Editor’s note: This is the sixth installment of our “Scouting the schedule” series, which breaks down every game on Mississippi State’s 2022 football schedule. Part 5 concerned MSU’s SEC home opener against Texas A&M, and Part 7 will evaluate the Bulldogs’ road game at Kentucky.
Mississippi State was approximately one kicker — or maybe two — away from taking down Arkansas last season in Fayetteville.
The Bulldogs believe they’ve found a suitable replacement. But will it be enough this time?
MSU will have to test its offseason improvements against an Arkansas team clearly on the upswing. Just two years removed from a 2-10 campaign, the Razorbacks won nine games in their second season under Sam Pittman.
But the two teams seemed evenly matched last November, and this time, home-field advantage belongs to the Bulldogs. That could be enough to swing things.
A reliable kicker could help, too.
Mississippi State hosts Arkansas on Oct. 8 at Davis Wade Stadium.
Arkansas quick facts
2021 record: 9-4 (4-4 SEC)
Coach: Sam Pittman, third year
ESPN Football Power Index: No. 26
All-time series: 18-13-1, Arkansas leads
Last meeting: Nov. 6, 2021
Mississippi State has won seven of its past 10 games against Arkansas, posting win streaks of three and four games against the Razorbacks dating back to 2012.
Of course, the Hogs have won two straight in the series, extending their lead to five games.
The two schools have played every year since 1992 after Arkansas joined the Southeastern Conference the prior year. In 1993, they even tied, 13-13, in Little Rock.
Arkansas proceeded to beat MSU nine straight times from 1999 to 2007 and in three of the next four seasons.
Then it was the Bulldogs’ turn to dominate the series.
A breakout year under Pittman saw Arkansas win eight regular-season games and beat Penn State 24-10 in the Outback Bowl.
The Razorbacks were one of three teams, including Mississippi State, to finish smack in the middle of a tie in the Southeastern Conference West division standings at 4-4. It was an impressive finish for an Arkansas team that lost three straight conference games — to Georgia, Ole Miss and Auburn — before beating MSU and LSU.
Arkansas lost by a touchdown to Alabama before beating Missouri in its final regular-season game.
The Razorbacks took down former conference rival Texas before beating Texas A&M early in the season to put much of the country on notice.
Quarterback KJ Jefferson, a North Panola product, will return for 2022 after throwing for 2,676 yards and 21 touchdowns and running for 664 yards and six more scores.
His top target, Treylon Burks, was a first-round pick by the Tennessee Titans after putting up 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Tyson Morris was Arkansas’ second-best receiver with 337 yards, and he will not return.
Running back Trelon Smith (598 yards, five touchdowns) won’t be back, but Raheim Sanders (578 yards, five touchdowns) and Dominique Johnson (575 yards, seven touchdowns) will.
On defense, linebackers Grant Morgan and Hayden Henry, both of whom racked up 101 tackles last season, have both graduated. Bumper Pool (125 tackles) returns, while Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks Jr. both transferred to LSU.
Tre Williams graduates after leading Arkansas in sacks with six last season.
Arkansas’ 2022 recruiting class ranks No. 28 — one spot below Mississippi State — in the latest 247 Sports composite rankings.
The Razorbacks bring in seven four-star prospects, led by hometown wide receiver Isaiah Sategna of Fayetteville. Arkansas’ top three recruits are all from the Natural State, including offensive tackles E’Marion Harris from Little Rock and Andrew Chamblee from Maumelle.
O-lineman Patrick Kutas, athlete Rashad Dubinion and wide receivers Quincey McAdoo and Samuel Mbake are the Hogs’ other four-star recruits.
Arkansas cleaned up in the transfer portal, landing two former five-star recruits — linebacker Drew Sanders of Alabama and wide receiver Jadon Hazelwood of Oklahoma.
Cornerback Dwight McGlothern and edge rusher Landon Jackson, both of LSU, join former USF quarterback Cade Fortin in Fayetteville.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.