No. 1 Mississippi St ready to face Arkansas
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) The last time Mississippi State faced Arkansas, the Bulldogs were a mediocre 4-6 football team trying to figure out a way to become bowl eligible.
Things have changed quite a bit over the past year.
Starting with that overtime victory over the Razorbacks, No. 1 Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference, No. 1 CFP) has won 10 straight games and is now among the front-runners to win a national title.
While the Bulldogs are rolling, the Razorbacks are still struggling. Arkansas (4-4, 0-4) has lost 16 straight conference games, dating back to 2012. The teams meet again on Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.
Arkansas right tackle Brey Cook said Mississippi State’s rise could be used as a model for what the Razorbacks hope to accomplish in the near future.
”Just goes to show the power of our conference,” Cook said. ”Anybody can do anything on any given weekend, and we’re excited to go out there and play a good football team on Saturday.”
Four of the SEC’s top seven rushers will be on the field – Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson and Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins.
It’s no secret both teams love to move the ball on the ground. Robinson had a career-high 198 yards rushing last weekend in Mississippi State’s 45-31 victory over Kentucky.
Arkansas counters with a mammoth offensive line that has no starter under 314 pounds. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen compared Arkansas’ ground-based approached to LSU, but also said that every school has a slightly different formula for success.
”We play a wide variety of teams in the SEC, and everyone is different,” Mullen said. ”Even all of the spread teams are a little bit different from each other. We will be a little different on defense than we were last week.”
Things to watch on Saturday when No. 1 Mississippi State hosts Arkansas:
HEALTHY PRESCOTT: Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott took some hits in the victory over Kentucky last weekend and was wearing a walking boot on his left foot at times during the week. The junior says he’s healthy and hasn’t been limited during practice, but the Razorbacks will likely try to test his mobility early.
THE DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: About this time last season, Mississippi State came into its game against Arkansas as a 4-6 football team with fading hopes of even becoming bowl eligible. Since then, the Bulldogs have won 10 straight games and are the No. 1 team in the country.
ON THE OTHER HAND: Arkansas comes into Saturday’s game mired in a 16-game conference losing streak that dates back to 2012. The Razorbacks have played a lot of competitive games – most notably against Alabama and Texas A&M – but haven’t figured out a way to come through with an SEC victory. Knocking off the Bulldogs in Starkville could certainly be a program changer.
RAZORBACK REINFORCEMENTS: Arkansas should get a little extra help on the defensive end to help try and stop Mississippi State. Linebacker Brooks Ellis and cornerback Henre’ Toliver are expected to return this week after missing time with injuries. Toliver sat out last week with a sore back, while Ellis missed the last two games with a bone bruise on his knee.
BORN TO RUN: Four out of the league’s top seven rushers will be on the field in Starkville on Saturday, including Mississippi State’s Prescott and Josh Robinson and Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. Robinson ran for 198 yards against Kentucky last weekend, which was a career high. Williams also set a career high last week with 153 yards rushing against UAB.
AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt in Fayetteville, Arkansas, contributed to this story.
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