When you and I last visited, I told you that Ole Miss would beat Auburn in a close game that came down to the last series. I was wrong. Auburn beat Ole Miss on the second to last series and broke all the hearts of the Rebel faithful in one tackle and fumble. Not only were Ole Miss’ dreams of winning the SEC West and getting into the College Football Playoff almost* certainly squashed, but the number one Rebel receiver, Laquon Treadwell, was lost for the season to a leg injury that was absolutely stomach churning to watch happen.
Since then, Ole Miss made quick work of Presbyterian and had a nice bye week to rest up for their remaining two regular season games, at Arkansas and an Egg Bowl in Oxford against Mississippi State.
While many Rebel fans are looking at the Egg Bowl already, the Arkansas game is going to prove to be a tough one, much tougher than anyone could have imagined at the beginning of the season. There are plenty of columnists and reporters jumping at the chance to pick Arkansas for the upset.
Arkansas has had an interesting year. While they are clearly a step or two behind the rest of the SEC West, there are plenty of media personalities that believe they would be contending for the top in most other conferences. Such is life in the toughest division in college football, I suppose.
After easily handling their non-conference opponents but dropping every SEC contest in mostly close games, Arkansas went out last week and absolutely dominated LSU 17-0 in an extremely run-heavy game. Obviously Arkansas’ running game is strong if they were able to go at LSU’s stout defense and see those results. They have two running backs that split duties, but who would likely be the featured back at most other SEC schools. Both Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams could break the 1000-yard mark this year, which would be quite the statistic. To put that stat in perspective, Ole Miss’ two primary options at tailback have not combined for as many yards as Collins, the lesser of the two Arkansas backs in terms of yardage, has on his own. Bret Bielema’s hope of turning the Hogs into a run it up the middle team is slowly starting to come together. It will be interesting to see the jump they make between this season and next.
The Rebels, like I mentioned earlier, have had two weeks to heal up some of their battered players. Laremy Tunsil, Cody Prewitt, Trae Elston, I’Tavius Mathers, and Aaron Morris are all listed as probable for the game after suffering various injuries in the LSU and Auburn games. While their play will be hugely important, it’s hard to say how Ole Miss receiving corps will respond in their first SEC game since losing Treadwell. Vince Sanders, Quincy Adeboyejo, and Cody Core are going to have to step it up, especially since the Rebel running game is suspect and the Arkansas D-line is big and hungry to pull off another upset at home.
Not lost in all of the injury and heartbreak the Rebels and their fans have seen in the past month is Bo Wallace taking his rightful place as a premiere SEC quarterback. Aside from his late interception and late fumble against LSU and Auburn, respectively, he has played near flawlessly in conference competition, with those being his only turnovers in SEC play this year. (Compare that to Mississippi State QB and Heisman hopeful Dak Prescott, who has eight interceptions in SEC play.) Based on Wallace’s great play, this Good Bo/Bad Bo talk should be dead until further notice. Wallace has led the Rebels to an unprecedented season. Fans should be excited to see what the next few games hold in store for him as he has a chance to break several Ole Miss offensive records.
There’s no doubt that on a slow SEC weekend, Ole Miss and Arkansas should provide some excitement. A high speed passing offense taking on a grind it out running offense. A team looking to continue a magical season matched up against a team fighting for a bowl berth and conference legitimacy. Two strong defenses looking to shut down opposing offenses in a late November battle. It has all the makings of a great game. And it’s supposed to be pouring rain in Fayetteville, which will make things all the more interesting,
After a great prediction run to start the season, I had some disappointing showings with the LSU and Auburn games. Hopefully I can get back on track this week.
Hugh Freeze and the Rebels win a tough, tough game. One Ole Miss running back will break out for a 100+ yard game, and the Rebel receivers play admirably in Treadwell’s absence, grabbing two touchdowns with Wallace rushing for the other. The defense will have a hard time with the Hogs’ running game, but they’ll get it together and make it tough for Arkansas to score.
Ole Miss 24 – Arkansas 14
* I say “almost” because technically Ole Miss is still alive to win the SEC West. If they win their remaining two games and Alabama loses to Auburn, then the Rebels will win the SEC West. If that somehow happens and they win in Atlanta, there is absolutely no way the College Football Playoff Selection Committee would turn the Ole Miss away from one of the semifinal slots.