2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 12 - Miss St at Arkansas
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Nov. 19 at Arkansas 44 … Mississippi State 17
CFN Analysis: Beat LSU, play for the national title. It’s not a sure thing, but after all the big upsets and after all the breaks, the Hogs are up to No. 3 and in a position to take the season by storm. … On a seven game winning streak, the team is getting better at just the right time, destroying Tennessee and Mississippi State by a combined score of 93 to 24 over the last two weeks, while hanging 44 points on the board or more in the last three games. … Tyler Wilson was flawless, completing 32-of-43 passes for 365 yards and three scores, partly because the line did a nice job of keeping him upright. There was no need to force any passes. … Is the defensive line good enough to hold up against the pounding of the LSU offensive line? It stuffed the MSU ground attack, allowing just 84 yards and a score.
Arkansas might be playing at the highest of levels at the moment, but Mississippi State also was awful. The offense can’t find any footing with too much sputtering and coughing in SEC play all year; the 34 points in the conference opener against Auburn seems like ten years ago. … Dylan Favre was better than Tyler Russell, but not by much. Favre ran for a score and threw for 72 yards and a touchdown, but he didn’t produce effectively until the game was well out of reach. … One of the nation’s most disappointing teams, MSU needs to beat Ole Miss to save face. This was a bad year, but missing out on a bowl thanks to a loss to the archrival would be a next-level disaster. So far, the best win is over Louisiana Tech, and the second best win was at Kentucky. That’s not good.
(AP) LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Tyler Wilson made sure Arkansas didn't stumble on its way to Baton Rouge, La. Anything but.
The Razorbacks and their quarterback now have the chance to make their case in the national championship debate.
Wilson had a school-record 32 completions and threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns as the No. 6 Razorbacks made quick work of Mississippi State in a 44-17 win on Saturday.
The win is the seventh straight for Arkansas (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference), which travels to No. 1 LSU next week for a game with conference and national implications. Before the Razorbacks could turn their collective attention to the Tigers, though, they first had to deal with the Bulldogs (5-6, 1-6).
Arkansas did just that -- and how.
The Razorbacks outgained Mississippi State 539-211 and scored 30 straight points after the Bulldogs closed within 14-10 in the second quarter. They've now outscored South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State 137-52 over their last three games in an attempt to crash both the SEC and BCS national title game parties.
"I like the way we're playing," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "I think we're playing really good football.
"... I really like the way we've played the last three games."
Arkansas completed its first undefeated season at home since 1999 with the win in its home away from home, Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium. The win also clinched the school's first back-to-back 10-win seasons since 1988-89 when it was in the Southwest Conference.
All of the history is nice, but it's the current group of comeback Razorbacks who have forced their way into the national picture after being left by the wayside following a 38-14 drubbing at the hands of Alabama on Sept. 24.
After rallying for wins over Texas A&M, Mississippi and Vanderbilt, they now appear on the verge of saving their preseason championship hopes.
"It was really about the leadership from within the team," Petrino said. "The maturity that we have; it's nice to have those 17 seniors that have been through the battles and been on the wrong side and now know how to win games."
Mississippi State continued to struggle against the best the SEC has to offer. All six of the Bulldogs' losses this season have now come against teams currently ranked in the BCS standings, and they are now 2-12 in the SEC West under coach Dan Mullen.
They were held to six three-and-outs by Arkansas, and the quarterback tandem of Tyler Russell and Dylan Favre combined to finish 15 of 31 passing for 127 yards. Mississippi State took the Razorbacks to double overtime last season behind 150 yards from running back Vick Ballard, but the senior was held to 54 yards rushing on 13 carries on Saturday.
"That's probably collectively as bad as we've played I think since I've been the head coach, and that falls on my shoulders," Mullen said. "We need to make sure we have a better performance out there on the field."
Arkansas, meanwhile, had no such offensive problems. Wilson's completion record eclipsed the former mark of 31 completions by Joe Ferguson against Texas A&M in 1971.
The Razorbacks led 14-3 in the first quarter and appeared on their way to another score when Wilson was sacked and fumbled on a third-and-goal. Fletcher Cox returned the fumble 52 yards for the Bulldogs, who closed the lead to 14-10 four plays later on Favre's 5-yard touchdown run.
That was the last of the meaningful highlights for Mississippi State.
Wilson, who finished 32 of 43 passing, started the game with a 20-yard touchdown throw to Cobi Hamilton on the game's opening possession. He then put the Razorbacks up 21-10 in the second quarter with a 32-yard strike to Joe Adams.
The Razorbacks then scored 30 straight points to go up 44-10 after Zach Hocker's third field goal of the game early in the fourth quarter.
"We spread them out a little bit right before halftime," Wilson said. "We just kind of walked the ball down the field at times, it seemed like. It was nice to do that."
Chris Gragg had a career-high 119 yards receiving on eight catches, and Jarius Wright added eight catches for 96 yards. Dennis Johnson also had 98 yards rushing on 14 carries for Arkansas, which entered the game No. 6 in this week's BCS standings.
That was tied for the school's highest mark, and the Razorbacks talked openly this week about the possibility of reaching both the SEC and national title games.
Oklahoma State's loss to Iowa State on Friday night possibly opened the door somewhat for Arkansas, but its best opportunity to impress voters -- and the computers -- will come Friday against the top-ranked and undefeated Tigers.
"There's no beating around the bush anymore," Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette said. "We've got a huge game on Friday, and we'll have the whole country watching.
"We're playing well right now, so it should be a battle."
Mississippi State (5-5) at Arkansas (9-1) Nov. 19, 3:30, CBS
Here’s The Deal … There are a few crazy things that could still throw a bit of a curveball into the 2011 season, but the wackiest, out-of-left-field, national title contender of the bunch is Arkansas, who despite the loss to Alabama is still in the hunt for the whole ball of wax if it wins this week, beats LSU on Friday, and then gets the SEC tie-breakers to go its way. The SEC three-way tie-breaker is a big mess, combining the BCS rankings and head-to-head matchups, but for this week, just getting by Mississippi State would be enough.
The Hogs have owned the Bulldogs in SEC play, winning 11 of the last 12 games and 14 of 16 going back to 1996, but this year’s game is among the most important. It’s a bit of a beauty contest at the moment, and Arkansas has to look pretty to show that everything is working well enough, and everything is jelling enough, to deserve to be moved up in the BCS rankings, and more importantly, moved past LSU and Alabama with two more regular season wins.
After blowing away South Carolina and Tennessee over the last two weeks, the sluggish performances against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have been forgotten and there’s a thought that this really and truly is a team worthy of being in the national title discussion. However, the rest of the SEC, outside of the killers on top, is really and truly bad, and that includes Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs are a major disappointment after their terrific 2010, going just 1-5 in SEC play and with the best win on the year coming in overtime against Louisiana Tech. The other four wins? Memphis, UAB, Kentucky, and UT Martin. It’ll take a win this week or in the Egg Bowl finale against Ole Miss to go bowling, but beating Arkansas would make the season and could turn things back around in terms of positive momentum going into the offseason.
Why Mississippi State Might Win: Arkansas has to be looking ahead. Everyone is saying all the right things, and the excitement of Senior Day is a part of the equation, but the LSU date is coming up quickly with the short week, and Mississippi State appears to be nothing more than a speed bump.
The Bulldog quarterback play has hardly been anything special, but Tyler Russell, and occasionally Chris Relf, represents the most dangerous quarterback situation the Hogs have faced since beating Texas A&M in early October. 240 yards from Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rodgers aside, the defense hasn’t been pushed much through the air over the last several weeks, and while MSU isn’t going to bomb away, the quarterback play isn’t going to be a problem, either. The Arkansas secondary isn’t as good as the stats and can be thrown on; the Bulldogs have to give it a try.
On the other side of the ball, the Hog O line has been fine, but nothing special, and the Bulldog defensive front has to take away the running game early on. It’s a spotty attack that predictably ripped through Tennessee and Ole Miss, and while the MSU defensive line is hardly special – giving up garbage yards against UT Martin and getting pushed around by Alabama – it doesn’t get gouged by anyone without a running quarterback. MSU has tightened things up considerably over the course of the season and should take away Dennis Johnson and the ground game for stretches, while the secondary that’s allowed nine touchdown passes and taken away 12 picks should be solid.
Why Arkansas Might Win: The Mississippi State offense has stopped working. It hung 55 on UTM, but it’s struggling in SEC play ever since the 41-34 loss to Auburn. Playing LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama have something to do with that, but the MSU attack didn’t exactly rock against Alabama, either.
MSU hasn’t seen a passing game like Arkansas’ all season long. Georgia’s is close, and Aaron Murray stunk in the 24-10 Dawg win, but the Bulldog secondary is about to get pushed hard by the clicking attack. Tennessee’s pass defense is ranked in the top 25, but Tyler Wilson threw for 224 yards and three scores in the blowout. South Carolina is No. 3 in the nation against the pass, but Wilson threw for 299 yards in the 16-point win. Wilson has thrown a pick in each of the last two games, including a horrible pick six against South Carolina, but he has thrown just six interceptions on the year and 20 scoring passes. MSU doesn’t have the offense to keep up if Wilson and the passing game roll early on.
What To Watch Out For: Joe Adams might not be Arkansas’ best receiver, that’s Jarius Wright, but he created a buzz this week with the best punt return for a score this season, weaving his way though Tennessee for a brilliant 60-yard score to break the game open. He’s not a bad target, either, making 43 grabs for 568 yards and two scores, while being used once in a while as a rusher, highlighted by a 92-yard dash against Auburn. At 5-10 and 180 pounds he’s not all that big, but he’s unstoppably fast with sub-4.3 speed.
Very quietly, MSU junior Cameron Lawrence is having a tremendous season with a team-leading 90 tackles, and while the defense couldn’t come up with enough stops against Alabama, he did his part with 12 tackles and a tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 225 pounds, Lawrence has decent size and a full-tilt motor, but he’s not a top athlete. He brings a good punch when he gets to the ball turning into the steady leader the D needs.
What Will Happen: Arkansas is playing too well right now to blow it. It’s not going to be the dominant effort of the Tennessee game, and Mississippi State will get its shots in, but Wilson and the passing game will hit two big home runs to stay ahead in the second half to set the tone for the LSU showdown.
CFN Prediction: Arkansas 38 … Mississippi State 23
Click For Latest Line From ATS: Arkansas -13 O/U: 53.5
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