Ole Miss football vs. Arkansas: Scouting report, prediction
Ole Miss and Arkansas have a knack for playing close, strange games. This year should be no different.
No. 17 Ole Miss (3-1, 0-1 SEC) hosts No. 16 Arkansas (4-1, 1-1) on Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN) in a battle between two SEC upstarts looking for a rebound after an ugly loss against one of the best teams in the country. Arkansas' defense confused and contained Ole Miss' offense a year ago, intercepting quarterback Matt Corral six times in a 33-21 win.
Despite their losses to Alabama and Georgia last week, Ole Miss and Arkansas still rank among the best teams in the country at what they do best. It's hard to foresee a blowout in either direction and the Rebels' strengths will be on display against the Razorbacks' strengths, making for an interesting battle.
Here is the scouting report and prediction for Saturday's game.
Ole Miss offense vs. Arkansas defense
Ole Miss owns the nation's No. 5 scoring offense and No. 3 total offense. Arkansas ranks No. 10 in total defense and No. 2 in pass defense. Just like last year, the fate of this game rests on whether Corral and the Rebels' offense can find a way to break through against Arkansas' talented unit.
Corral hasn't thrown an interception in his last 180 attempts dating back to last season. If he can keep taking care of the ball, there's reason to believe the Rebels can move the ball against the Razorbacks.
Arkansas is allowing 153 rushing yards per game, including 273 against Georgia. Last year, despite the turnovers, Ole Miss ran for 242 yards against the Razorbacks. Even after the loss to Alabama where Ole Miss turned in its worst rushing performance since 2018, the Rebels still rank No. 10 in the FBS in rushing yards per game.
If Ole Miss can clean up some of its offensive line issues and block Arkansas' talented trio of linebackers Grant Morgan, Bumper Pool and Hayden Henry, the Rebels' offense can control the game. If not, expect Arkansas' havoc-heavy defense to make things uncomfortable again.
Ole Miss defense vs. Arkansas offense
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson, a Mississippi native, is a tough matchup because of his arm and his legs. Jefferson is competing fewer than 60% of his pass attempts, but he's gaining an SEC-leading 10 yards per pass attempt, meaning the Razorbacks have maximized his talents for connecting on the deep ball.
Coverage busts and pass interference on deep heaves have been a problem for Ole Miss this fall. No Ole Miss cornerback is a good matchup for Arkansas receiver and projected early round NFL Draft pick Treylon Burks. Arkansas has only connected on 32 completion of 10 yards or longer this year, but seven of them went for 40 or more yards.
Putting a lid on Arkansas' deep-threat passing attack will be key. Containing Jefferson will be equally difficult. Jefferson has more rushing yards than any individual Rebels player and is averaging 5.88 yards per carry even counting sacks as negative rushes.
Like Arkansas, Ole Miss' defense favors light boxes with six or seven defensive backs on the field. Alabama took advantage of that to run successfully on first down, setting up second-and-shorts that led to long, sustained drives. Arkansas' running attack is good enough to repeat that strategy, which could lead to a long day for the Rebels' defense.
Ole Miss 34, Arkansas 31: This one stays close throughout. It very well could be tied in the fourth quarter or go to overtime. Either way, Corral's poise and talent takes over in the final possession and the Rebels sneak away with their first SEC win.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.