Bowl hopes are quickly dwindling for both teams as the Mississippi State Bulldogs get set to face the Arkansas Razorbacks this weekend. Kickoff is set for 4:00 EST on Saturday, November 2 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The game can be seen on the SEC Network.
Oddsmakers list the Bulldogs as 7-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 58 points. Click here to see a full list of the Week 10 college football odds.
Things are starting to spiral out of control for Joe Moorhead in his second season at Mississippi State. After starting the year 3-1, the Bulldogs have lost four games in a row, all by double-digit margins. In fairness, three of those four losses have come on the road. But the fact remains that MSU is 3-5 overall and just 1-4 in SEC play.
The Bulldogs need to win three of their last four games in order to reach a bowl game. The good news is that this will be their last road game of the season, as Mississippi State closes out the season with a three-game homestand. The bad news is that one of those games is against Alabama. Unless the Bulldogs plan on upsetting the Crimson Tide, this week’s game against Arkansas is a must-win to keep their bowl hopes alive.
Of course, every game in November is a must-win for Arkansas. The Razorbacks are currently nursing a five-game losing streak, a stretch that began with a stunning loss to San Jose State. Things have somehow gotten worse for the 2-6 Hogs, who have been out-scored 99-17 by Auburn and Alabama in the last two weeks.
If the Razorbacks don’t win their last four games, they will once again sit at home during bowl season. The silver lining is that three of those four games at home. Of course, there’s a road game against no. 1 LSU sandwiched in between those home games. It’ll take a minor miracle to get the Razorbacks to a bowl game in 2019. Meanwhile, the seat under head coach Chad Morris is getting warm in just his second season at Arkansas. After last year’s 2-10 campaign, it’s critical that Morris show progress and improvement, making this a critical game for his future with the Razorbacks.
It’s worth noting that Arkansas has just one win in their last seven games against Mississippi State. Morris and the Hogs were blasted by Moorhead’s Bulldogs 52-6 in Starkville last year, meaning it’ll take a massive turnaround for the Razorbacks to get a win this time around.
I have no doubt that Mississippi State is better than Arkansas, but the question is how much better. Even though the Bulldogs have given me few reasons to believe in them over the course of the season, I’ll eat the points in this game. Arkansas is as bad as their record indicates, which is why I like the Bulldogs to win by at least 10 points and cover any single-digit spread.
Mississippi State’s problems this year have been more on the defensive side of the ball than on offense. Despite taking some time to figure out their quarterback situation, the Bulldogs have been able to move the ball and score points against most teams this season. I still don’t have much faith in freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader as a passer. But his running abilities have made him a nice complement to running back Kylin Hill, who’s the most important figure on the MSU offense.
Against the Arkansas defense, I don’t think Shrader’s shortcomings as a passer will be a huge problem. The Razorbacks have been shredded on the ground on more than one occasion this year, even against some of the more average teams in the SEC like Kentucky and Ole Miss. They’ve also allowed mediocre quarterbacks to do plenty of damage against them, so Shrader may actually have some success through the air in this game. The bottom line is that Arkansas has allowed six of their eight opponents to score at least 31 points against them. I don’t see why the Bulldogs can’t match that number.
Meanwhile, the Arkansas offense doesn’t seem to be getting any better as the season goes along. If anything, things are getting more complicated with a two-person quarterback quandary adding a third person with freshman John Stephen Jones getting involved. Jones completed six of his seven passes, including one touchdown, last week against Alabama. That has him in the mix to play this week along with Nick Starkel and Ben Hicks, who have both failed to establish themselves as the team’s starter.
Of course, Jones did all of that in garbage time against Alabama’s second- and third-string players. In other words, I wouldn’t overreact too much to those passing numbers. Even against a Mississippi State defense that’s giving up 31 points per game, I’m not expecting much from the Arkansas offense. The Bulldogs have managed to slow down some of their weaker opponents this year like Kentucky and Tennessee, and I don’t think the Razorbacks are any better than those teams offensively.
I don’t think this will be a pretty game to watch from the perspective of either team. But the Arkansas defense won’t be able to keep the MSU rushing attack grounded for 60 minutes, nor will the Arkansas offense being able to sustain success regardless of who plays quarterback. Ultimately, the Bulldogs will be able to get enough separation to cover the spread.