AARON SONES PREVIEWS THE MSU-ARKANSAS GAME

<FONT SIZE=2>MISS STATE (2-5, 1-4) @ ARKANSAS (6-3, 3-3)<P> Television:&#9;None.<BR The Series:&#9;Tied, 5-5-1<BR> Last Meeting:&#9;Arkansas, 17-10 (ot); (11/18/00 @ Starkville)

I really felt like the Bulldogs would find a way to win last week in Tuscaloosa. And for three quarters, it looked like the Bulldogs were on their way. After the loss, I am skeptical that this team can play down the stretch at the level that it takes to win. A couple of key factors to look at as the Bulldogs travel to Fayetteville: 1) Sherrill has never won in the state of Arkansas…. Never. 2) The Bulldogs have a chance to do to the Hogs what they did to the Bulldogs last season. MSU can ruin Arkansas' season with a victory. Sherrill and Company will surely talk about this during this week's practices. There is something about playing at Arkansas that has stymied MSU teams of the past. Do we really have reason to think that things will change Saturday? Anything is possible, but for the Bulldogs to get a win, they have to be on top of their game. The Hogs have won five straight.

ARKANSAS' SCHEDULE
8.30 UNLV W 14-10
9.8 TENNESSEE L 3-13
9.22 @ Alabama L 10-31
9.29 @ Georgia L 23-34
10.6 WEBER STATE W 42-19
10.13 SOUTH CAROLINA W 10-7
10.27 AUBURN W 42-17
11.3 @ Ole Miss W (7ot) 58-56
11.10 CENTRAL FLORIDA W 27-20
11.17 MISSISSIPPI STATE 1:00
11.23 @ LSU 1:30

ARKANSAS' COACH

HOUSTON NUTT
65-38 (9th season)
29-16 (4th season at Arkansas)
2-1 (versus MSU)
1993-96 MURRAY STATE 31-16
1997 BOISE STATE 5-6
1998- ARKANSAS 29-16

ARKANSAS' OFFENSE

Statistically, believe it or not, Arkansas ranks behind State in the conference, offensively. The Hogs are 107th nationally, averaging less than 300 yards per game. Their scoring average (25.4) would be a lot less were it not for that 58-56 double-overtime game against Ole Miss. They have experienced new life as of late, with the emergence of true freshman quarterback Matt Jones. Zac Clark will start, but Jones will see plenty of playing time and will try to run the option down State's throat. Arkansas will not score in bunches on State, unless the Dogs have totally given up. The key is controlling the line of scrimmage against a surprisingly strong offensive line.

WHO'S HOT: TB FRED TALLEY. Talley racked up a season-high 189 yards last week vs. Central Florida. He had two touchdown runs (81,38). He leads the team with almost 80 yards per game rushing.

WHO'S NOT: TB CEDRIC COBB. Whatever happened to this guy? He looked like the next Bo Jackson as a freshman. But that seems like ages ago. The sophomore tailback has rushed for just 197 yards on 74 carries after sustaining a season-ending injury early last year.

THE STATS:            MSU HOGS
Total Offense            319.3 298.7
    Rushing Yards      123.9 163.9
    Passing Yards        195.4 134.8
Points Scored            12.6 25.4
First Downs            17.4 17.0
3rd Down Conversions . .323 .365

A new feature: I will give an advantage to either Mississippi State or the opponent, for every position. I will award either team with the advantage by a certain number of points (like a point-spread), up to 10. For example, if MSU has the advantage by 1 point, it is a slight edge. If it is by 10, it is a commanding edge.

ARKANSAS' OFFENSIVE BACKFIELD

QB 17 ZAK CLARK 6-2.198.SO
QB 9 MATT JONES 6-5.215.FR
QB 10 RYAN SORAHAN 6-4.220.SO

Clark, a native of Fayetteville, is 7-2 as a starter. He started last season in the win over State. His numbers aren't overly impressive, completing 49 percent of his passes, with 4 TDs and 4 picks. But he is a grinder and doesn't make silly mistakes. Jones is fun to watch. Arkansas' quarterback situation, while better than what it was at the beginning of the season, still isn't up to what Houston Nutt would like. But they have done enough to win games. Having Fant start for State will help the Bulldogs, but the edge goes to Arkansas, because of their ability to win games.

ADVANTAGE: HOGS BY 1

TB 20 FRED TALLEY 5-9.180.JR
TB 4 CEDRIC COBBS 6-1.221.SO
FB 46 SACHA LANCASTER 6-4.253.SR
FB 33 MARK PIERCE 6-1.215.FR

Talley is a workhorse who rushed for nearly 150 yards last year against the Bulldogs. He has been coming on strong as of late, having one of the better games of his career last week against CFU. Cobbs has been a virtual no-show for some reason. Arkansas is fourth in the SEC in rushing, so this is their strong point. The quarterbacks can run, which takes some pressure off the tailbacks. State's one-two punch of Miller and Walker will have to have a break-out game sometime.

ADVANTAGE: EVEN

ARKANSAS' RECEIVERS

SE 88 GEORGE WILSON 6-1.202.R-FR
SE 18 SAM BREEDEN 6-4.221.JR
SE 9 MATT JONES 6-5.215.FR
FL 8 RICHARD SMITH 5-10.184.SO
FL 28 SPARKY HAMILTON 6-4.212.JR
FL 5 GERALD HOWARD 5-7.188.JR
TE 82 NATHAN BALL 6-4.275.JR
TE 95 MARCELLUS POYDRAS 6-5.256.JR

Smith and Wilson are the main targets, with Smith catching 33 passes for 330 yards and Wilson snaring 31 for 436 yards. The Arkansas receivers have caught just 6 touchdown passes, with four going to Smith and two going to Wilson. This isn't an overly athletic group of receivers, but it's hard to give an edge to State, and I think you know why.

ADVANTAGE: EVEN

ARKANSAS' OFFENSIVE LINE

LT 61 SHANNON MONEY 6-4.305.SR
LG 66 LA'ZERIUS WHITE 6-4.318.SR
C 57 KENNY SANDLIN 6-3.313.SR
RG 71 MARK BOKERMANN 6-5.300.SO
RT 73 SHAWN ANDREWS 6-6.330.FR

Sandlin and Andrews are the ones to watch on the front line. Arkansas has been a pleasant surprise, mainly because of White and Bokermann performing steady while Andrews and Sandlin are having all-star-type years. They have given up 16 sacks so far this season, which isn't outstanding. Compared to State's makeshift line, which seems to be getting back its health, the Hogs front wall has been a little steadier.

ADVANTAGE: HOGS BY 1.5

ARKANSAS' DEFENSE

Arkansas' defense has done enough to win games, but that is about it. They aren't near the top of the conference in any category. They have been particularly vulnerable to the run at times this season. Auburn (238), UNLV (258), Georgia (178) and Tennessee (183) put up big numbers. They have given up some yardage through the air also. The best plan of attack is a balanced offense. Run the ball well, and then mix in some short yardage passing, and you should get your yards against the Hogs. The toughest part is scoring inside the 20.

WHO'S HOT: Arkansas in the red zone. The Hogs lead the SEC, allowing teams to score just 66 percent of the time they are inside the 20 (25-of-36; 16 TDs, 8 FGs). Honorable mention goes to ILB Jermaine Petty, who leads the SEC in tackles with 115 (13.8 per game).

WHO'S NOT: Arkansas versus the run. Normally a strong point for Nutt's teams, the Hogs are just 9th in the conference versus the rush (153 ypg allowed).

ARKANSAS' DEFENSIVE LINE

DE 55 CARLOS HALL 6-4.261.SR
DT 48 JERMAIN BROOKS 6-3.295.JR
NG 94 CURT DAVIS 6-3.277.SR
DE 56 RAYMOND HOUSE 6-3.260.JR

Carlos Hall is an all-SEC-caliber player, but the rest of the line has been shaky at times. Other teams have controlled the line for the most part, especially teams like Auburn and Tennessee, which both have physical offensive lines.

ADVANTAGE: STATE BY 1

ARKANSAS' LINEBACKERS

OLB 43 CALEB MILLER 6-3.213.SO
ILB 40 JERMAINE PETTY 6-2.257.SR
OLB 22 TONY BUA 5-11.207.SO

Petty will be a first-team all-SEC selection. Linebackers are vulnerable to the outside. Not very deep here.

ADVANTAGE: EVEN

ARKANSAS' SECONDARY

CB 1 LAWRENCE RICHARDSON 5-10.174.SO
SS 30 EDDIE JACKSON 6-0.186.SO
FS 6 KEN HAMLIN 6-2.197.SO
CB 8 AHMAD CARROLL 5-11.190.FR

Secondary is very young, but have some talent in Ken Hamlin, who will really be a great player before he graduates. The secondary has accounted for seven picks, but have 15 touchdowns and an average of over 216 yards a game. State's secondary has played better lately, but still aren't getting the job done in key situations.

ADVANTAGE: EVEN

ARKANSAS' SPECIAL TEAMS

P 35 RICHIE BUTLER 6-1.210.JR
PK 41 BRENNAN O'DONOHOE 6-0.211.SO

O'Donohoe leads the league in field goal percentage (9-of11), but only one of his attempts has been for over 40 yards. But he is deadly accurate on the short ones. His two misses were from 22 and 35 yards out. Butler is averaging 42.2 yards per kick and the coverage teams are good. Arkansas has above average return teams on both the kickoffs and punts. The Hogs have returned a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown this season.

ADVANTAGE: ARKANSAS BY 5

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

-State will test the waters early to find out what works with Kevin Fant at the helm. The Bulldogs will probably find that they can move the ball if they can stay balanced. But that takes execution, something the Dogs haven't had much of lately.
-For State to win, they have to tone down the costly penalties that move them out of field goal range and stall drives, or defensively, keep drives going.
-The Hogs will get Matt Jones some playing time early. I understand that we could see him line up as a wide receiver when he isn't behind center.
-If State stops the run and forces Arkansas to throw, the Hogs will be playing into State's hands.

OUTLOOK

Arkansas and Mississippi State are going in two different directions. I'm afraid the momentum will be too much for State to handle. It takes more than just athletic ability to overcome a slide like the one the Bulldogs are facing. It will be fun to watch Kevin Fant get his first start. Because the Hogs haven't impressed me much defensively, I look for this one to be close late. But State will again find some way to shoot themselves in the foot and allow the Arkansas jinx to remain intact.

ARKANSAS 20
STATE 17


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