FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas and Mississippi State are both hoping to leave Razorback Stadium on Saturday with an SEC win.
Arkansas (2-5, 0-4) and Mississippi State (3-3, 0-3) are winless in league play. The Bulldogs defeated Western Michigan 41-28 on Oct. 7 and then had a bye last week. So they may have an advantage as far as entering the game since the Razorbacks were playing their fourth road game in a row last Saturday.
Here’s five keys for the Hogs get that first SEC win.
Take Control Early
Arkansas is at home and it’s homecoming. They need to take the air out of Mississippi State early and allow the crowd to stay in the game. Sam Pittman has called this a “must win” for the Hogs. Arkansas needs something positive to happen as a program. A convincing win over the Bulldogs would give Arkansas some momentum heading into the bye week. The Hogs, following the bye week, will go to Florida yet again and then host Auburn, FIU and Missouri. Arkansas needs to win four of the final five games to become bowl eligible. The season isn’t what anyone wanted, but the five losses aren’t going away. What needs to go away is the losing streak and it starts Saturday.
Avoid Penalties, Turnovers
Arkansas was able to do that, but still lost to Alabama 24-21 last week. However, doing that against Mississippi State should allow the Hogs have a better result on Saturday. Last time the Hogs played in Razorback Stadium they committed 14 penalties against BYU. If the Hogs can avoid the turnovers and excessive number of penalties they should be in good shape on Saturday.
Red Zone Touchdowns
Arkansas has gotten a great season from kicker Cam Little. But when they get in the red zone they need touchdowns. Obviously as Oregon would likely admit 3 is better than 0, but it’s important for Arkansas to find ways to get touchdowns. The offense has struggled much of the season, but was able to get touchdowns late against Alabama twice. That is a recipe for success rest of season.
Win Third Down on Both Sides of Ball
The offense staying on the field and converting third downs is important. Arkansas has had trouble doing that at times, but they need to gain positive results on third down. As far as the defense, the two keys are getting off the field on third down and also try to eliminate explosive plays for the Bulldogs. Arkansas’ defense has been pretty good with that most of season. The second half against LSU was the hardest time for the defense. Texas A&M also had success at times against the defense. Win third down on both sides of ball should lead to success for Hogs.
Get Running Game Going
Whether it’s KJ Jefferson, AJ Green or Rashod Dubinion the Hogs need to be able to run the ball. Mississippi State is an aggressive defense and will come after Jefferson hard if the Hogs can’t make them respect running game. This season has been a very disappointing one in many ways, but maybe none more than the failure to establish a good running game.