Kick-Off Keys to the Game: Ole Miss at Arkansas
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Coming off a 63-48 loss to No. 2 Alabama in Week Three, the Rebels hit the road full-speed-ahead in Fayetteville today. Ole Miss stands at 1-2 in this SEC-only season and is looking to get back on track against the Razorbacks who are also 1-2.
The explosive offense that head coach Lane Kiffin created downright schooled and vexed his mentor Nick Saban last weekend. Though they left The Vaught with a loss, the Rebs still made one heck of statement, putting up 647 yards of total offense, the most against any Alabama team to date. Ole Miss was also able to capitalize in the red zone, converting seven times to put points on the board and keeping momentum on drives as they went four-for-four on 4th downs.
The Rebs exposed the vulnerabilities of the Crimson Tide defense— but before Ole Miss takes a bow, it needs to get its own defense in check.
Kiffin and company will square off today against the Hogs from Razorback Stadium at 2:30 p.m. CT. The Hogs lead the all time series against the Rebels, 36-27-1. Last season, Ole Miss edged out Arkansas 31-17 at home in Oxford. The question is which team is hungrier and able to adapt and execute its game plan for four quarters today?
Here are our Kick-Off Keys to the Game for the Rebels.
Airtight and Full Speed
What Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby have done with this Ole Miss offense is insanely beautiful. The Rebels bring one of the most balanced — yet explosive — offenses in the nation to Fayetteville, averaging 41.7 points per game, placing them 11th in the country.
Ole Miss leads the SEC in total offense, averaging 573 yards per game. The run game is 2nd in the SEC at 192 ypg, while the passing average is third in the league at 381 ypg. So, to put it mildly, the Rebels are as airtight on paper as they are on the gridiron, especially when it comes to gunslinger quarterback Matt Corral who leads the nation in overall Total QBR for the season.
While the Hogs’ defense is not elite, it is physical and improving with each game. Arkansas ranks No. 2 in the SEC in pass efficiency defense and sixth in the league in scoring defense. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom’s unit has found ways to slow down and hold teams like Georgia and Tennessee.
The Razorbacks’ junior linebacker Bumper Pool and sophomore defensive back Jalen Catalon are tied for first in the SEC in tackles with 36, averaging 12 per game, apiece. Linebacker Grant Morgan isn’t far behind with 33.
One key for Ole Miss will be to keep moving full speed with Kiffin’s up-tempo offense and keep that Hog D on the field more than off. We know the Rebels have the speed and power to get ahead, but the key will be to keep that momentum throughout the entirety of the game.
DEFENSE, REBELS, DEFENSE
Unfortunately the defensive ghosts of the past few years continue to haunt this ball club. The Rebels rank last in the SEC in Total Defense, Scoring Defense and Run D. I will spare the entire list because you get the picture. There is no room for sloppy play against an Arkansas team playing at home and starving for a victory.
Further, the last thing Ole Miss can afford to do is give the Hogs even an inch on anything, so no silly penalties today, please. It’s come to Jesus time, gentlemen.
Offensively, Arkansas isn’t stacked with anything near Bama-caliber talent, but QB Feleipe Franks has been able to limit mistakes, and he and his offense are getting some playmakers back from injury and have enough ability to do damage if Ole Miss doesn’t make necessary stops.
The Hogs struggle converting on 3rd down, ranking 12th in the league, so knowing this the Rebels’ defense needs to take advantage and wreak some havoc then.
Both these ball clubs are looking to regain momentum with a victory here today. For the Rebels, explosiveness and balance will be the key to the match-up. As for the defense, I have a gut feeling this unit is tired of running from its past. So today, let’s bury those ghosts. It all starts in Fayetteville with a 41-32 win over the Hogs. #AllAboardRebs