After last week’s gut-wrenching loss, the Arkansas Razorbacks are focused on Ole Miss. The Rebels (3-1, 0-1 SEC) are set to take on the Razorbacks (4-1, 1-1 SEC) inside Vaught Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi on Saturday.
Arkansas’ Head Coach Sam Pittman has been tasked with refocusing his team and prepping for the Rebel Landshark Black Bears, and he is not letting the past dictate the future.
“We got a good football team, and we got our butt kicked by a really good football team” Pittman said. “And we don’t like it, and we’re not accepting it, but I’ll be damned if Georgia is gonna make us lose this Ole Miss game.”
Those words are exactly what you want to hear from your head coach, and here are five reasons why Arkansas can beat Ole Miss this weekend.
1. The Run Game
Death, taxes, and the Razorbacks running the football. The run game has been effective for the Hogs this season, averaging 225 yard rushing per game. When you have a stable of running backs like Arkansas has, it gives fresh legs for all four quarters.
The player who needs to get the bulk of snaps is Raheim “Rocket” Sanders. His size, coupled with his speed and willingness to initiate contact, will wear down the Ole Miss defense. That Ole Miss defense, while improved from the 2020 season, is giving up 154 yards rushing and an average of two touchdowns per game.
If Arkansas can have success on the ground, expect guys like Trelon Smith, AJ Green, Rocket Sanders, and even KJ to keep this game in hand.
2. The Defensive Line
If last week’s game against Georgia taught us anything, it’s that football is won and lost in the trenches. There is a clear difference between Alabama, Georgia, and the rest of the country, and that is size and talent on the offensive and defensive lines.
Both Arkansas and Ole Miss got embarrassed in the trenches last week. But I would give an edge to Arkansas in this one. Defensively, Tre Williams has been playing like a bat out of hell, and John Ridgeway has been abusing most of the offensive linemen that he’s gone up against (except for Georgia of course).
With Ole Miss’ starting left guard out, and every offensive linemen playing every single snap against Alabama, the push up front for Arkansas will give Matt Corral less time to go through his progressions, and force him to make mistakes.
3. The Offensive Line
Sam Pittman’s bread and butter. The men up front that open the lanes for the running game, and protect KJ Jefferson to drop dimes. The offensive line for Arkansas is not the same one we saw two years ago. These guys are big, they’re strong, and they will impose their will this weekend.
Coach Pittman said in a press conference that he intends to put Jalen St. John and Ty’Kiest Crawford at the guard spots some this week, to beef up the interior of that offensive line. What that will give Arkansas is more depth at this position to run the trenches the way they want to.
4. KJ Comes Home
Although Ole Miss never recruited Jefferson, the Arkansas signal caller is a native of Mississippi, and his return to his home state will give him a chance to put a show on for his family and friends.
“I’m feeling pumped,” Jefferson said in a press conference earlier this week. “I’m very excited. I got a lot family members coming to the game to watch me play that have never been to a game.”
Emotions will definitely run high for Jefferson, who will be starting his second true road game in Oxford. Last week’s game against Georgia probably helped more than people realize, in that it put him in an extremely hostile crowd for the first time.
Make no mistake, Oxford will have plenty of Ole Miss fans, but they won’t come close to what the Hogs saw in Athens last weekend.
5. The Odom Effect
Long gone are the days of Arkansas defense being subpar. We have seen through all 15 games that Arkansas has played since Sam Pittman has been the head coach the defense game planning each and every week for their opponent.
This game will come down to how effectively the defense can hold Matt Corral. They will get a break with Johnathan Mingo being out with a foot injury, but containing Corral will be key. The Heisman hopeful has the ability to stretch defenses with his legs, and also throw the ball accurately.
What helps the Arkansas defense here is that they’ve seen it all before. Certainly don’t expect Corral to throw six interceptions again, but know that Barry Odom has seen him before and will have a game plan to control the explosive Ole Miss Offense.
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