The Arkansas Razorbacks finally have a few good weeks under their belt. However, they still need to make improvements during the bye week before facing Ole Miss on Oct. 27.
Tyler Wilson has had great protection lately. He has only been sacked once in his last two games and was also able to utilize 10 different receivers against Kentucky.
But those successes came against an Auburn defense currently ranked No. 60 in passing defense and a Kentucky passing defense which is currently ranked No. 68. Ole Miss is ranked No. 37.
Arkansas’ offensive line has shown they can protect Wilson from struggling defenses, but what about a stronger one? Wilson can utilize 10 receivers against teams with poor passing defenses, but how will his receivers deal with tighter coverage?
Ole Miss, after all, is the team that handed Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel his first two interceptions on the season.
Chris Gragg will also be returning against Ole Miss. Wilson will be glad to see his second favorite target, after Cobi Hamilton, back on the field. Wilson will have to be careful not to fall into old patterns and rely too much on Hamilton and Gragg when he has a stable of receivers with some recent success ready to make plays.
If the Razorbacks’ offensive line continues to perform and Gragg can be reintegrated seamlessly into the Hogs’ passing attack, they will be all the more dangerous in their meeting with the Rebels.
Arkansas also still needs to improve its defense, especially its pass coverage. Arkansas has only allowed two touchdowns in the last two games, but those were against a Kentucky team ranked No. 113 in total offense and an Auburn team ranked No.116. Ole Miss is ranked No. 41 in total offense.
Arkansas is on the wrong side of that equation. The Razorbacks are No. 115 in passing defense.
Ole Miss has shown a tendency to run the ball this season, but that is exactly why Arkansas’ pass coverage will be important. Arkansas' defense fares a little better in stopping the run than it does in stopping the pass, and that will be a weakness that Ole Miss will be looking to exploit.
The injury of Alonzo Highsmith is a huge blow to Arkansas’ defense. Paul Haynes had nothing but praise for senior Terrell Williams in the interview following the Kentucky game, though. Williams stepped into the on-field leadership position vacated by Highsmith and helped the Hogs hold Kentucky to one touchdown.
True freshman A. J. Turner started in Highsmith’s place and led the team with five tackles in his first start.
But, once again, these were decisive defensive victories against struggling offenses. These were good teams for the defense to get some success against and build some confidence, but Ole Miss will pose a bit more of a challenge. Especially if the Rebels, who are also on a bye week, decide to use this time to develop their passing attack.
Arkansas has some momentum going into its meeting with Ole Miss. The Razorbacks have a week off to heal from injuries and build on their successes from the past two weeks.
If the Razorbacks can continue to improve their passing attack and passing defense, there is no reason why the Hogs cannot walk off their home field with a victory.