Published October 24, 2012 - 2:40pm
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The Hogs and Rebels square off this weekend in Little Rock with more on the line than we could have thought a few weeks prior. Ole Miss (4-3, 1-2) and Arkansas (3-4, 2-2) aren’t fighting for a chance at the divisional crown, but it’s imperative both teams get a win to keep their bowl hopes alive.
Fresh leadership under first year coach Hugh Freeze, who no doubt has the Rebels’ program headed in the right direction, has guided Ole Miss’ resurgence back to competitiveness. Offensively, Ole Miss is night-and-day different, and they are playing with passion. The Rebels have scored 229 total points under Freeze’s system, averaging 32.7 points per game. In 2011, the Rebels only scored a total of 193 points and averaged 16.1 points per game. It’s virtually the same 2-10 roster outside of quarterback Bo Wallace. But the transformation doesn’t stop there. We can talk about offense all we want, but the biggest transformation has come on the defensive side of the ball where defenders are playing inspired football. The Rebels were dead last in the SEC in defense in ‘11, but they are ranked 8th in the SEC so far.
If Ole Miss wins this game, they are sure to go bowling. That would give them five wins with Georgia, Vanderbilt, LSU and Mississippi State left. They’ll win at least one of those, possibly two.
Arkansas’ path in 2012 has been well documented. Tyler Wilson’s injury sparked a monumental downfall for the once #8 team in the country. But the Hogs are winners of two straight and looking for their third in a row against Ole Miss. The defense has played particularly well in the last two weeks and has only allowed 14 points in two games after allowing over 40 points per game in their first five. Additionally, the defense is creating more turnovers and getting to the quarterback. But Ole Miss is better than Auburn and Kentucky. We know how good the Hogs can be on offense, but it has been largely Tyler Wilson doing the damage. Preseason Heisman candidate Knile Davis hasn’t lived up to the hype in his comeback season, and Dennis Johnson is getting more meaningful carries. Davis was supposed to spearhead the ground attack of the most explosive offense in the SEC, but the Hogs are dead last in the SEC in rushing. Davis has 98 carries for 337 yards and two touchdowns, averages only 3.4 yards per carry and has had trouble holding onto the football.
Arkansas must win this football game if it wants to earn a bowl berth. Currently at three wins, Arkansas has Tulsa, South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU left. I can see this team getting to five wins, but I’m not sold on six.
The key for both teams is to run the football. Ole Miss is fourth in the SEC in rushing offense, and Arkansas has held their last two opponents to 106 rushing yards combined. Ole Miss is 8th in the SEC in passing defense, but they haven’t faced a quarterback who will challenge them like Tyler Wilson will.
There’s a resurgence in confidence that has been absent in Arkansas for the bulk of the season on the heels of their two-game winning streak.
“I have to really commend my guys on having heart, having pride and continuing with what we know,” quarterback Tyler Wilson said. “That’s big for us. I’m happy our guys responded.
“Everybody in our locker room knows we can beat anybody if we play like we can play,” Wilson said.
Pride and bowl game berths are at stake Saturday afternoon, and both teams believe they can get to the coveted six-win mark.
Photo Credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE