Ole Miss vs Arkansas: Game Preview
Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2 SEC) takes on the Arkansas Razorbacks (5-5, 1-5 SEC) Saturday in Fayetteville. The game is another pivotal conference contest for Ole Miss, as the Rebels still have a shot at the SEC West title.
At 8-2, Ole Miss is off to its best start through 10 games since 2003 and is nationally ranked for the 13th straight week.
Having just snapped the SEC’s longest conference losing streak (17 games) with a 17-0 win last Saturday over LSU, the Razorbacks are hoping to win their second straight. Saturday is Senior Day for the Hogs, and they would like nothing more than to end their final game in Razorback Stadium with a win.
In the SEC Football Coaches Weekly Media Teleconference this week, Arkansas head coach Brett Bielema credited his team’s seniors for their play, saying: “It’s a great reflection when the seniors are playing the best football of their career. That’s what is supposed to happen.”
Last year, Ole Miss beat the Razorbacks 34-24 in a game that saw Bo Wallace throw for a career-high 416 yards. On Wednesday, Bielema said his team would be ready for a different outcome this year.
“We’re looking to get Ole Miss’ respect. We hope to put a new memory in their mind.” — Brett Bielema
The Razorback Offense
With an offensive line the Razorbacks say is the largest in the NCAA—AND the NFL—it’s no wonder the Hogs are able to move the ball so effectively between the tackles.
The big boys in the Arkansas trenches average a whopping 328.4 pounds and are anchored by left tackle Dan Skipper, who is a 6-foot-10, 326-pound sophomore.
The Hogs’ offensive line outweighs the Ole Miss defensive line by over 40 pounds per player, so it’s no wonder Arkansas features one of the top rushing attacks in the nation. They average 232.9 yards per game—good enough for 4th in the SEC and 20th in the NCAA.
The Razorbacks are led by two running backs who are having an outstanding season. Junior RB Jonathan Williams is averaging 93.2 rushing ypg (4th in the SEC), while sophomore RB Alex Collins’ 88.6 rushing ypg places him 5th in the SEC. Together, Williams and Collins have tallied 22 rushing touchdowns this year.
Arkansas QB and receivers
The Razorbacks can also throw the ball when needed. QB Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen has thrown for 1905 yards this season, completing 190 of his 276 attempts. He’s passed for 15 touchdowns and had 5 INTs.
Junior wide receiver Keon Hatcher leads the team in receiving yards with 435 on 34 receptions, a 12.8 yard per catch average. 6’5”,250 lb sophomore tight end Hunter Henry has 30 catches on the season for 417 yards, a 13.9 yard per catch average.
Hogs on defense
The Arkansas defense allows just 22.2 points per game, good enough for 27th in the NCAA. They held top-ranked Alabama to 14 points; then-number one ranked Mississippi State to 17; and shut out LSU last Saturday.
Senior linebacker Martrell Spaight leads the Hog defense with 97 total tackles on the season and 6.5 tackles for loss. Sophomore linebacker Brooks Ellis is second on the Razorback team with 56 tackles this year, 4 for losses.
Rebels chasing the record books
This season has been a phenomenal one for the Rebels as a team and is on pace to be a record-breaking for some of the individual players, as well.
Quarterback Bo Wallace needs just 113 yards Saturday to break Eli Manning’s record for total offense. Wallace has already broken Eli’s record for total number of 300-yard passing games (11), and is currently ahead of Eli in career completion percentage (64.2% for Bo; 60.8 for Eli) and career pass efficiency (144.3 for Bo; 137.7 for Eli).
Senior wide receiver Vince Sanders has had four, 100-yard receiving games in his career, tying him for 5th place all-time at Ole Miss, 2 games behind Rebel legends Shay Hodge and Mike Wallace who had six, 100-yard receiving games.
Sophomore tight end Evan Engram is only 51 yards shy of moving into 3rd place on the all-time list for receiving yards for a tight end, and is only 136 yards from moving into 2nd place on the list.
Senior cornerback Senquez Golson is currently in 4th place on the all-time list for career interceptions at Ole Miss with 15—and only needs one to move up into a tie for 3rd.
The SEC record for interceptions in a season is held by Ole Miss’ Bobby Wilson, who notched 20 INTs during his career from 1946-49. With two games remaining, as well as a bowl game, Golson could come close to Wilson’s phenomenal record.
Keys to victory for the Rebels
With an SEC West title still in reach, the Rebels will need to take advantage of scoring opportunities if they are to defeat Arkansas. With a tough, grind-it-out offense, Arkansas has the ability to chew up a lot of clock when in possession of the ball.
Rebel quarterback Bo Wallace commented on the importance of every offensive possession for Ole Miss during Coach Freeze’s weekly press conference on Monday. “It’s important for us to get points on every possession,” he said. “We trust our defense to give us the ball. You watch Arkansas’ game, and it’s the shortest number of plays. LSU ran 50-something plays on them.”
The Arkansas defense has been on the field for 624 plays this season, the lowest in the SEC.
Though it is unlikely any team will stop the Razorback rushing attack, the Rebels can possibly slow it down somewhat. In order to do this, Ole Miss will need to use its defensive speed to close the gaps, as well as play some of its bigger players to try and mitigate the size differential.
Rebel sophomore defensive end Fadol Brown noted the challenges presented by the Razorbacks’ ground game: “I think it’s the best run game we’ve seen all year long,” he said.
“Every single game they come with it. They try to power you out the hole and try to pound it constantly, constantly. They run the same plays over and over and try to get you out of your gap.” — Fadol Brown
Ole Miss will also need to keep Coach Freeze’s “don’t blink” mantra in mind, as the game could be another SEC battle that goes down to the wire. Though the Razorbacks have a losing record in conference play, they’ve played tough in every contest—losing to A&M in overtime, to Alabama by one point and to Mississippi State by 7.
With the Rebels’ hopes alive for an SEC West title and the Hogs one win away from becoming bowl eligible, there will be plenty on the line when the game kicks off at 2:30 pm Saturday on CBS.