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Arkansas Fight Panel Discussion: LSU Wrap-Up and Ole Miss Preview

Gathering our contributors' opinions on the topics of the week.

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1. Out of Brandon Allen's 16 completions vs LSU, 9 were to tight ends, 4 were to Korliss Marshall, and just 3 to the wide receivers. Was this an anomaly or do you feel like the team finally settled into realizing the tight ends are the strength in the passing game?

Mark: I sure hope it's door #2. I think it is.

Josh: I'm all for gameplans changing week to week to take advantage of individual matchups, but I think those numbers are what this team has been trying to accomplish since week 1. Whether they got away from that against A&M, Georgia etc because of what those defenses were taking away, I'm not sure. Henry, Derby and Sprinkle are a key component of the passing game for this team and should get 8-10 targets a week. LSU has linebackers that are better inside the tackles and struggle in coverage while their secondary was solid on the outside. Would like to see some of those short passes against Ole Miss and Missouri as well.

Graham: The deep ball isn't Brandon Allen's strong point, nor is the deep threat a legitimate part of the offense this season. With those two truths looming the real question is why has it taken so long to realize it? Hunter Henry is a top-two round talent. AJ Derby has transformed himself and in the future should be remembered as a tight end as we all block out his quarterback experience. I like his story and hope his sacrifices to do whatever he needed to do to help the team (and keep his scholarship) aren't forgotten.

Mitchell: It's hopefully a change in recognition of the fact that our two best pass-catchers are named AJ and Hunter. There are a lot of special things we can do with two awesome tight ends and players like Cornelius and Hatcher that can make some catches and stretch the field.

Devan: Hopefully they continue to throw the football to the TE's. Henry and Derby probably have the best hands on the team. I do like that they are throwing in some screens to Korliss. He provides some breakaway speed and that is a perfect platform for him to be used. Until they get KJ Hill and JoJo Robinson on the field though, they need to continue to throw the ball to the TE's because they are the most consistent pass catchers on the team.

Doc: It should be pointed out that of Korliss's four catches, at least two were on those sweeps where he runs in front of Brandon and Brandon barely tosses the ball up to him. That counts as a pass and a reception. But it feels like you have to think about it as a running play. Regardless, we've all been calling for the tight ends to get more targets all season, and it finally happened on Saturday, and we see the results. Not only did Arkansas win, but look at things like 3rd down efficiency. Unreal.

Jamie: I think we've FINALLY realized that the best hands (and footwork and, and and) for receivers on the team are all on the TE squad and that they have to be a huge part of our passing game to keep 8,9,10 out of the box.  When you don't have a true deep threat and you need to be able to block consistently for your primary weapon of the running game and your TEs have the best hands... why wouldn't you focus on them?

2. Throughout the losing streak, we heard - particularly from Bielema but others as well - that once Arkansas broke through they will be really dangerous and great things will come.

Do you feel like the LSU win represents the turning of a corner and that Arkansas will most likely win again to become bowl eligible, or was it simply a case of one team being better than another and we shouldn't read too much into it (even if breaking the streak was fantastic)?

Mitchell: I think it is the beginning of things to come. A lot of confidence comes with finally getting that win. They knew they could play with the big boys, now they know they can win. I would look to see the Hogs take a dominant mentality into these last two games.

Devan: I think we see a completely different team from here on out. The team should now believe that they can't just play with anyone in the nation, but they can also beat them. A lot of what happened over the 17 game streak was a simple belief that they could not do it. Now that they have that monkey off of their back I think we see a much better, and more energetic team.

Jamie: I really do think it's a turning point.  All of those "almost wins" going back to last year's LSU game (even the Rutgers game last year) just seemed like a team who was desperate to pull one out, but the pressure to do so, and not having done it in so long, just seemed to cause late game cramps that blew things up.  I'm probably being overly positive, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to see us win both of these last 2 and finish up with a pretty damn strong 7-5 season all things considered.

Mark: Both. I think we were better than LSU and I think we could win out. But we could also lose out. Both Ole M(P)iss and Misery have a lot to play for. My money's on us getting bowl eligible, though, starting Saturday.

Graham: There are still two awfully competitive matchups on the schedule for the Hogs to prove that they can be dangerous. It's definitely a corner turned even if we don't win another game. Can you imagine the narrative all summer long if an SEC win hadn't come this season?

Josh: Reading too much in to streaks and trends is what we are accustomed to doing. It's either the greatest thing ever or the most terrible in history. For the players and team as a whole there is a lot less pressure after beating LSU. They are still the same team that played with Miss St, Alabama, A&M, and Auburn for a half, can that translate into more wins, who knows?

Doc: The win eliminates continuing to be associated with that streak and any worry that we'd spend the next 10 months dealing with 0-20. That's a big deal, but it doesn't guarantee any future wins. I do think bowl eligibility is a big enough motivator that the team will continue going full throttle this week.

3. The win was so great, we haven't really seen any criticism of anything that happened. Did anything happen that you thought was concerning?

Josh: Nope, defense was dominant, offense put enough points up to win.

Devan: Not really. I hate to nag on a guy but I am not sure whether Bielema told the kicker to do kickoffs the way that he did, or if they kicker was just skying the kickoffs because of the weather. But nevertheless, it didn't hurt the team so I'm not going to nag to much about it.

Doc: I'm pretty sure that was the kickoff strategy. I didn't like that Arkansas attempted a pass on 3rd and 2 late in the game when they were trying to run down the clock. If disaster had struck, there would've been a lot of focus on that.

Mark: To answer this one requires some nitpicking. BA still locks on a little, but I thought he managed a great game. WRs dropped a couple. Of course, it's the level of competition, but it'd be nice to see a RB break one. Been a while, it seems. But again, this is nitpicking.

Graham: Korliss Marshall had only one rush. Maybe Bielema was still trying to get his message across that Marshall isn't bigger than the team and whatever he did (or didn't do) won't be tolerated with some sort of punishment. I would like to see him get a few more touches in the coming weeks.

Jamie: I know he was just back from his mysterious suspension, but with rested legs, where was Korliss Marshall in the run game?  Perhaps his role now that he's back will be more in the short passing game to supplement his returns?

Mitchell: With Williams' and Collins' production you have to wonder if teams are starting to build a better game plan at stopping our rush attack. To combine for under 100 yards is startling, frankly. Hopefully it was an anomaly or a reflection of the game itself and doesn't become a trend. We are only competitive as long as our running game is scary.

4. Are you concerned that Arkansas might not handle this bit of success very well and may come out flat against Ole Miss?

Devan: That is one thing I am not worried about at all. If Bielema and his staff could keep the team rolling and playing hard as hell week after week, and still coming up short every time. I'm not worried about a LSU hangover.  I think they come out focused, and play hard to try to clinch that bowl berth.

Mitchell: Not really, no. I think a win will only make this team hungrier. They're playing for a bowl game at this point so I don't expect to see them take their feet of the gas. I think the LSU had rejuvenating properties that will be the driving force behind us winning out this season.

Josh: This team has struggled long enough to understand it is a new week, I would bet that was one of the first things Bielema addressed was moving on to Ole Miss.

Graham: Being back at home this week helps. I feel as if the talking points this week have all been how this is only the beginning of what is to come. Hopefully they take that message to heart. There is still plenty for this team to fight for and knowing that a bowl game is in the cards should give them any necessary motivation.

Jamie: Besides the first half of the Georgia game, I have yet to see this team begin a game unfocused and unprepared for a game.  I have faith they'll be ready until I begin to see a trend that would convince me otherwise.  I think that's a huge indicator of a well coached team to be able to have your team ready to go every Saturday regardless of situation, and so far this staff has done that very well.

Mark: This staff has managed to keep the team positive through most of a 17-game SEC losing streak. We have a lot to play for ourselves, and with the added incentive of Senior Day, I'd be surprised if we're flat or have no juice in the tank.

Doc: Like I mentioned, I think the bowl eligibility is more than enough to keep them hungry. Look at how they raced to that trophy when the game was finally over Saturday night. They want to really win something. Plus it's Senior Day. Now, if the team wins the 6th game this weekend, will they be as motivated for the game against Missouri? That may be a bigger question. Hopefully Tennessee beats Missouri so the Tigers won't be playing for a division title next week.

5. Ole Miss is basically coming off two bye weeks (Presbyterian and an actual bye week) so this is their first real game without Laquon Treadwell. Do you expect them to have much new to surprise Arkansas with or do you think they'll stick to what they've been doing (and hold anything tricky for next week's biggest Egg Bowl ever, which they're hopefully looking ahead to?)

Josh: They are going to do what has gotten them to this point, throwing quick screens to WRs, taking shots downfield at times and running plays at a fast pace. Like they did last year, if there is a play that works Freeze will run it over and over again. Losing Treadwell will make the job for the Arkansas secondary a little easier. The Ole Miss offense is not really a concern to me, I think Robb Smith will have another solid gameplan to confuse Dr Bo, but they may give up a few big plays.

Graham: All season for Ole Miss has been which Bo Wallace will show up. As exhibited in Baton Rouge, he can be easily rattled by a few bad throws or by a taunting student section. He and the weapons he has around him, sans Treadwell, are still good enough to beat Arkansas. I'm not as certain the Rebel defense can stop the run without older brother Nkemdiche though.

Devan: I'm not sure how good Ole Miss' offense can be without Treadwell. Plus Arkansas' defense has just steadily improved all year. Both defenses are pretty stout. I don't know if Ole Miss can come out and surprise Arkansas with too much. They haven't been overly impressive on offense this year anyway. Hugh Freeze said this week that it is impossible for them to prepare for what Arkansas will be doing because of the way the Rebels play. Based on that alone if anyone has the advantage it is Arkansas. But I think this is another low scoring affair. Something like 17-13, and that may be a little generous. If they get caught looking ahead Arkansas will win this game.

Jamie: I could definitely see them looking ahead to Mississippi State. And I think you nailed it with the first real game without Treadwell.  Missing Denzel Nkemdiche will be big for the Rebels attempt at stopping our run game.  I'm not one to call Vaught-Hemmingway a tough place to play, but I'm glad this game will be at our place just in case.

Mitchell: I think there definitely is a lot of looking ahead to Mississippi State going on, but I don't think Ole Miss is going to completely overlook us. We are still a 5-5 team with a pretty straightforward game plan. They will either be able to hand us or not. Our defense is playing at a level that will keep us competitive in most games. This Ole Miss team is good, but not great. The Rebels get eliminated from West contention Saturday.

Mark: Well, the Egg Bowl means nothing if they don't win in Fayetteville. Expect some wrinkles.

Doc: I don't think they'll be looking ahead too much. They haven't played an SEC game in three weeks and they've still got a shot at winning the West if Ole Miss wins out and Auburn beats Alabama. I think they'll be ready to go. It's an interesting matchup just because no one knows how good they'll be without their best weapon, and their defense wasn't impressive without Nkemdiche against Auburn. Hard game to predict. Looking forward to it.