Week 13 is upon us in the SEC season as Ole Miss faces off against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Rebels season has boiled down to two games. Win both of them and you have a chance to win the division with some help from Auburn in the Iron Bowl. But the most important part of the playoff/bowl scenarios is Ole Miss has to win the next two games on their schedule.
That leads to the Rebels making a road trip this weekend to face a resurgent Arkansas Razorbacks team that have finally figured out how to win.
Bret Bielema is leading the Hogs with a Big 10 offense and more importantly, he has shored up the Arkansas defense that was so lacking under Petrino.
After losing 17 SEC games, Bielema and his Hogs finally broke through the SEC ceiling, beating LSU in convincing fashion 17-0, a coincidental score that will help the players and fans to forget the last couple of years and give them extreme confidence this weekend at home against Ole Miss.
Arkansas holds a slim lead in the series, 31-28-1, and has won 6 out of the last 10 but Ole Miss has won the last two matchups in pretty close games, 30-27 in 2012 and 34-24 last year in Oxford.
Arkansas has won 7 out of the last 10 games in Arkansas. Many of you will remember expecting to get your rear end handed to you in the late 90’s/early 2000’s whenever you played Arkansas.
Of course, offensively, Arkansas is not quite ready to win a shoot out game. This is a very Wisconsin-esque team, heavily focused on running the football. Arkansas is in the top four of the league running the ball (243 ypg) but in the bottom six passing (199 ypg). That has not stopped them from scoring points as they are statistically tied with Ole Miss and Alabama with 34 points per game scored.
In SEC games they only average 20 points, Ole Miss averages 28 against SEC teams.
After the surprising LSU win, the Hogs have 5 wins with two games remaining and this will be the last home game for the 2014 season. The Hogs hope to continue the celebration for at least one more week with a win over Ole Miss.
The Hogs are led by Junior Brandon Allen who is a game manager type QB that has started to figure out his role of late. He is completing 58% of his passes, with 17 touchdowns (8th in SEC). Allen may not scare you but the Arkansas running backs should.
Junior RB, Jonathan Williams has 932 yards in 10 games, Sophomore Alex Collins has 886 yards and they both have 11 touchdowns each with is tied for most rushing touchdowns in the SEC.
The Arkansas offensive line does a good job of protecting Allen, giving up only 11 sacks (3rd best in the SEC).
The Arkansas defense started out pretty slow and we were expecting more of the same Arkansas D we had seen over the last few years, mainly a secondary that is not athletically ready to compete in the SEC and a front seven that gets overwhelmed.
Recently, the defense has been playing much better. Against Alabama and Mississippi State, they came to play and held those two balanced offenses to 17 points or below. Even more impressive, they held Alabama to 66 yards rushing and MSU to 128 which is 60% of what they average as a team.
Pass defense is still a bit of a problem for Arkansas as they gave up 386 yards to Texas A&M and Kenny Hill and surrendered 331 yards to MSU and Dak Prescott which is the only game Prescott has ever eclipsed the 300 yards mark. For all the yards Prescott got on the Hogs he only had one passing touchdown, so the Hogs are limiting the damage from opposing QB’s. LSU is not a big passing team but they finished with only 87 yards passing.
Martrell Spaight is a senior linebacker that has 97 total tackles. The team is not getting a ton of pressure with only 17 sacks (10th in the SEC).
Arkansas leads the SEC in kickoff returns at 25 yards per kick but only 1 touchdown on a kickoff. They are only averaging 10 yard returned on punts.
As a team, the Hogs are only 5 of 8 on field goals. Sophomore Adam McFain has taken over the duties the last three weeks and has made 3 of his 4 attempts.
Punting is a little bit of a sore spot, as Sam Irwin-Hill is only averaging 39 yards per attempt.