It’s going to be a cold one in Fayetteville tonight. The temperature around kickoff is expected to be at or below 40 degrees. This is the SEC! These teams aren’t really used to the cold weather. There’s no telling how it will impact these two teams tonight, but the Razorbacks like to run it more than MSU, so I guess I’ll give the edge to the home team.
As I discussed earlier this week, tonight’s game will feature the two best quarterbacks in the SEC. The Bulldogs will be bringing Dak Prescott, the 6’2, 230 pound beast of a QB that led MSU to a #1 ranking last year. Prescott is a great QB, and has a rare combination of smarts, athleticism, and passing ability that should translate pretty well to the next level. He’s 2nd in the conference in passing yards, and is looking to get his team back on track after a rough loss to Alabama.
Brandon Allen has had a pretty fantastic season as well. He’s 3rd in passing yards, but has more touchdowns and a higher QB rating than Prescott. Allen heads up the 2nd best scoring offense in the conference, and is doing all these things on a team that is 3rd in the conference in rushing yards.
Nov 7, 2015; Oxford, MS, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks running back Alex Collins (3) in action during the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Arkansas won 53-52. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
That’s where the real battle for this game will take place for Arkansas. The Razorbacks are going up against a not-so-great defense in Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 7th in the conference in total defense, and 10th overall against the rush. The Razorbacks will have to take advantage of this to get the win. Alex Collins and Kody Walker are coming off a game where both of this had career best days. Walker almost hit 100 yards, and Collins broke his longest run of the season. That was against an LSU defense that was better than MSU, and now we’re at home.
The Hogs will have to contend with Dak Prescott and all the threats he poses to a defense. The Hogs are 12th in overall defense in the SEC. Not exactly a banner year for Robb Smith and Bret Bielema defensively. But they have made big plays in big moments against Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU that helped secure victories. Obviously, the defense is going to have to play better than they usually do to slow down Prescott.
The secondary has been the Hogs Achilles’s heel on defense this year. Against the rush, the Razorbacks are 4th in the conference. But the Hogs are dead smack last in the SEC in pass defense. Average that out, and the Razorbacks are 12th in total defense in the SEC. Dak Prescott is a mobile QB, but he would much prefer to throw the ball downfield. The Arkansas secondary is going to have to step up today to slow down this Bulldogs air attack.
Arkansas’ defensive line looked outstanding last week against LSU, getting 5 sacks in the game and stopping Leonard Fournette all night long. The Bulldogs will probably try and keep the QB drop backs to 3 steps, and not give the Hogs lineman a chance to get into the backfield. But, if Arkansas can pressure Prescott, then they have to be ready for him to run. He’s a very dangerous QB when escaping the pocket.
Basically, Dak Prescott is super good, and the Hogs have to stop him. Here are the keys to victory for the Hogs.
- No Big Plays – You don’t stop Dak Prescott, you just try and contain him. The same way the Hogs contained Fournette, Josh Dobbs, and Derrick Henry. They’re going to get yards. What you can’t let happen is for MSU to get big chunks of yards. The Razorbacks can’t afford to let Prescott move the ball downfield in chunks all night.
- Run the Ball – This is kind of a no brainer, but the Hogs should establish their offense early. At this point in the season, I would be surprised if a team stacked the box on Arkansas. Allen has proven too dangerous on the play action rollout, and teams have to respect him, Drew Morgan, Dominique Reed, and the tight ends. This could give Arkansas the chance to have another fantastic day on the ground.
- No Turnovers – The Hogs are facing off against a talented and well coached MSU team. There’s not much room for error. The Razorbacks can’t afford to fumble the ball or throw picks in this game. The less that Dak Prescott has the ball, the better for Arkansas.
The Arkansas Razorbacks will come into this game confident, and with good reason. The Bulldogs aren’t quite as dynamic as Ole Miss, and aren’t as highly touted as LSU. The Hogs are on a 4 game win streak, and have a chance to close out one of the most amazing turnarounds in recent memory if they can win out at home.
Standing between the Hogs and an 8 win season is Dak Prescott, one of the nation’s best QBs. I love how confident the Hogs have gotten, but I’m worried about the hubris that comes with it. The Razorbacks started off the season ranked, and being told how amazing they were. They bought into the hype, and floundered. They’ve fought, scratched, and clawed their way back into the win column, and they did it with a huge chip on their shoulder. Now that the chip is gone, we’ll get to see if the Hogs can play with that same intensity and fire. It’s tough to keep momentum going after you’ve accomplished something huge. But if anyone can do it, it’s the November Hogs.