AF: What's the consensus on Hugh Freeze now that he has been there a few years? He seems to have that Houston Nutt thing of beating a team he shouldn't, but will struggle to beat Vandy or lose to a team he shouldn't. Do you think he will ever have a year where he can put it all together?
RCR: As far as Hugh Freeze, yeah... it's pretty frustrating. He's definitely a good coach. He's a pretty good recruiter as well. It's just that there are a couple of games a year where everything is horrible. The playcalling at times is baffling. The players don't seem motivated. Then, a week later, things are good again. It's pretty weird. He's a bit stubborn, but when it comes down to it, the team has been much better during his tenure than almost anyone expected. Generally, the fans like Freeze, but I do think that many fans have started to notice a few things that he doesn't do well... namely call plays in the red zone. If he's going to have a put-it-together year, this is his best shot for a while. This Ole Miss team loses a tremendous amount of talent after this season, and it will take several years to get back to this point, if they are able to at all.
AF: It's seems that most people are in agreement that Chad Kelly and Brandon Allen are among the top 3 in the SEC at the quarterback position. Do you think the guy with the best performance will win no matter what on Saturday? Or could one of them lose the position battle, but his team still pull it out?
RCR: There are games in which I think one position vs. position matchup will decide the outcome, but I don't think this is one. I could see either not playing as well as the other and still pulling out the victory. There's just so much else going on all over the field in this one. This Ole Miss team has shown it can win with a decent running game, but that hasn't come easily this season, and the Arkansas run defense is solid. Sure, the Razorback pass defense is terrible, but if Ole Miss isn't able to run to help sustain drives, it could be problematic. In that same vein, if Brandon Allen struggles, but Alex Collins and the running game piles up lots of chunk plays, Arkansas could easily win. The Ole Miss defense has shown a propensity to stop opposing running backs this season, but that may just be what Brandon Allen needs. He is excellent in the play-action, and Ole Miss regularly bites on that this year. There are just too many factors to claim that quarterback play will define this one.
AF: Do you think this is the year Ole Miss finally plays in an SEC Championship game?
RCR: I do not. This team is too flawed, and I just think they're likely to drop one or two of these final three games. There isn't anyone in the league that Ole Miss couldn't beat if the Rebels bring their A game. It's just that... they don't do that often enough.
AF: Who is one guy that Arkansas fans might not know before the game, but afterwards will remember for the rest of the year?
RCR: Well, if the Ole Miss offense follows a path similar to what brought it success last week, you may see a lot of Damore'ea Stringfellow. The coaches attempted to punish Auburn's decision to double cover Laquon Treadwell every play in the first half by sending them a heavy dose of the 6'2" 220 pound sophomore on the other side of the field. Stringfellow is very difficult for corners to bring down in the open field due to his strength, so getting him the ball quickly and penalizing Auburn for having to rotate coverage to the other side of the field was a recipe for first half passing success. Stringfellow finished the game with 8 catches for 71 yards. In the second half, Auburn chose to honor him as a threat, and that allowed Laquon Treadwell to go crazy, racking up 6 catches for 102 yards in just the second half of play.
Defensively, it's tough to say any one player who provides a major impediment to Arkansas (other than Robert Nkemdiche, who you probably know). I could see linebacker CJ Johnson playing a significant role in this game, though. Until this season, Johnson was a pass-rushing defensive end. With a very shallow linebacking corps and defensive linemen for days, the coaches chose to move him to middle linebacker, where he played in high school. Johnson hasn't flourished per se, since his speed isn't all that great in coverage. Against Arkansas, though, there's a chance that his size and sure tackling is just what the doctor ordered.
AF: Final score?
RCR: I do think Ole Miss will pull this one out. Ultimately, Arkansas' proclivity to give up huge passing plays is likely to play right into Ole Miss' hand. Chad Kelly throws a fantastic deep ball, and Ole Miss has great receivers for days. I could certainly see the game going either way, but I think the Rebels will pull it out. Of course, I thought that last year too, and... well... :(
Ole Miss 30 - Arkansas 20