Arkansas should triumph at Mississippi State on Saturday because it is the better team. But, it can't just show up. It must do certain things well to win this game.
The number one key will be to establish the running game. That might go against what some believe, but it will take solid running to make Mississippi State think run first with its linebackers and secondary. When that happens ... especially with the linebackers ... then the passing game will open up in a big way.
Joe Lee Dunn likes to use his strong safeties to cover the pass out of the backfield, but will commit them to the run if the running threat is deemed solid. That's why the Hogs must be able to run the ball inside against the Bulldogs' defense. Most everyone that has played MSU this year has found some creases inside, but the Hogs must be solid up front for this to happen.
The Hogs must also be able to control the tempo with a nice sprinkle from the option, too. Teams have been able to lock down Dunn's blitzes with some option running. I look for Matt Jones to try to get untracked early with the midline option to make this happen. That will help his blockers if he can make some runs on the outside in the option, and it will be a huge key in the game.
Arkansas has been up and down in the kicking game, but mostly up. After making two major mistakes in the punting game last week, punt protection was a major part of this week's practices. The Hogs must be close to perfect in the kicking game to earn its third road victory of the season.
Another key for the Hogs will be a quick jump out of the gates. MSU has been horrific this season, and there is absolutely no confidence in Jackie Sherrill's team. The Bulldogs are 0-6 in the SEC. However, if the Hogs don't put the hammer down on the 'Dogs early, Sherrill might convince his troops that every dog has its day and this should be their day. That will make the Hogs' job must tougher should that happen, so a quick start is a must at Starkville this week.
The turnover ratio is another big key this week. Arkansas leads the nation in turnover ratio, and MSU is among the nation's worst. The key to that is blocking and tackling, not just protection. If the Hogs can block the Bulldogs, there will be fewer chances for turnovers. Conversely, if the Hogs can hit the Bulldogs' young backs in the backfield, there is a good chance the Hogs will get some turnovers and some easy points.
Keys to Victory: MSU
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