5 key topics as Mississippi State faces must-win at Arkansas
Mississippi State football is in a complete free fall entering Saturday’s game at Arkansas.
The Hogs are in worse shape, losers of 16 consecutive SEC games, including all 13 under Chad Morris. The Razorbacks (2-6, 0-5 SEC) are statistically one of the worst defenses in the country, with the 97th rushing defense in the country and 89th overall, giving up 418.6 yards a game.
If Mississippi State is going to break its 4-game losing streak, its first since 2005 under Sylvester Croom, it has an opponent ripe for the picking.
Should the Bulldogs find a way to lose against the hapless Hogs, Joe Moorhead might decide to take up residence in Fayetteville. Or Rutgers.
Here are 5 things to look for if MSU plans to leave Arkansas with a win.
Please feed Kylin Hill the ball
While very few things are worth remembering from last week’s dismal loss to Texas A&M, Hill was a bright spot.
As the season winds down, Hill leads the team in rushing with 793 yards and 6 touchdowns. While those numbers are not as far along as I would have thought, Hill continues to carry the offense. Once again, I think Hill needs the ball in any capacity.
Hill leads the team in all-purpose yards with 860, averaging 107.5 per game. Should Moorhead simply turn around and hand the ball to Hill, I believe he could run for over 200 yards on the Razorbacks.
The combination of Osirus Mitchell and Garrett Shrader continues to improve
The wide receiver unit came under scrutiny in fall camp. While the uncertainties continue, Mitchell has put together an All-SEC type season, hauling in 25 catches for 344 yards and 4 touchdowns. As a junior, I expect the relationship between the two to only get better. Last season, Mitchell suffered some costly drops in crucial situations. To his credit, he has become the go-to receiver this year.
The wide receiver room has seen bright spots the past few weeks, albeit in mop-up duty, both Isaiah Zuber and Deddrick Thomas have shown flashes. Tight end Farrod Green played well against Texas A&M, as he’s now snagged 12 catches on the season for 148 yards.
Willie Gay and Lee Autry are expected to play against Arkansas
By adding both players who have spent most of the season suspended for violation of team rules, the MSU defense will have its best linebacker on the team available to help stop a sluggish Hogs offense. This could be the duo’s best game as the Razorbacks have played 3 quarterbacks this season and might unveil a 4th Saturday.
None has been good enough to separate from the others as the trio has combined to throw 11 interceptions and only 10 touchdowns.
Backups in secondary will be tested early
The good news for the Bulldogs, it faces one of the worst passing offenses in the country. The Hogs only throw for 232.5 yards per game, good enough for 65th in the country.
The bad news for the Bulldogs, it will likely be without its top 2 cornerbacks in Cameron Dantzler and Maurice Smitherman. Smitherman was injured last week against Texas A&M and Dantzler has been lost for the season with an injury.
While the back half of the defense has some pieces to fill the void, the leadership roles will be hard to duplicate.
Players like Brian Cole, Erroll Thompson and C.J. Morgan have to rally this team down the stretch.
Has coach Joe Moorhead lost the team?
If you look at the Texas A&M game alone, the question has to be raised. Many times against the Aggies, primarily in the 2nd half, the defensive effort was questionable at best. Losing tends to breed unrest and that appears to be happening at MSU.
Nothing cures apathy like a win and I expect MSU to get one on Saturday. Should the Bulldogs have a lackluster attitude, similar to the way it played in the 1st half against A&M, all bets are off.