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The Rebel RoundUp: Kiffin and Rebs head to Arkansas to take on the Hogs

The Rebel RoundUp: Kiffin and Rebs head to Arkansas to take on the Hogs

In this edition of The Rebel Roundup, we take a look at the Arkansas Razorbacks and their players to watch at each position. 

OXFORD, Miss. — There is no such thing as a moral victory; anyone involved with Ole Miss football will tell you that. However, as a fan, I can tell you no one could have watched last Saturday’s contest against Alabama and left unimpressed after the Rebels’ offense went toe to toe with the No. 2 team in the country.

The Ole Miss offensive unit, led by Matt Corral, and paced by running backs Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner, along with wide receiver Elijah Moore and tight end Kenny Yeboah, racked up 647 yards of total offense in a 63-48 loss to the Tide.

This week, Ole Miss (1-2) travels to Fayetteville for a matchup with Arkansas (1-2) team — while trying to hit that lucky number 35. An Ole Miss team has never put up 35+ points in four consecutive SEC games, so head coach Lane Kiffin and his team hope to do just that Saturday.

Coach Sam Pittman, the Hogs’ new man in charge, has ushered in a blue-collar mentality to his program and has been rewarded with definite improvement over the Razorbacks’ three games.

In Week One, Arkansas had a tough encounter with a loss to Georgia, but the Hogs followed that up with a 21-14 win over State in Starkville. Then, in Week Three came a 30-28 loss to Auburn that will be remembered for a highly questionable call that cost the Razorbacks the game. But make no mistake, they were in it until the very end.

Coach Pittman’s team has had some injury issues to start the season but could look to get four key players back this weekend. Saturday’s contest could be an interesting one for each new head coach.

Ole Miss at Arkansas Game Details

  • Matchup: Ole Miss (1-2) @ Arkansas (1-2)
  • Kickoff: 3:30 PM CT, Saturday, OCT 16th
  • Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, AR
  • TV: SEC NETWORK
  • Line: 
    • Ole Miss: -1.5
    • O/U: 76 points

Series History and Side Notes

This will be the 67th contest between Arkansas and Ole Miss with Arkansas ending up on the winning side of history with a record of 35-28-1* (two OM victories were vacated). Ole Miss won last year’s contest, 31-17, behind 246 passing yards and two touchdowns from Matt Corral and 143 yards and two touchdowns in the ground game from Scottie Phillips. Since 2010, Arkansas has one six of the last 10 and Ole Miss has won two, being the last two seasons.

Arkansas’ head coach has plenty of SEC experience. Sam Pittman has been involved with the SEC since 2012, serving mainly as an offensive line coach or assistant head coach on stops at Tennessee, Georgia, and Arkansas. One key note for this game may be the relationship between Coach Kiffin and Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles. In 2017, Kiffin hired Briles at FAU and let him have play-calling duties for the season–a season that saw FAU finish 11-3 with the 8th-best scoring team in the nation.

Additionally, Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby and Briles are brothers-in-law.

Arkansas Preview

Two words to describe Sam Pittman’s philosophy are “effort” and “perseverance.”  Arkansas has fought each game this year, showing resilience in an impressive win against Mississippi State and a controversial loss against Auburn last week.

The Razorbacks have improved each week and have shown signs of the toughness Pittman wanted to bring to Arkansas.

The narrative between Ole Miss and Arkansas is very similar this season, as both have new coaches with exciting young coordinators, along with former head coaches helping steer the defense. Kiffin hired former Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge to turn around the defense. Sam Pittman has turned to former Mizzou head coach Barry Odom at defensive coordinator.

The Razorbacks are putting up 330.7 yards of total offense per contest through three games this season and are giving up 411.0 yards per contest to their opponents. On the defensive end, Arkansas is 16th nationally with four interceptions on the season.

Arkansas Offense

Quarterback

Last season, Arkansas had five quarterbacks attempt over 25 passes, while former head coach Chad Morris was trying to find a true starter. This year, Coach Pittman has found his man in Florida transfer Feleipe Franks who has come in and is a critical component of the team’s success.

So far, Franks has thrown for 730 yards and has accounted for all seven of Arkansas’ touchdowns this season. I want to make that point clear — all seven of their TDs, not just through the air, but ALL of them. Franks ranks seventh in the SEC with his 7 touchdowns.

Running Back

At running back, big things were expected from returner Rakeem Boyd who rushed for 1,133 yards last year, en route to notching over 6.0 yards per carry over his two seasons for the Razorbacks. Although Boyd went down with an ankle injury in the Mississippi State game, he recently announced on Twitter that he is back for the Ole Miss game.

If that’s the case, he will be a part of a two-headed tandem with the smaller Trelon Smith. At 5-foot-9 inches tall, Smith may not look like an imposing presence, but he is having an impact on both the run game and the passing game coming out of the backfield as a receiver. The Arizona State transfer has tallied 41 rushes for 167 yards for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. He has caught 14 passes out of the backfield for 113 yards and a score.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Like Boyd at running back, the Razorbacks had a major playmaker go down for a couple weeks in Treylon Burks. At 6-foot-3 inches and 232 pounds, Burks is a big target for Franks. In his place, De’Vion Warren has made a big impact out of the slot, hauling in three touchdowns and over 220 yards. Mike Woods and 6-foot-5-inch Trey Knox round out the receiving unit on the outside, with Woods having 150 yards and a score on the year.  The tight end group is led by Blake Kern and Hudson Henry. Henry is the brother of former Razorback and current Los Angeles Charger Hunter Henry.

Offensive Line

The offensive line brings back four starters from last year’s group but did lose some depth and a starter at guard. Given Pittman’s years as an offensive line coach, this should be an area of strength for the Hogs. The big difference is Myron Cunningham moving over to the left tackle position from his 2019 right guard spot. The rest of the line is comprised of Brady Latham (LG), Ricky Stromberg (C), Beaux Limmer (RG), and Noah Gatlin (RT). Limmer is the youngest of the group as a redshirt freshman.

Arkansas Defense

Defensive Line

The Defensive front lost three starters, but has added Clemson transfer Xavier Kelly to the mix. Kelly and Jonathan Marshall are working to make an impact on the interior; however, both are a bit on the lighter side which leaves the unit without a real mauler on the front. Zach Williams has been impressive at the JACK and Eric Gregory is an end who has found his way to some big plays and 1.5 tackles for loss on the season.

Linebackers

The linebackers may be the strongest unit, by far, for Barry Odom as they have Bumper Pool, (yes, that’s a GREAT linebacker name) at the weak side spot. At the MIKE, they use Grant Moran. The duo of Moran and Pool have combined for 69 tackles already on the year. Levi Draper is an Oklahoma transfer who should also see his way onto the field and make an impact behind Pool.

Defensive Backs

Joe Foucha is a free safety to keep an eye on as he plays almost like a center fielder tracking down the ball. He’s already has two interceptions on the year. Jalen Catalon and Greg Brooks Jr. are the main cornerbacks and bring some experience to the table. Catalon is the strong safety and has been all over the field, forcing a fumble, batting down a couple of passes, and amassing 26 total tackles.

Arkansas Special Teams

Kicking/Special Teams

AJ Reed is a transfer from Duke and the placekicker for this Razorback squad. On the year, he has missed one extra point (more of a bad hold and snap), but has hit on both of his field goal attempts. At Duke, he was a tad inconsistent, making 83% of his field goal attempts last year and 30% his freshman year. However, he holds a career-long of 51 and was the only ACC kicker last year with three FGs over 49+ yards last season.

George Cataran is the main punter and is averaging 45.1 yards per attempt so far on the season. An area that Ole Miss could take advantage of is the special teams as Arkansas has had two punts blocked this season, combined with a couple of bad snaps and some illegal formation penalties.

Final Thoughts

This is a very important game for both sides, as neither coach wants to fall to 1-3 and be tied for last in the division. This is not your same old Arkansas team of the last couple of years. The over/under is set at 76 and it very may well eclipse that as both teams are going to play up-tempo. Arkansas will rely heavily on the pass, where Ole Miss will not only have Corral’s arm but will continue to give both Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Connor touches. Expect another 1,000+ total yard game.

Hotty Toddy!

About The Author

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is a current MBA student at Ole Miss after having earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Toledo. He currently covers college hoops and the NBA Draft for the Basketball Society as well as all things Ole Miss for The Rebel Walk.

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