This weekend, the Ole Miss Rebels led by Houston Nutt travel to Little Rock Arkansas to take on Nutt's old team, the Razorbacks. Both the Rebels and the razorbacks are 3-4 (1-3) in the SEC. Both teams have pulled off upsets, Ole Miss' last minute upset of the Gators in the Swamp, and the Razorbacks, holding off a charging Auburn Tiger late in the game at Jordan Hare Stadium.
Coming into this game the Rebels are looking to make up for a heart breaking loss to Alabama, coming up just short of their upset bid.
The Razorbacks enter this game after losing to the Kentucky Wildcats by a point, and having their chance at an upset spoiled. These two teams clearly have many similarities, and look to be pretty even, especially in w-l record, but win loss records can be the most deceiving aspect of college football.
The Rebels are lead by wide receiver Shea Hodge. Hodge tallied six touchdowns and close to 600 yards last year as a sophomore This year, Hodge eclipsed the 400 yard mark on just 21 receptions, averaging 20.8 ypc. Not only is Hodge a big play and deep threat, that is sure to keep any defense on their toes, he has a nose for the end zone, having scored five touchdowns already.
Hodge along with fellow jr receiver Dexter McCluster provide sophomore QB Jevan Snead with reliable targets. The duo accounts for 49 of Sneads 101 completions.
Jevan Snead has been forced to learn under fire. Snead has thrown 10 touchdowns and 10 ints this year. Four of Snead's 10 picks came against an opportunistic Vanderbilt defense. Excluding the Vanderbilt game, Snead has an average QB rating of 136.2, that is outstanding considering his experience, and would put him in the top 40 quarterbacks with a 36 ranking.
Perhaps the best thing the Rebels have going is their "Wild Rebel" formation, a spin-off of Nutt's Wild Hog formation from when he was HC at Arkansas. Both formations are versions of what was once known as the Single Wing.
At Arkansas the Wild Hog called for two time Heisman runner-up Darren McFadden to take the direct snap, at Ole Miss, it is undersized receiver Dexter McCluster taking direct snaps.
Nutt and the Rebels use McCluster's short stature (five foot eight inches) to allow McCluster to hide behind the towering offensive line and squirt through the smallest gaps for huge gains. Other times, McCluster simply tosses the ball to Jevan Snead who is lined up at receiver. The wild Rebel is a major reason why the Rebels rank 4th in total offense in the SEC, but are 53 in the nation.
The Mississippi defense has been inconsistent to say the least. Allowing 30 or more points in three games, but holding the smashmouth offense of Alabama to 24 points, their third lowest total of the season.
Mississippi's defense is ranked 52 in the nation and 11 in the SEC. The darkest spot for the Rebels comes in the form of pass defense where they rank 83 in the nation, providing a soft spot for the Razorbacks to tear into.
Arkansas has struggled moving the ball, and are ranked accordingly. The Razorbacks are ranked as the 69 offense in the nation, sixth in the SEC.
Since the departure of McFadden and Jones, the Razorbacks rushing offense has fallen to 71st in the nation and eighth in the SEC. The rushing ineptitude that Arkansas has displayed comes partly due to new HC Petrino's dedication to passing the ball, where they are slightly better, ranking 49th in the nation.
As for the Razorback defense there is not much to speak of. Ole Miss may have ranked 11 in the SEC in defense, but Arkansas has the worst defense in the SEC ranking 12. The Razorbacks have the 86 ranked run defense, and it just so happens Mississippi runs the ball more effectively than they pass the ball most likely because the Wild Rebel Formation.
Neither team shows a strong defense or a smash mouth offense, but when it come right down to it, the Rebels are better than the Razorbacks in several key ares. The main area being defense, with both of these teams struggling on both sides of the ball, it will come down to who can shut down their opponent's offense. Arkansas average just 19 points a game, and Ole Miss will look to take advantage of that.
Emotions will fuel players and coaches on both sides of the field, but in the end Nutt will use the same techniques to lead the Rebels to a victory as he used in years past to lead Arkansas to victory.