Houston Nutt & Bobby Petrino
When Arkansas Runs
The running game has been considered the weak half of the Arkansas offense all season, but it needs to be noted that all but one team (Louisiana-Monroe) on the Hogs’ schedule thus far is ranked as a Top 20 rushing defense nationally. That kind of opposition makes it difficult to employ a dominant ground attack, but in the last two weeks, against the #2 and #15 rush defenses, the Hogs have averaged 3.7 and 4.9 yards per carry, respectively. Not bad at all given the competition.
The Rebels boast the 23rd ranked rush defense in the country and had a surprising amount of success against Alabama’s 37th ranked running attack last week, holding the combination of Ingram and Richardson to a paltry 2.9 yards per carry on 34 attempts. Remember though, that Ole Miss had an extra week to prepare for Alabama’s visit to Oxford – a luxury they won’t be afforded against the Razorbacks. If the Hogs can run the ball on Saturday for an average anywhere in between what they produced against better defenses in the past two weeks, that should be plenty good enough to keep the Rebels from selling out to defend the pass.
When Arkansas Passes
Regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Hogs – and it looks like it will be Ryan Mallett (http://blogs.nwaonline.com/slophouse/2010/10/20/mallett-returns-to-practice/) – the passing game is…well, its basically unstoppable. Arkansas is the #2 passing team in the entire nation, behind only Hawaii, who throws the ball like 350 times a game. The Razorbacks have faced pass defenses ranked in the top 25% nationally (Alabama & Georgia) and defenses ranked in the bottom 25% (Texas A&M & Auburn). The results have all been pretty much the same. The only thing that stops Arkansas’ passing game is itself, and probably Tebow, somehow.
Ole Miss doesn’t even pretend to be a competent pass defense. Ranked 96th in the country, the Rebels have faced some decent passing attacks, but nothing nearly like Arkansas, and nobody ranked in the Top 25 for that matter. A healthy Arkansas QB, whoever it is, should have plenty of success getting the ball to every one of Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, D.J. Williams, and Cobi Hamilton on Saturday.
Ryan Mallett & Tyler Wilson
When Ole Miss Runs
As stated above Arkansas is statistically worse than 81 other teams when it comes to stopping the run – much worse (and rightfully so) than they were before the embarrassment that was Cam Newton and Auburn’s #6 rushing offense last week. While the Rebels won’t be trotting out anyone with half the skills of Newton on Saturday, after what we saw last week, the Razorback run defense is far from worthy of trust at the moment.
EDGE: Ole Miss
When Ole Miss Passes
Arkansas is, statistically, the best pass defense Ole Miss will have seen this season, ranked #12 in the country. And much as it seems like Arkansas hasn’t been that dominant, it’s not like they’ve just been facing below average offenses. In fact, four of Arkansas’ five opponents have passing attacks ranked in the Top half of teams nationally, with Texas A&M’s #10 ranked unit being the best of the bunch. I think this indicates that the Razorbacks’ ranking here is pretty legitimate.
Well, regardless of records, the coaches, players, and most importantly the fans involved in this game want to win in the worst way. No need to further explain the history there, except to say that it probably runs both ways pretty equally. Luckily for Hog fans, the game is in Fayetteville, so they are the ones who will get to try to make a difference on gameday.
I’m not sure it’s completely fair to say, given such a small sample size, but if anyone has anyone’s number here, Nutt has Petrino’s after winning the head to head match-up in each of the two years since both coaches took their current posts in 2008. But as the 3rd Edition of WIlly Robinson vs. Gus Mahlzan showed last week, winning the first two doesn’t always mean much.
You also have to wonder how this Razorback team will respond to, not only a tough, seemingly unfair loss, but also the reality that the major goals it had set out to achieve this season are now basically pipe dreams.
This stacks up to be a game that will be closer than most Razorback fans likely expected it to be just a couple weeks ago. However, pound for pound Arkansas is the better, more talented football team and they are playing at home. When Ole Miss has the ball, any advantage it has when running the ball will be met with equal force from Arkansas’ advantage when Jeremiah Masoli puts the ball in the air. The biggest mismatch by far – as usual – will come when Arkansas drops back to hook up with any of its numerous down-field threats. The Hogs should score plenty. The Rebels won’t score as many.
Prediction: Arkansas 34 – 24
– Warzecha –