alabama, falling on a fumble in the end zone.

Edge: Even

D-Line

UA ranks third in the SEC in sacks (24). Starters Chris Smith, Trey Flowers and Darius Philon have combined for 14 ½; MSU has 14 sacks this season. DE Preston Smith shares the team lead with 2 ½. DT Chris Jones has 2 sacks.

Edge: Arkansas

Linebackers

UA freshman Brooks Ellis played well in 2nd start at Ole Miss (11 tackles). Braylon Mitchell shares team lead with 70 stops; MSU’s Benardrick McKinney has a team-high 58 stops. Deontae Skinner (50 tackles) has missed 2 straight because of injury.

Edge: Mississippi State

Secondary

UA’s Jared Collins will earn his first start at CB. The Hogs are also deciding between Tevin Mitchel and D.J. Dean. Starter TBD; MSU has 5 INTs in past two games (Texas A&M, Alabama). MSU’s Nickoe Whitley has 4 INTs this season, 14 in his career.

Edge: Mississippi State

OVERALL: Arkansas 24, Mississippi State 21

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau