Arkansas vs. Mississippi State Prediction: Picks, betting odds, analysis, more

 Staff   in Football

Two SEC Western Division foes square off in Fayetteville.

Two teams that started their seasons very differently will converge with equal records on Saturday in Fayetteville. Mississippi State is coming off a massive win over Kentucky, while Arkansas came off a bye that was preceded by a win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

The Bulldogs come in as the No. 17 ranked team yet will still be 4.5-point underdogs against the ‘Hawgs. 

When Mississippi State has the ball

The air raid offense that Mike Leach made famous has started to find its footing in the Southeastern Conference. Arkansas was the first team to lay the blueprint of dropping nine into coverage that others have followed; however, Leach and the Bulldogs have started to find answers.

They have turned what was once a downfield, high-octane attack into a ball-control, check-down-heavy offense that tries to make the defense move up the field until they can throw the deep ball.

Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom rolled out his dropping-nine strategy after seeing Mississippi State quarterback KJ Costello throw for 623 yards in his opening game. Odom’s game plan limited the Bulldogs to 14 points, and he might try to throw similar things at State ahead of this week’s game.

His one hindrance will be opposing quarterback Will Rogers who has learned how to attack SEC defenses as they sit deep. He has become an expert on consistently completing short throws, which resulted in his breaking the NCAA record for single-game completion percentage (36-of-39) last week.

Another big jump for the Mississippi State offense has been third down. The Bulldogs have have gone from 32% conversions last year to 48% this year.

Third downs have been a strong suit for Arkansas’s defense, however. Odom’s defense, led by the nation’s second-leading tackler Bumper Pool, has held opponents to 31.3% on third downs.

Third-down conversions will be critical in any game, but they will prove paramount on Saturday. 

Arkansas coach Sam Pittman also voiced the need to tackle well. He mentioned that his defense needed to get hats to the ball to combat Mississippi State’s emphasis on yards after the catch.

If the Razorback defense can avoid missed tackles on first and second down and then get off the field on third, they could put up a very similar performance to last year.

When Arkansas has the ball

Arkansas' offense has been inconsistent, and it's the ability to run the football that determines its success. 

Mississippi State’s defense has been nearly impossible to run on; however, offensive coordinator Kendall Briles will need to come with a game plan that can open up holes.

Pittman(a long-time offensive line coach) praised the Bulldog front. He mentioned that their two-gap scheme puts a lot of pressure on offensive lines to be physical and athletic. He mentioned the running game for his offensive line and the need to protect quarterback KJ Jefferson.

Mississippi State’s defense has been excellent throughout the season and especially over the past two weeks.

The most evident result of their success has been turnovers. State has forced 10 interceptions so far, which Leach said mainly as a result of their defensive line.

This highly-praised defensive line will need to show up in a big way against Arkansas if the Bulldogs want to make it three in a row.

Arkansas vs. Mississippi State prediction

Nick Cole and Christopher Smith share their Arkansas vs. Mississippi State prediction and betting picks for Week 10 of the 2021 college football season.