The Daily Mississippian Sports Editor
Rain, rain, go away.
The forecast for Fayetteville is a high of 59 degrees with a 50 percent chance of rain. Just two days ago, it was supposed to be a downpour for the SEC showdown against Arkansas, but that has quickly changed.
Rain in the forecast may very well lead to a sloppy game in terms of execution and ball security. As junior offensive lineman Justin Bell said Tuesday, protecting the ball is going to be the main factor in controlling the game. But Bell added that rain “is just an element of the game.”
The Landshark defense has been great all season, leading the country in scoring defense and giving up an average of 11.9 points per game. The Rebel defense is better equipped to handle speed on opposing offenses rather than size and power. That was evident against LSU, where the power running game drained the Ole Miss defense and cost them greatly.
Arkansas may provide a more difficult challenge than LSU, especially with rain in the forecast.
The two-headed monster for Arkansas at running back is sophomore Alex Collins and junior Jonathan Williams, both of whom give defensive coordinators headaches to plan against. Collins has rushed for 886 yards this season, and Williams has 932 yards on the season. Each back has scored 11 touchdowns to total 22 rushing scores. That’s a lot to handle.
The offense isn’t just a fierce running game, however. Junior quarterback Brandon Allen has drastically improved his game from last season. With 1,232 passing yards last season, Allen has 1,905 yards this season with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. That ratio is better than the 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions Allen had last season.
The Rebels haven’t played in the elements so far this season, and it could cost them. The up-tempo style of play on offense for Hugh Freeze could be slowed down with the rain. The result could be a lot of turnovers and miscues on offense that haunt the Rebels.
The bye week will help the Rebels with injuries and give them an extra week to prepare for Arkansas’s physical offense.
The makings of a trap game for Ole Miss before the Egg Bowl will play a big factor in the outcome. The game will be close throughout the entire contest, but I think the weapons on offense for Ole Miss will be too much for the Razorbacks to handle.
Ole Miss 24, ARKANSAS 17
The ARKANSAS TRAVLER SPORTS EDITOR
The Arkansas football team finally broke through in SEC play last weekend against No. 20 LSU, shutting out the Tigers 17-0. After several close calls and missed opportunities, the Razorbacks put together a full game and moved one step closer to becoming bowl eligible.
The 70,000 plus in Razorback Stadium brought back an energy that had been missing since 2011 when Arkansas was among the top teams in the country. Players, coaches and fans celebrated together on the field after the win, but the mood and focus quickly changed to No. 8 Ole Miss.
Sitting at 5-5, Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks are well ahead of schedule in the rebuilding process and one win away from becoming bowl eligible in year two of his regime, needing just one win over the final two weeks of the regular season.
Not much was expected of the team entering the season, and many thought the cellar of the vaunted SEC West is where Arkansas would stay for a third straight year.
Enter Ole Miss, Arkansas’s sixth game against a top 10 opponent, No. 8 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings and boasting the nation’s top-scoring defense.
The key matchup will be up front between the front seven of the Rebel defense and Arkansas’s offensive line. The size of the Razorback line has been well documented, especially early in the season, but has struggled to impose its will on conference foes.
If Arkansas is able to get its running game going, it will also free up junior quarterback Brandon Allen in play-action passing situations to his tight ends sophomore Hunter Henry and senior AJ Derby.
Another factor in deciding the outcome will be the play of senior Bo Wallace. The Rebel quarterback threw for a career-high 416 yards and three touchdowns last season but is now without top receiver sophomore Laquon Treadwell. If Wallace can make enough plays against a much improved Arkansas defense, the Rebels will be in good shape.
The Razorbacks win in a very competitive, smashmouth, low scoring game that comes down to the fourth quarter. Without Treadwell in the passing game, however, Arkansas’s defense will hone in on the Rebel run game, keeping Wallace mostly in check.
ARKANSAS 17, Ole MisS 13