Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs: Hogs on a Roll

Donald FincherAnalyst INovember 20, 2009

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 17: Quarterback Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks signals a touchdown against the Florida Gators October 17, 2009 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Mississippi State is supposed to be one of those "dangerous" teams that has some talent and has been injected with new coaching and new enthusiasm.  The Bulldogs played LSU very tough and Florida didn't run away with their game.  

Mississippi State is one game shy of being .500.  If it had beaten one team that it instead lost to, the Bulldogs would be even and hoping for a bowl.

That formality out of the way, there is a flip side to this coin.  LSU has had offensive woes all season, so that game being close wasn't necessarily as much of a statement as some made it out to be. 

'Bama dominated the bulldogs.  And Miss. State would not have scored a touchdown on Florida had it not been for two uncharacteristic Tebow interceptions that both got ran back for scores.

State hasn't beaten a single team it wasn't supposed to.  The team's wins came against Jackson State, Middle Tennessee State, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky.  And the Kentucky game was courtesy of three Wildcat turnovers, which prevented the Bulldogs from having just one SEC win.

The trouble with teams like Miss. State is that they don't have much depth.  And this late into the season, many teams are playing second stringers at a number of spots.  

With teams like Miss. State, that's a bigger problem than with higher caliber teams.  A team that Miss. State could have gone toe to toe with in the first or second week is going to have an easier win later in the season due to this.

And then there are matchup issues.  When Miss. State has the ball, it is primarily a rushing team.  Arkansas doesn't have a very good defense statistically.  However, the one area Arkansas has done well is against the rush.  The hogs are fifth in the league in rush defense.

And Arkansas leads the league in passing offense and scoring offense, while Miss. State is poor against the pass.  Therefore, while both offenses will get their yards, Arkansas figures to be a better match against Miss. State's defense than vice-versa.

Morale becomes an issue with any team.  Miss. State started out winning two of its first three.  Since then, the Bulldogs have lost five out of seven.  Arkansas ebbed and flowed and never allowed itself to get more than one game below .500 at any point, and is currently on its first three-game win streak since 2007.

As for motivation, Arkansas has the revenge factor since it laid an egg when playing Miss. State last year, and Arkansas can greatly improve its bowl placement with a win.  

Meanwhile, Miss. State has the tough task of winning out against two better teams to even become bowl eligible and, even if it does, it then gets smacked with the reality of being the 11th team and the league only gets 10 bowls.

Adding all this up, Arkansas enjoys home field, better matchups, better depth, higher morale, momentum, and motivation.  This looks like the typical Arkansas win over Miss. State.  I look for Mallet and company to get out of the gates hot and to press the accelerator.  

Finally, there is the coaching.  Arkansas also enjoys the advantage of having the better coach.  Petrino knows better than to let the opponent stay in the game and leave a glimmer of hope that it can win.  Given the improvement of Mallet and the level of execution on this team, Petrino has the system, the weapons, and the trust in his team to fully utilize his weapons and his mismatches to take away any belief early in the game.  

He's a "rip out the jugular" kind of guy when he has the team to do it and, in my opinion, that's his best trait.  This is because college kids are easily distracted and tend to lose their focus if things are coming relatively easy. 

Petrino's aggressive play calling will negate any chance that the players might let down their guards which, to me, seemed very common during the Nutt years.  I look forward to more of this aggressive style from Petrino in this game and in future seasons.