The Arkansas football team is bowl bound and looking to improve their bowl selection with a strong finish to the season. The Hogs have not been shy about sharing their goal with the media all week: win out.
The next team standing in their way is the dangerous Mississippi State Bulldogs, one of the top rushing teams in the nation with stud RB Anthony Dixon leading the attack. They sit at 2-4 in SEC play just like the Hogs.
The Dogs come into this game with their backs against the wall looking to win their final two games to reach six wins and bowl eligibility in Coach Dan Mullens' first season.
Unfortunately for the Dogs Arkansas has gained steam and is 6-1 at home this season and in the midst of a three-game winning streak.
The Razorbacks will be looking to defend their home away from home at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. The Razorbacks rarely lose in Little Rock and will not be wanting to change that anytime soon.
The Little Rock crowd is notorious for getting loud, which has to do with the two-day tailgate on the War Memorial golf course leading up to the games. The Central Arkansas fans look to celebrate another win in the Rock this weekend, and the party that ensues.
Ryan Mallett—now the Arkansas single season passing record-holder—seems fully focused on getting the Razorbacks that seventh win. Since last weekends record breaking performance he has barely even cracked a smile as members of the media bring up the records.
To Mallett the only thing that seems to matter is wins.
Coach Bobby Petrino also brushed off the importance of breaking records at this point in the season. He made it clear they are great for recruiting and can be used after the completion of the season, but there is no sense in celebrating them now.
Ryan Mallett and the Razorbacks also are having to field questions about him leaving early after this season to enter the NFL Draft. Mallett is a top quarterback in the nation, and with that comes a lot of attention from the NFL.
Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino stated yesterday that Ryan needs to stay another year and that it is a conversation they will be having this time next season. Petrino stated that they have not discussed it at all to date.
On the field Arkansas has distinct advantages in nearly every offensive category over the Bulldogs besides the rushing game.
Arkansas is seventh in the nation in both passing and scoring per game while Mississippi State ranks 110th and 80th in those categories. The Bulldogs also are running into an Arkansas defense that has improved leaps and bounds as the season has progressed.
Mississippi State quarterback Tyson Lee has merely been a game manager and lacks the skills to threaten the weak spot of Arkansas' defense: the secondary.
Lee has only thrown four touchdown passes to 13 interceptions for the season. His quarterback rating of 108.4 sits in the bottom six in the nation, while Ryan Mallett's 165 rating ranks third in the country.
The strong point of Arkansas' defense has been their rush defense. The Hogs have ranked atop the SEC in tackles for a loss for most of the season.
Arkansas also ranks tops in the SEC in red-zone defense and turnover margin. If the Hogs continue to dominate in these categories against the Bulldogs they will win this game convincingly.
Arkansas does have two defensive injuries in cornerback David Gordon and nose tackle Zach Stadther that are questionable for the game. Both will be monitored throughout the week and will hurt the depth at their defensive positions.
Still, lets cut to the chase. Arkansas wins games by scoring with their dynamic offense. It is this offense that will extend Arkansas' winning streak from three to four games as they push to make a Jan. 1 bowl game.
The Razorbacks also have a motivational spark for this game: coach Willy Robinson is set to return to the field after being hospitalized last Friday with an infection and missing the Troy game.
Bobby Petrino spoke about Willy's return and how close to home it hits with the coaches and the players. Robinson essential was killing himself at work, and not properly eating and staying hydrated while putting in his long hours.
Coach Petrino said he is going to make sure he gets Robinson home early this week, but joked that he is hard to get out of the building. Sounds like back to business as usual.
Expect to see the Razorback players extra motivated to make Robinson's return a good one.
Ryan Mallett passes for over 300 yards as the Hogs gain an impressive SEC win over the Bulldogs. Dixon makes some noise for Mississippi State but gets little to no help from the rest of his team. Lee is forced into three turnovers, and continues his struggles.
The Hogs take a large halftime lead off of these turnovers, and extend the lead in the second half as they get win lucky No. 7.
The victory gets the Hogs one step closer to their goal of winning out leading into their Thanksgiving weekend matchup with LSU in Death Valley.
Hogs 48 Bulldogs 20
Image Courtesy of ArkansasRazorbacks.com