Moral victories won’t get No. 19 Mississippi State into a better bowl game, but giving Alabama all it could handle should bode well for the Bulldogs heading into Saturday’s showdown with host Arkansas. Mississippi State is still in line for an appearance in a top-tier bowl despite last week’s last-minute loss to the Crimson Tide.
The outcome of last week’s game was in doubt right down to the final moments, when Alabama scored the go-ahead touchdown with 25 seconds remaining to escape with the victory. “It hurts,” Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald said afterward. “It doesn’t matter who we lost to or how much we lost by. We lost a game we should have won.” The Bulldogs should have no such difficulty this week as they take on a Razorbacks team that was thoroughly outplayed in last week’s 33-10 drubbing at the hands of LSU. And Arkansas is dealing with controversy this week, having suspended quarterback Cole Kelley indefinitely after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated following last weekend’s defeat.
TV: Noon ET, CBS. LINE: Mississippi State -11.5
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (7-3, 3-3 SEC): Fitzgerald saw his streak of games with 100-plus rushing yards snapped against the Crimson Tide, but his 66-yard, one-touchdown performance vs. Alabama was equally impressive considering the Tide’s dominance at defending the run. Fitzgerald’s rushing prowess - he has eight scores over his last five games - has masked his extended struggles throwing the ball, as he has failed to surpass 160 passing yards in each of his last four games. Mississippi State comes into the game ranked 10th in the nation in third-down conversion rate at 47.3 percent.
ABOUT ARKANSAS (4-6, 1-5): Austin Allen will start in place of Kelley after the redshirt freshman was booked Sunday on suspicion of DWI; he was released around noon and attended team meetings later in the day. “He has to understand that not only to be an Arkansas Razorback, but to be a quarterback, starting games here is a very big deal,” head coach Bret Bielema said Monday. “Social media and everything else around, he’s going to be held to a higher standard. ... He’s going to have to do a lot of growing up in a short amount of time.” Arkansas ranks 120th in third-down conversion rate allowed (46.8 percent).
1. Allen went 13-for-23 for 140 yards in last week’s loss to the Tigers, his first action since suffering a shoulder injury Oct. 7.
2. The Bulldogs rank 12th in Division I in rushing yards per game (250.6).
3. The Razorbacks sit tied for 14th nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (39.4).
PREDICTION: Mississippi State 37, Arkansas 27