Welcome to the Thursday predictions post.
We took a week off last week just like the Rebels. I still enjoy what I do, but I could get used to that watch games on TV thing.
Sounds like Ole Miss players are pretty excited about an early kickoff. I concur.
They’re also excited about the opportunity to pick up a sixth win and bowl eligibility. I think that will happen, but I’m not sure it will be as easy as some might believe based on Arkansas’ unimpressive body of work within the SEC.
There are certain numbers you look at here that depict a level of ineptitude. The Razorbacks are last in the SEC in scoring points, next to last in giving them up.
Here’s the tale-teller. Arkansas is minus-12 in turnover ratio in conference play, a staggering statistic. That’ll get you 0-5 against the league.
As bad as some things look for the Razorbacks there are some things they do pretty well. Like run the football. And possess the football.
It doesn’t matter how high-flying your offense is, if you don’t have the ball you can’t score.
The Hogs are No. 3 in the league in rushing at 211.2 yards a game, No. 5 in time of possession at 30:51 per game.
My take on the turnovers is this: As an Arkansas opponent, you can’t go into the game expecting to get those in large number.
Some of those have come when a backup quarterback has been in the game. Some have come with a botched handoff or any number of ways.
The margin is not only affected by the ones you give away but by the ones you don’t recover. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema pointed to a fumble by Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall that Marshall was able to recover in spite of the fact that he had three Arkansas defenders around him.
The Razorbacks’ run game is a weapon, and the good news for Ole Miss is that the Rebels are getting back a trio of their best defensive players. The return of freshman Robert Nkemdiche to the defensive line is significant. The question will be how long Nkemdiche, who hasn’t played since the Texas A&M game, can go at a high level without getting winded. He practiced this week at tackle and could be a matchup problem inside for a couple an Arkansas line that starts freshmen at the guard spots, Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper, who were both recruited by Ole Miss last year.
I like Nkemdiche inside and Bryon Bennett outside as a good run-stopping line for the Rebels. At least a run-slowing line. We’ll see.
Getting back the older Nkemdiche is equally important. Denzel Nkemdiche is a sure tackler. I would expect to see him and Serderius Bryant, another solid tackler, on the field together a good bit.
Mike Hilton is back at corner. The Hogs don’t pass it much, and it wouldn’t be totally surprising to see Hilton used in other ways during the game to take advantage of his physicality.
Prior to last week’s 35-17 loss to Auburn, Arkansas had been outscored 104-7 in losses to South Carolina and Alabama.
The fact that they were down 28-3 against Auburn and closed that gap to 28-17 indicates they are still playing hard.
The Rebels must assume that to be the case. Emmanuel McCray told us on Monday that you have to begin each game as though it’s a championship level opponent and then let it play out from there.
That’s certainly the approach Ole Miss needs to take with focus and attention to detail.
Maybe the turnovers come in bunches for the Rebels, but you can’t write that into the game plan.
Ole Miss has a pretty good run game too, with or without Jeff Scott, and Arkansas, while proficient at moving the ball on the ground hasn’t been proficient at stopping the run, giving up 247.8 yards a game in league play, last in the conference.
Hugh Freeze will strive for balance on offense, but he will need to be careful with his play calling. If he can run a little more than normal and get the job done there’s no sense in risking an incomplete pass, a bad series and a punt.
I figure the Rebels come out focused. They have most of their year and a half under Freeze. I think Arkansas will play hard, and I’m thinking the Razorbacks do a fair job of protecting the ball. At some point that has to turn in your favor, right?
This game will be harder than some might think, but the Rebels will win and become bowl eligible.
Prediction: Ole Miss 36, Arkansas 26