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Mississippi State (3-5) at Arkansas (2-6)

SEC Network 3:00 pm Central

The first of the final four games of 2019.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs take a visit to Northwest Arkansas Saturday afternoon to face the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorbacks Stadium.

Credit: MSU Athletics

ESPN’s Football Power Index has the Bulldogs a 7.5-point favorite with a 74% chance to win Saturday afternoon; however, hog fans are seeming to think different.

With Coach Chad Morris shuffling between Nick Starkel and Ben Hicks all year at quarterback, there are just four more games left on the schedule. Do the Arkansas Razorbacks truly have a quarterback to lead this team this year, or for better measure, in the future? Some fans believe we do have a QB of the future on the roster and just has not played this season. Last week, there was a bright spot while visiting Tuscaloosa, besides the great light show all night (sarcasm abounding), was the play of Arkansas quarterback John Stephen Jones.

Credit: Whole Hog Sports

Jones led the hogs to their only TD drive against the Tide. Many fans have continued to please for KJ Jefferson to get some playing time and show off his talents. The hogs’ coaching staff has said nothing less than that he’s a great talent. 

Miss State with freshman quarterback Garret Shrader, get to see Razorback Stadium Saturday afternoon. Shrader on the year is 75-136 for 1,022 yards with only 7 TDs and 5 turnovers. The Bulldog offense will need to lean on the rushing game with Kylin Hill against a bad rushing defense. Hill is their Junior running back with 155 attempts for 793 yards and 6 TDs on the year. Expect the Bulldogs to not stray from the running game. The hogs defensive line, lead by Agim, will need to have a solid presence early in the matchup. Razorback Stadium will not be a packed house but the ones that will be there are going to be loud and proud with some hog fans expecting to see an SEC win.

Statistically, both teams have many of the same problems. They are both in the bottom of the SEC in Yards Allowed with Miss State at 402.3 and Arkansas at 418.6; rushing yards allowed with the Bulldogs allowing 159 and the Hogs with 131. The QB position is still a question for Arkansas; however, Mississippi State comes in with a QB who they believe is their future and a team that, although struggling, does have an SEC win on the season. As the hogs come in with so many question marks, some questions should be answered at home this week. You can play freshman in 4 games without burning the redshirt. Both side of the ball Saturday should see a lot of new faces in the lineups throughout the game working on next year, not because this year is done, but to get them experience that you cannot receive in practice.

The hogs are still going to need to get big play from Boyd in the running game. Boyd is the hogs’ leading rusher on the season with 131 attempts for 706 yards.

Credit: 247 Sports

He still has a good chance to become an SEC 1000-yard rusher, even the way the hogs season has gone so far. It is time for a come around in the last 4 games. Expect Boyd to hit that line. He must get over 100 yards on the ground with at least 2 TDs if the Hogs want to win. The running game is a Bulldog weakness this year, you must find a way to exploit that early and often. We will need to see the WR show their growth over the first 8 weeks of the season with Knox, Woods, and Burks. The Hogs will need that first spark on offense to get the game going. Quick passes to your good core of WRs with a solid running game should get the Hogs going.

Prediction Time

Arkansas has been the laughing stock of the SEC for over a year now. Reason being, they are the only SEC team to not have an SEC win for some time now. It is finally time for that streak to end. Arkansas, with the young core of WRs, will finally get over that hump and start the true rebuilding of a program located in Northwest Arkansas. The Hogs finally get off the snide against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The HOGS win.  Mississippi State 28, Arkansas 34

Jones and Jefferson, accompanied with Boyd, Burks, and Knox with some sprinkle of Woods,  and Henry, who should replace O’Grady, finally give the Hog fans some hope for the future. The combination of Jones and Jefferson at QB gives too many RPO (Run Pass Options) for the 2 most mobile quarterbacks on the roster. Jefferson being the only one with the real running threat. Jones is good but does not have the full talent that we all believe Jefferson has. The mixture of the fans believing and the freshman talent, the Hogs finally get the well fought-for SEC Win.

Justin Garrison
Football Sports Writer for Natural State Sports Co-Host of Thursday night live show "The Sports Junkies" along side Steve Hinson