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Rebels Return to Gridiron to Face Arkansas

Photo by Nathan Latil, UM Brand Photography Services
Photo by Nathan Latil, UM Brand Photography Services

The Ole Miss Rebels are three days away from taking the field again after a bye week. The Rebels return to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday. 

Going into this weekend, Arkansas has a 31-27-1 lead in the series, but the Rebels hold the advantage in Oxford, 6-4. When these two teams faced off last year, Bryson Rose kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired at War-Memorial Stadium in Little Rock to give Ole Miss the 30-27 victory.

The Razorbacks had their struggles last year under interim head coach John L. Smith, who was let go at the end of last season. Arkansas then shocked the college football world by hiring Wisconsin head coach, Bret Bielema.

Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema had an impressive tenure at Wisconsin but has struggled at Arkansas in his first season
Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema had an impressive tenure at Wisconsin but has struggled at Arkansas in his first season

While at Wisconsin, Bielema posted an impressive 68-24 record in seven seasons, while also leading three different teams to a Rose Bowl appearance. His first season at Arkansas hasn’t gone smoothly as the Razorbacks, who are currently 3-6 overall and winless in the SEC. In fact, they are coming to Oxford on a six-game losing streak.

On the other side of the ball, the Rebels are riding a lot of momentum coming off a bye week. The defense will finally be healthy (sans CJ Johnson) for the first time since the Texas game. With the added experience of younger players, the depth on the defensive side of the ball is going to be a huge advantage for the Rebels against a struggling Arkansas offense.

Highly touted recruit Robert Nkemdiche returns to the Landshark D this week. This will be the first action that he has seen since suffering a hamstring injury against Texas A&M almost a month ago. His return couldn’t come at a better time because, even though Arkansas has struggled on offense, their rushing attack ranks 24th in the nation while averaging 211 yards per game on the ground.

The backfield for Arkansas is lead by young blood. The two top rushers are freshman Alex Collins and sophomore Jonathan Williams. Collins is first on the team in production with 889 rushing yards on 158 attempts and four touchdowns. Williams is second with 716 rushing yards on 115 carries and four touchdowns. If the Rebels want to pull out a victory on Saturday, slowing down this young dynamic duo is essential.

The starting quarterback for the Razorbacks should be Brandon Allen, but there was speculation earlier in the week that he may sit out the game after suffering a deep gash to his ankle in last week’s game against the Auburn Tigers. The sophomore has struggled this season only completing 81 of 180 passes while throwing for 1067 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has shown promise at times this season so the Rebel defense should not take him lightly.

The offense for the Rebels has improved from last year by cutting down on turnovers. So far this season, Bo Wallace has only thrown three interceptions, which is a huge improvement over his 17 from last year.

Many of the improvements are due to his improved decision making and having more targets to throw to this season. True freshmen have played a big role on the offensive side of the ball this season. None more than wide-receiver Laquon Treadwell, who has 41 receptions, 385 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

The offense has also been without Jeff Scott for a few weeks, but sophomore Jaylen Walton has stepped up providing a huge lift to the ground game in Scott’s absence. Walton has run the ball 64 times and picked up 321 yards rushing and five touchdowns. His biggest performance came in the Rebels’ upset of rival no. 6 LSU where he rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He will play a big role in the offense this Saturday.

If the Rebels can get the offense going early, and limit Arkansas on the ground, then it should be a field day for Ole Miss. But games aren’t won on paper and the 17.5 spread in favor of the Rebels doesn’t matter when kickoff arrives. Coach Hugh Freeze has been great about getting his team to not overlook opponents while he has been at Ole Miss, and he has to keep that going this week. Because you cannot, no matter who the opponent is, take a week off in the SEC.

HottyToddy.com Prediction:

Ole Miss-34 Arkanas-20

Player of the game:

Jaylen Walton: 14 rushes, 115 yards, 2 touchdowns

–Justin Taylor, Associate Editor, HottyToddy.com

–You can email Justin at justin.taylor@hottytoddy.com

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