Arkansas: 5 bold predictions vs. Ole Miss
This one could be considered the Bounce Back Game. No. 13 Arkansas will look to rebound from a 37-0 embarrassment at the hands of Georgia while No. 17 Ole Miss will play hosts in attempting to rally from its 42-21 spanking by Alabama.
It’s another early kick (11 a.m. CT) and one that should provide some answers as to which direction each program is headed. Both have used up their respective mulligans and now must assert itself as a quality program heading toward the second half of the season.
Here are 5 bold predictions for the game, one in which Ole Miss has been installed as a 6-point favorite at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Grove will be a buzz for the 67th renewal of this classic matchup in which the Razorbacks have claimed victory in 5 of the last 7 meetings. However, Ole Miss has won 2 of the last 3.
1. Razorbacks don’t get a pick
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral hasn’t thrown an interception since last December when he tossed up 5 passes to LSU defenders. He continues his potential Heisman march and adds another game without a pick, making 6 in a row without one.
That’s not such a bold prediction until you consider he threw a career-high 6 picks in the 2020 game at Arkansas. But this is a new year and a maturing Rebels quarterback who will leave the Hogs secondary hungry Saturday.
2. Sack attack is back
Arkansas has recorded sacks in 8 of its past 10 games. Though the Hogs were unable to get to Georgia second-team QB Stetson Bennett last week, they’ll get back on track Saturday in Oxford.
Last year the Razorbacks sacked Corral twice in their 33-21 victory. Are they twice as good this year? Perhaps, and that’s why the bold prediction here is that the Hogs will get to Corral and sack him 4 times.
It would be the most sacks for Arkansas since 2019 when it recorded 4 sacks against Texas A&M.
Who gets those sacks? Well, let’s give 2 to Tre Williams for starters. If there’s a sack to be had, you can be assured Williams will be in the area. After that, it would probably be a combination of players, almost assuredly among the 7 aside from Williams who have logged at least a half-sack already this season.
3. Trelon Smith breakout game
The Razorbacks senior RB will have his best game of the season. I’m not ready to say he’ll have a career game. That would mean surpassing the 172 yards he rushed for at Missouri last December. But he will log the second-best game of his 4-year career, rushing for more than the 118 yards he churned out at Florida last November.
The Hogs should want to control the ball and keep it out of the hands of Corral. A successful running attack is one way to do so, and Arkansas is set up to accomplish that against an Ole Miss defense yielding an average of 154.5 rushing yards per game. Among SEC teams, only Vanderbilt and Missouri allow more.
4. A surprisingly defensive battle
The over/under is around 66-67 points. That’s a pretty big number, probably because of the Rebels’ ability to score with relative ease against lesser defenses. They’re averaging about 45 points per game. Only Alabama averages more.
But defenses at Louisville, Austin Peay and Tulane can’t compare with Arkansas’, which even is allowing just 19 points per game. Don’t forget, Arkansas ranks 2nd in the nation against the pass, allowing just 129.8 yards per game on average.
Ole Miss’ defense is better than last year’s. That’s not to say it’s particularly good, only Vanderbilt and Missouri are giving up more per game among SEC teams. But still, it is better than the product the Rebels put on the field last year.
So, given those factors, I’m going to be bold in predicting that the game goes under the 66-67 combined points.
I don’t think KJ Jefferson is 100%. He just didn’t look right against Georgia. Granted the Bulldogs’ defense could have had something to do with that. But he didn’t look nearly as fluent. He was sacked 4 times and only rushed 8 times for 5 yards. This from a guy who had been averaging more than 7 yards per carry over the first 4 games.
Again, credit Georgia’s defense. But Jefferson was not called upon to run the ball as in previous games. And against a smothering defense like the Dawgs’, one would have thought Jefferson would have been a far more integral part of the offense, especially considering nothing else was working.
Coach Sam Pittman insists that Jefferson is 100% healthy. I’m not buying it, and if he isn’t, the Hogs are in for another long afternoon.
Prediction: Ole Miss 27, Arkansas 17