1. Be Prepared for Anyone
Arkansas isn’t sure which Mississippi State quarterback will play today, but each possesses different strengths. The defense’s ability to recognize who is on the field, how to defend him and execution will be critical to Arkansas’ success in Little Rock.
2. Run Game Success
The Razorbacks have run well against most opponents this season, but face another challenge against a defense Jim Chaney described as “heavy.” Arkansas’ ground game must respond to the challenge in what is expected to be a physical game.
3. Tackle the Problem
Spotty tackling has been a source of frustration for Bret Bielema, who has watched short passes go for big gains and touchdowns because of mistakes. The Razorbacks continued to emphasize tackling during the off week. Execution will be key today.
4. Stay on Top of Turnovers
Arkansas forced more turnovers (2), than it committed (1) at Ole Miss. It’s a step in the right direction. But it has to continue for the losing streak to end. MSU proved it could take the ball away last week, forcing Alabama into a season-high 4 turnovers.
5. Win the Fourth Quarter
It’s hard to imagine any one of these teams running away with the game today, meaning the fourth quarter should be a key to victory. It has been weeks since the Hogs have enjoyed fourth-quarter success. They’ll need it to stop the 7-game slide.
TODAY’S KEY MATCHUP
Arkansas QB Brandon Allen (6-3, 210, So.)
Key Statistics: 46.7 completion percentage, 11 TDs, 8 INTs
Allen completed more than 50 percent of his passes for just the third time this season against Ole Miss. His 193 passing yards was Arkansas’ highest total since the Texas A&M loss. But Arkansas needs Allen to clean up his mistakes — like a costly interception — against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have 5 interceptions in the past two games against two of the SEC’s top quarterbacks (Johnny Manziel, A.J. McCarron). Arkansas will continue to lean on its ground game, but Allen must turn in a sound performance for the Razorbacks to end their seven-game slide today.
Mississippi State safety Nickoe Whitley (6-1, 205, Sr.)
Key Statistics: 40 tackles, 4 interceptions, 5 pass break ups
Whitley leads a Mississippi State secondary that has gotten its hands on a few passes from two of the SEC’s top quarterbacks the past two weeks. Whitley leads the Bulldogs with 4 interceptions this season and has bumped is career total to 14, which is tied for the most among active Football Bowl Subdivision players. Whitley has been at his best in SEC games during his career as well, grabbing 9 of his 14 interceptions. The last came in the 51-41 loss to Texas A&M two weeks ago. Whitley and the Bulldogs will try to add to their total against Allen and the Razorbacks.
EDGE: Mississippi State S Nickoe Whitley