Note :Just a fair warning to all, after I made a statement yesterday about my lack of use for stats, it seems that this particular post is riddled with stats and numbers. Regardless, I hope you enjoy.
This week the No. 13 Arkansas Razorbacks head across the river to Starkville, to take on No. 22 Mississippi State. The Hogs (8-2, 4-2) currently sit fourth in the SEC West, but can jump to second in the final week of the season if they win out.
Mississippi State is right on the heels of the Hogs, holding down fifth place in the SEC West.
The interesting part of the SEC West standings, is that Arkansas would be the first place team if they were in the East, and Mississippi State would be second.
The SEC West is definitely the dominant division.
Arkansas have proven over the past few weeks that they can in fact be a dominant football team.
In the past four game the Hogs have out scored opponents by 107 points. For those keeping score, that would be 186-79.
Arkansas has obtained a balance over the past few weeks, beginning with the Vanderbilt game and seems to be building steam.
A key cog in the machine has been the play of Ryan Mallett. Mallett has been stellar in the past four games. Here’s his stat line :
80/124 1,123 yards 8.9 YPC 10 Touchdowns 2 Interceptions
As for the balance, Knile Davis has provided more than his share of production in the offensive attack. Earlier this month I made two predictions via Twitter, one that Ryan Mallett would pass for 4,000 yards this season, and two that Knile Davis would break 1,000 yards rushing. My prediction on Mallett was based on the fact that he would have met his average of 309 yards passing per game. On the other hand it seems that my Knile Davis predictions will actually come to fruition. Here’s Davis’ stat line for the past four games:
74 carries 550 yards 8.4 YPC 9 Touchdowns
The offense has been potent to say the least, and that’s only two individuals that have combined for 1,673 yards and 19 touchdowns in four games. That doesn’t include the cache of weapons the Hogs possess.
When you tack on the powerful running of Broderick Green, the special teams returns of Joe Adams, Madrecus Humphrey and Cobi Hamilton.
Coach Bobby Petrino’s offense has slowly become something similar to Hydra ( a mythological creature with multiple heads), and to defensive coordinators, just as scary.
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has dealt with Coach Petrino’s offense before. In a statement he made earlier this week, Diaz recalled the first time he was faced with the chore of dissecting video of a Bobby Petrino offense. At the time Diaz was on staff at Middle Tennessee. He recalled thinking the Louisville Cardinals would score 100 points on the Blue Raiders.
He jokingly said he believes the Mississippi State Bulldogs will hold the Arkansas Razorbacks to just 99 points this Saturday.
It’s no joke that he, and the rest of the defensive staff will have their hands full with preparations.
When teams prepare for an upcoming opponent by selecting a player that can match the athleticism of the key player on the opposing team, this has proven to be a difficult task for the Bulldogs according to Head Coach Dan Mullen.
Mullen has mentioned that providing his defense with a sneak peek at what Ryan Mallett offers has been difficult when you have prepare for a 6’6″ 238 lb quarterback that can throw the ball 90 yards and it only takes the ball a half a second to get there. Just a compilation of a few paraphrased quotes.
But Coach Mullen’s point is obvious.
But the Arkansas defense is faced with a challenge as well.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs are currently ranked 18th nationally with an average of 211.7 yards rushing per game. So far in the month of November the Hogs opponents have averaged 111 yards rushing per game and only one touchdown. To say the least the Hogs defense has been impressive and much more improved than naysayers prior to this season could have imagined.
The task the Hogs will face, is not only a running back, in Vick Ballard but also a mobile quarterback in Chris Relf. In articles I’ve seen, it seems that many people forget the fact that Relf has gained over 500 yards on the ground.
While Chris Relf may not gaudy numbers on the ground, he has the ability to keep a play alive with his mobility. That makes him dangerous. A few extra seconds is the difference between a coverage sack and the offense picking up the first down.
The difference in this game will come down to defense. Whichever team will be able to neutralize the opposing offense will come out on top. Arkansas’ defense has faced teams that like to run the option as MSU has shown. In the past, teams have had little success against the feisty defense of the Hogs.
One thing to remember is that Mississippi State also has a playmaker that lines up out wide. Chad Bumphis is a deep threat that will make teams pay for blown coverage, and also possess’ the ability to make plays in traffic.
Interestingly enough, the Hogs secondary has the same amount of interceptions as touchdowns allowed, at 11.
If anything is to be taken away from this, is that this Arkansas Razorbacks team contains one of the most balanced, high octane offenses and hard nosed defenses Hog Nation has seen.
What’s more, they seem to be improving with each passing week. Will the Hogs continue on their path of progression ? Will the Hogs be able to finish strong ?
These are questions that can only be answered by the young men sporting the Razorback on their helmets.
Again, I believe this game comes down to defense. If the Hogs are able to contain Chris Relf, and force him to make a few mistakes, the Hogs will be one step closer to the number two spot in the SEC.