When you are fighting for your bowl lives, it is imperative that you take care of business against the teams closest to you in your own conference. The Mississippi Rebels and Arkansas Razorbacks are separated by one-half game in the SEC West.
Mississippi has been a team that takes care of business when it is supposed to, and fails to pull off upsets when it has a chance to. This is a game that would appear ripe for the Rebels' picking, except Arkansas seems to have found its mojo after a brutal stretch in September.
The Razorbacks couldn't buy a win from September 8-29. They lost four straight games and were outscored 179-65 during that stretch. Since the calendar flipped, they have looked much better, albeit against weak competition, defeating Auburn and Kentucky by a combined score of 73-14.
Where: Razorback Stadium in Little Rock, AR
When: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 12:21 p.m. ET
Watch: SEC Network
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Betting Line: Arkansas (-4.5); Over/Under 60 (via Vegas Insider)
While the temptation to favor the home team is what gives Arkansas the advantage in this game, I am not sold that the Razorbacks are better than Mississippi right now.
Now, 4.5 points is hardly a huge edge one way or the other, but it does strike me as too generous for a team that is still capable of imploding at any moment.
Mississippi has looked a lot better in losing games to Alabama and Texas A&M than Arkansas did, and the Rebels have a common-opponent victory over Auburn. I like Ole Miss to at least cover the spread.
As for the over/under, these are two teams that have the talent to light up a scoreboard and don't play a lot of defense. At the same time, Arkansas' offense has been so spotty this season that they could easily get held to 10 points and no one would be surprised.
Since both teams seem to be playing well, take the over, but don't expect a wild shootout between the Rebels and Razorbacks.
Mississippi Injury Report (via USA Today)
|OL Justin Bell||Back||Probable|
|DT Woodrow Hamilton||Ankle||Questionable|
|WR Collins Moore||Shoulder||Out|
|LB D.T. Shackleford||Knee||Out|
Arkansas Injury Report (via USA Today)
|TE Chris Gragg||Leg||Probable|
|LB Alonzo Highsmith||Foot||Out|
|DE Tenarius Wright||Shoulder||Out|
|RB Kody Walker||Leg||Out|
|FB Kiero Small||Foot||Out|
There was a time, about three weeks ago, when the idea of Arkansas even being in bowl contention would have been laughable. Two straight wins later, and the Razorbacks find themselves just three wins away from clinching a bowl berth.
Considering how the schedule plays out for Arkansas, with games against South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU after next week's showdown vs. Tulsa, this team needs a win here desperately.
Mississippi is in a similar boat, as it is two wins away from a bowl berth with a rough schedule ahead.
The Rebels have to contend with Georgia next week. They catch a small break against Vanderbilt after that, but then games against LSU and Mississippi State close out their season. If they don't win this game, they will have to pull off at least one huge upset to play after November 24.
Keys to Mississippi Win
Control the clock; Establish running game
As bad as Arkansas' defense is overall, during its four-game losing streak it was getting destroyed by teams who could run the ball up the middle.
The Razorbacks gave up 809 yards on the ground in those four games. Mississippi's greatest asset on offense is running the ball. The Rebels rank 26th in the country with 211.1 rushing yards per game.
For the Rebels to win this game, they have to play the game at their pace. They need to set the tempo right out of the gate, then keep pounding the ball to wear down Arkansas' defensive front.
Keys to Arkansas Win
Air it out, but don't force throws; Get a stop on defense
The Razorbacks' biggest issue, at least on offense, has been turnovers. When they were going through that rough patch in September, they gave the ball away 12 times and only forced one turnover.
Quarterback Tyler Wilson has done a good job of controlling himself in the last two games. He hasn't thrown an interception since that blowout loss to Texas A&M. He needs to keep that streak going to give the Razorbacks a shot in this game.
On the flip side, the defense just needs to get a stop in a big spot. There is going to be a moment in the second half where the Rebels are faced with a fourth-and-short situation they decide to go for that can swing momentum one way or another.
Arkansas is starting to build some confidence on defense after two good performances against Kentucky and Auburn. If the defense can keep that momentum going in this game, the Razorbacks will be riding a three-game winning streak.
This will be a close battle between two desperate teams, but the slight edge goes to the home squad.
Arkansas 31, Mississippi 30