The Ole Miss Rebels (4-3) play the Arkansas Razorbacks (3-4) this Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 11:21 a.m. CT.
This matchup amounts to a bowl play-in game and one that both teams will be desperate to win. Coincidentally, each team is coming off a bye week and starting to feel a little confidence going into midseason.
All that sets up for a hard-fought classic SEC battle in Little Rock.
This will be a rare trip for Ole Miss, as they haven’t played in Little Rock since a 17-3 win over the Hogs in 1992. Since that time, the games have been played on campus, with the Hogs holding a 12-7 advantage since that time.
Overall, the Rebels hold a slight 7-6-1 edge when playing in Little Rock, while Arkansas hold a 16-8 record in games played in the state of Arkansas.
But you can overlook all the past records this year, as both teams are looking for redemption and trying to build on recent success after falling on hard times.
Scouting the Hogs
It all begins upfront for the Hogs' offensive line and the running game. When Arkansas gets over 100 yards rushing, they are 3-1. When they don’t, they are 0-3.
The last two games against Auburn and Kentucky have given Arkansas new life and turned down the flame on interim head coach John L. Smith's seat. But don’t overlook the fact that Auburn and Kentucky are playing bad football right now.
It’s hard to use Auburn as a common opponent given the offensive problems on the Alabama plains at the moment. Still, Arkansas won that game decisively 24-7, while Ole Miss had some problems with the Auburn run game in Oxford and won 41-20.
A better opponent in Texas A&M gave both teams a lot of trouble, with Ole Miss losing at home, 30-27, and Arkansas getting blasted in College Station, 58-10.
Arkansas is still struggling on defense, giving up 435 yards per game, which is next to last in the conference.
On offense, Tyler Wilson is still Tyler Wilson and can make all the throws. He is averaging 311 yards passing a game with 14 touchdowns and only five interceptions, which is very good given the fact that his defense has put him in so many lopsided games.
Running back Knile Davis has not produced like the Hogs hoped and only has 337 yards through seven games, yet he still leads all Arkansas rushers.
Installing the Game Plan
The Ole Miss wide receivers have to be “giggity” (unnecessary Houston Nutt reference that may hurt both teams' feelings) to play against this secondary.
I think trying to pass the ball too much would be a fallacy for this Rebel team. The Rebs have established a good balance so far this year (211 rushing YPG, 230 passing YPG) and should continue using the run to set up the pass.
As Jacob Blalock reported yesterday on Bleacher Report, Arkansas has not fared well against a multiple quarterback and the read option of Bo Wallace, and Barry Brunetti should be too much for this Arkansas defense.
Keeping Tyler Wilson on the sidelines is priority No. 1 for Hugh Freeze and the Rebel Coaches.
No game is safe for Ole Miss, who broke the league's worst losing streak only two weeks ago. So the Rebels have to play this game close to the vest.
Keeping the Razorbacks in 3rd-and-long is a vital part of this game plan. The Hogs are only converting 37 percent of their third downs, while Ole Miss is one of the pacesetters, moving the chains around 50 percent of the time on third downs.
The Rebels have to play solid defense in the secondary and prevent the big play. Tyler Wilson can light the scoreboard up, and if he gets hot early, you have to worry about the ability of the Ole Miss secondary to respond (just look at the Texas game).
If you are a Rebel fan, you sure wish you could have played this game at the end of September instead of at the end of October.
Arkansas has talent, but obviously off-the-field issues have clouded this team much more than they expected. Playing in the state of Arkansas is never ideal for the Rebels, and the crowd in Little Rock will play a big part in this game.
I say look for a high-scoring shootout, with the Rebels holding on to win 34-31.