Scouting report: MSU at Arkansas

Arkansas freshman Alex Collins is just 54 rushing yards short of 1,000 for the season. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Arkansas freshman Alex Collins is just 54 rushing yards short of 1,000 for the season. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

KEYS FOR VICTORY

1. Help Williams out

If Damian Williams is indeed the starting quarterback Mississippi State’s surrounding cast must give the true freshman a helping hand. Williams is nowhere near ready to be an SEC starter but the Bulldogs may have no choice but to go with him today.

Williams did come in to the Alabama game last week and threw some good balls that were dropped by the receivers. That cannot happen today. The coaches will have to call some plays to get some easy completions under his belt early to build his confidence in his first road action.

2. Run the football

Coming into the year the strength of the team was the five-deep backfield the Bulldog had. But alternating all five backs through has been abandoned. Nick Griffin has not carried since Oct. 24 against Kentucky and Derrick Milton since Sept. 21 versus Troy.

No MSU running back has eclipsed the 100-yard plateau this season. LaDarius Perkins had a big game against Arkansas last year and needs another one today to keep the chains moving.

3. Solid special teams

Special teams have been an issue for the Bulldogs all season but especially in the past two games. Evan Sobiesk can’t miss chip shot field goals like in the Alabama game. Baker Swedenburg has to be more consistent with his punts as does Devon Bell on his kickoffs.

Jameon Lewis has been awful on punt returns and barely has positive yardage for the year.

WHAT TO WATCH

When MSU has the ball

All eyes will be glued to see who State starts at quarterback once again this week. Dak Prescott and Tyler Russell are both listed as day-to-day with shoulder injuries and Williams could receive his first start this week after appearing in just three games.

Tight end Malcolm Johnson had a career-high performance against Alabama last week but so far has not been able to string together back-to-back big games this season. Perkins caught a couple of touchdowns against the Razorbacks in Starkville last year.

When Arkansas has the ball

Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams each have four 100-plus yard rushing games this year. Bret Bielema brought his ground-and-pound style of offense from Wisconsin with him with the Razorbacks averaging 209.7 yards per game rushing.

Quarterback Brandon Allen is completing just 46.7 percent of his throws this season and averages just 140 yards a game through the air.

CRUCIAL MATCHUP

Arkansas’ rushing attack vs. MSU’s front seven

This will be the focus for the second week in a row. The Hogs have not proven they can consistently beat teams passing the football and rely on the ground game to keep drives alive.

Mississippi State did a good job slowing down Alabama and Texas A&M’s rushing attack the past two games. In those two outings, the Bulldogs accumulated 12 tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.

Logan Lowery