This week the Razorbacks will hit the SEC highway to battle the Mississippi State Bulldogs with a bowl bid hanging in the balance.
At the start of the season no one would have imagined the Razorbacks would be in a must-win situation at this point in the season. Yet that is exactly where the Razorbacks find themselves as kickoff approaches.
The Hogs have gone from one of the best teams in college football to a team struggling to get a bowl bid. After losing miserably to South Carolina a week ago, the Razorbacks have to win the final remaining games to become bowl eligible.
It all starts with the game in Starkville, one of the more hostile environments in the conference. The odds are against the Razorbacks winning this game and making a bowl bid.
The NCAA Football odds show that the Hogs are seven-point underdogs against the Bulldogs and if they have any chance of winning, they will have to correct the mistakes that have plagued them all season long.
Turnovers are costly to any team, but for the Razorbacks they seem to happen at the worst times possible. In the game against South Carolina, running back Dennis Johnson fumbled deep in Gamecock territory and cost the team a shot at points and changing the momentum of the game.
This does not bode well as the Bulldogs defense ranks seventh overall in the nation with an impressive plus-12 turnover margin.
Despite the bad play and turnovers, head coach John L. Smith continues to spew optimism although there is little chance of his return for next season.
“We’re going to continue to fight. That’s what we’re going to do these remaining two weeks of the season,” Smith said. “We’ll remain together. We’re going to continue to work hard.”
The Razorbacks have a seemingly impossible hurdle in front of them even though the Bulldogs enter this game on a three-game losing streak. The Hogs also have dominated this series and currently own a 15-6-1 edge against the Bulldogs.
Last year the Razorbacks won convincingly, 44-17, behind a record-breaking performance by quarterback Tyler Wilson, who completed 32 passes in the game. Look for Wilson and the running game of Johnson to put some points on the board.
The defense will have to step up and put pressure on quarterback Tyler Russell. Russell looked great against a top-ranked LSU defense and will be the target of Hogs defensive standout Chris Smith. If Smith can pressure Russell, the Hogs have a chance to win this game.
If Arkansas can pull off the minor upset and beat the Bulldogs, the bowl bid chances will remain alive for another week.
Even a win will leave the Razorbacks' chances of going to a bowl game remote, but at least Hog fans will have something positive to cheer about.