Folks, this game is huge, and few are giving it the significance it deserves.
For the season, regardless of the class of the opponents:
1. Mississippi State gains 63 more yards on the ground than does Arkansas.
2. State throws for 180 fewer yards than the Hogs.
3. Arkansas nets 117 more yards per game in total offense.
4. Arkansas averages 11-12 more points per game scoring than does State.
5. The numbers for defense are pretty even. Overall, Arkansas actually gives up 18 fewer yards per game than does Mississippi State.
6. Net punting numbers only differ by 2 yards per punt, but Arkansas actually returns puts on average of 9 more yards per punt. Is that right?
7. The Hogs are averaging almost three sacks per game while Mississippi State averages 2.
8. The Bulldogs are doing better at turnover margin for the year averaging an extra turnover every other game than do the Razorbacks.
9. At home against SEC opponents this year the Bulldogs are 2-1 with wins over Georgia and Kentucky and an early season loss to Auburn by 3 points. Do not make the mistake that the Auburn team was the same team earlier in the year. As the season has moved forward, the Tigers’ offense has opened up tremendously as Malzahn has let Cam Newton run wild.
10. The most the Bulldogs have scored against an SEC opponent at home has been 24 points this year. They did it twice against Georgia and Kentucky. (There’s that number again!)
11. At home Mississippi State averages close to 21 points per game while opponents are averaging 15 points per game.
12. The Hogs are 2-1 on the road in the SEC with wins at Georgia and South Carolina.
13. On the road in the SEC Arkansas is scoring an average of 38 points per game. However, with the whopping 65 points given up to Auburn (which will not happen again), Arkansas allows 36 points per game on the road in the SEC. Just considering the Georgia and South Carolina games, Arkansas averages 36 points per game in SEC road games while allowing an average of 22.
14. It is not terribly difficult to see how Vegas makes Arkansas a 5.5 point favorite. Very roughly, Arkansas is 14 points better than schools of Mississippi State’s caliber on the road, and Mississippi State is roughly 5 points better than opponents at home. The difference is 9 points, and over many games, home field advantage is typically 3 points.
15. The Hogs and the Bulldogs have three common opponents this year, Auburn, Georgia and Alabama. Mississippi State played Auburn and Georgia at home while they took on Alabama on the road. Both teams lost to Alabama and Auburn, and both won against Georgia. Against common opponents, Arkansas has scored an average of 31 points per game and allowed 37 points per game while Mississippi State scored an average of 16 points per game and allowed 19.
What makes this game the most important one in years is a number not thrown in with the others. Currently the Razorbacks are .3110 points behind LSU in the BCS ratings. Before last week, it seemed like a Hog-Pen-in-the-sky fantasy that Arkansas could make up .3601 BCS rating points. However, Arkansas gained almost .049 points last week with a victory over UTEP and an extra position in the polls.
The BCS implications are significant with a huge Razorback victory against a Mississippi State team with a BCS ranking because the Hogs can close the ratings gap between with LSU to a reachable one because of LSU’s anticipated fall with a loss to Arkansas and Arkansas’ gain with a victory. While it is true that points are excluded from computer calculations, attention from human voters because of a shocking score is not. With Arkansas at No. 13 in the BCS rankings, teams above the Hogs have games which can be troublesome or are not BCS friendly.
With losses generally deducting .2000 from BCS ratings, here is a quick review of teams rated approximately .2000 points above the Hogs. No. 12 Michigan State deals with a pesky Purdue team this week. No. 11 Alabama can walk all over Georgia State but will get hammered in the computer strength-of-schedule component. No. 10 Oklahoma State is not likely to have trouble with 3-7 Kansas. No. 9 Ohio State meets No. 20 Iowa at Iowa. In almost the same game in a different conference No. 8 Nebraska plays at No. 19 Texas A&M, and lastly No. 7 Wisconsin goes to Michigan to take on 7-3 Big Blue. As for LSU, its arch nemesis Houston Dale Nutt brings his Ole Miss squad to Death Valley.
To cover all bases, an Arkansas team with a 6-2 record needs a head-to-head win against LSU and needs a higher BCS rating to overcome all but the most rank politics to get to the Sugar Bowl. Arkansas’ hopes start with a huge win over Mississippi State.
A long time ago Pink Floyd wrote its epic lyric, Time, “No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.”
No one is overlooking Mississippi State, but starting gun is about to fire on Arkansas’ Sugar Bowl chances.