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Mississippi State vs. Arkansas Football Prediction and Preview

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Football Prediction and Preview

Bulldogs, Razorbacks face off in a matchup of SEC West teams looking for some late-season momentum and bowl eligibility

Ah, we've got the Dogs (Mississippi State) and Hogs (Arkansas) here. Pretty good, right? Well, if this was a three-game baseball weekend that is. Okay, I'm kidding, I'm kidding.

Don't sneeze at this pigskin showdown on the SEC gridiron because there are a ton of ramifications that will come out of this one. Mississippi State (5-3, 3-2) comes in sporting a Lazurus vibe, having won three of their last four, including a 45-6 romp at Vanderbilt and a very impressive 31-17 win over then-No. 12 Kentucky last week. As a result, the Bulldogs check in at No. 17 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings

On the other sideline, despite the hot start things are starting to sort out the way most of the experts expected it would with Arkansas in the basement of the SEC West at 1-3 (5-3 overall). But we all know they are better this year and have shown more fight and grit. I mean, look what they did to their old Southwest Conference rivals, beating then-No. 15 Texas 40-21 and then-No. 7 Texas A&M 20-10. But since then, the Piggies have lost three straight conference games to Georgia, Ole Miss, and Auburn by giving up a combined 127 points.

So these two come into this showdown going in different directions.

No. 17 Mississippi State at Arkansas

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 6 at 4 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Arkansas -5

When Mississippi State Has the Ball

The biggest "somethings-gotta-give" showdown is the obvious one. The Bulldogs are ranked fourth in the country in passing offense, averaging 371 yards per game. Now they’ll be going up against the Razorback defenders who are eighth nationally, holding opponents to just 168 yards per game through the air. Oh my. This will be fun.

Of course, no mention of the MSU offense can go without the focus on quarterback Will Rogers, who has been quite the dynamo. Last week against Kentucky, he set an SEC record by completing 36 of 39 passes (which was just one more completion away from the NCAA record). He also broke Dak Prescott's school record for single-season completions with 327, and that is with still a third of the season left to go. That's pretty darn impressive for a guy who was a backup last season and was thrown into a starting role due to injury.

Keep an eye on the ball-control passing game of the Bulldogs. Their short passing game has a way of wearing teams out as the game goes along. MSU is ranked sixth in the FBS, holding onto the ball for more than 35 minutes per game. The Bulldogs have scored 67 points in the fourth quarter, the most of any quarter this season.

When Arkansas Has the Ball

The other very very tasty statistical "somethings-gotta-give" matchup will be the Razorback running game, which is fourth in the country averaging 249 yards per game, going up against the Bulldog stops unit which is ranked fourth nationally by holding opponents to just 90 yards per game on the ground. Is that tasty or what? Three Hog runners have gone over the 400-yard mark in Trelon Smith (90 att., 459 yds., 5.1 ypc), Raheim Sanders (79, 434, 5.5), and quarterback KJ Jefferson (81, 419, 5.2). This stable of ball carriers will be a big key in who wins this game.

One other question for the Razorbacks: Which Jefferson is going to show up this week? Other than that glorified scrimmage vs. FCS Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the strapping flinger has a passer efficiency rating of 65 or under in three of the last four games. The one exception? That wild-west 52-51 shootout loss at Ole Miss, where he was 25-of-35 for 326 yards. He needs to re-find that magic he had in Oxford because with the talent on the Maroons' defensive front seven, the Hogs can't completely rely on their running game. They’ll need to be more of a 50-50 offense this week.

Final Analysis

Both teams come in with a 5-3 overall mark and a win here could help procure a warmer bowl destination. You have to wonder if the Bulldogs are due for a letdown after that A-plus win over No. 12 Kentucky. Meanwhile, the one big stat we didn't mention above was the fact that the Razorbacks have the eighth-best pass defense, holding opponents to just 168 yards per game through the air. So they are capable of throwing some serious wrenches in the works here.

Hogs head coach Sam Pittman said this week, "Both of us are 5-3, both of us have had some big wins this year. I'm glad we have them here."

Hogs in their own pigpen. I'll go along with that.

Prediction: Arkansas 38, Mississippi State 28

Podcast: Week 10 Predictions, CFB Playoff Rankings Debate and Conference Expansion News

— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.