Coming off a reality check in Athens last week, the No. 13 Razorbacks roll into Oxford Saturday, still with much on the line. The winner emerges as the clear No. 2 team in the SEC West behind Alabama. And for both programs, but Arkansas especially, that’s a pretty nice place to be given recent history.
What should we expect? I think our trenches come out angry and dominate. Our D-line needs to have a bounce back game because the Ole Miss offense, known for its passing, averages almost 300 yards rushing a game.
Now, you have to take that with a grain of salt because the Rebels’ rushing totals were inflated by games against FCS Southeastern Louisiana, a mediocre Louisville, FCS Austin Peay and, despite the close call at Oklahoma, a down Tulane. Against Bama, Ole Miss ran it 34 times for 78 yards, an average of 2.3 yards per carry.
Still, the 17th-ranked Rebels have had success on the ground, and running back Jerrion Ealy really flies under the radar. The Hogs will need to stay fundamentally sound and limit yards after contact which they’ve done this year with the exception of Georgia.
I think our run defense has a bounce back game. Georgia was just one of the most physical teams we’ve played in a long time.
Rebel receivers could give us some trouble though, despite the loss of No. 2 wideout Jonathan Mingo. And don’t forget — this likely is a revenge game for Ole Miss QB Matt Corral, who threw six picks in the Hog win in Fayetteville last season.
I think we’ll score points. With Ty Crawford and Jalen St. John getting reps this week at guard, the offensive line may feature some new combinations. Even so, it should be able to win the line of scrimmage. And it’ll have to for the Hogs to have a shot to win.
All four of our running backs should get carries. Ole Miss is less physical than Georgia (what defense isn’t?), but it’s shown improvement from last year. And Chance Campbell (No. 44), the transfer linebacker from Maryland, is a good one.
Four of the Rebels’ top five tacklers are DBs. We should be able to run the ball. If not, it could be a long afternoon. Speaking of the Ole Miss secondary, our receivers should get many more targets this week. A lot of fans talk about how KJ Jefferson locks into Treylon Burks, and that may be true.
But the thing is, Burks gets open against single coverage every time. He’s the only Hog maybe since the Jarrius Wright days who can line up against any DB in the country and be better.
That was a major problem against Georgia — yeah, we have a good WR room but Burks was the only one who could beat his man consistently. And I think there are a lot of times where the play design is to throw it to Burks. And why not? He’s easily a top five receiver in the country.
It could boil down to intangibles, as games so often do. The early kick benefits the road team, with last week’s boisterous UGa crowd making for an exception, and the atmosphere in Oxford will not come close to matching it. Plus, Ole Miss, like us, ranks very poorly in penalties. Whoever can play the cleaner game will have a major advantage.
And don’t forget, Lane Kiffin is not afraid to go for it on 4th down, pretty much anywhere on the field, but especially on the other team’s side of the field. The Rebels stayed in the game last year with a fake punt that converted a long fourth down. Let’s just say, special teams need to not necessarily be “special,” just not a liability.
We may lose Saturday, but we’re still way ahead of schedule. I trust Sam Pittman and his staff, though, to “not let Georgia beat us twice.” So, I don’t foresee a Bulldog hangover. And a win sets up what could be a nice little run.
My gut feeling is we win in a close game. The key will be making key stops on defense — get that high powered offense off the field. Will Corral be patient this time around against Barry Odom’s scheme, or can we force him into mistakes and bad decisions? Should be an interesting chess match.