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Four Downs: Arkansas

In this week’s edition of Four Downs, The Daily Mississippian football beat writers Bennett Hipp and Matt Sigler, sports editor David Collier and managing editor Austin Miller answer four questions regarding the week’s matchup.

1. How does Ole Miss respond coming off a bye week?
Bennett Hipp (@bennetthipp): I would expect Ole Miss to respond well, knowing that Saturday’s game against Arkansas is a key swing game for its potential bowl chances. The Rebels appear to be a team that enjoys playing on the road, which will bode well for them in a tough environment. 
Matt Sigler (@SigNewton_2): I think they respond well. With the extra week to rest, get their legs back under them and study Arkansas, I think Ole Miss will come out and execute their game plan well and have a solid game.
David Collier (@DavidLCollier): I think Ole Miss will have a sluggish start, particularly on offense. However, I expect them to pick up momentum heading into halftime and play a really crisp second half of football.
Austin Miller (@austinkmiller): I think Ole Miss responds well coming off a bye week. The Rebels are playing with a lot of confidence after getting that elusive conference win against Auburn, and I look for that to translate to Saturday’s game. Arkansas is the same way after back-to-back wins against Auburn and Kentucky going into a bye week. It’s an important game for both teams as far as bowl consideration because, for the loser of this game, it gets that much harder to get to six wins. 
2. With a game of two high-powered offense, which defense makes more of an impact in the game?
Hipp: I don’t expect either teams’ defense to do much, but I think Ole Miss’ defense has the better chance to make a key stop or force a key turnover that could shift the score in what could be a shootout. The Rebels have had one of the more opportunistic defenses in the conference, and while turnovers don’t necessarily correlate from game to game, they are the defense with the better chance to positively affect the game. 
Sigler: I’ll say Ole Miss. Arkansas lost two key senior linebackers to injury and is also ranked near the bottom in every defensive statistical category. Ole Miss’ defense is playing with a lot of energy and heart at the moment and I believe they will get some stops in the clutch.
Collier: I’m going to say Ole Miss. The Rebel defense has shown more promise of stopping a high-powered offense playing well against a tough Texas A&M offense for all but the last five minutes of the game, while Arkansas has only shown signs of life on defense against the two worst offenses in the SEC in Auburn and Kentucky.
Miller: I expect the Ole Miss defense to make more of an impact because of its ability to create pressure and force turnovers. Arkansas is without two of its starting linebackers, and I look for the Rebels to take advantage of that on the ground with running backs Jeff Scott and Randall Mackey.
3. Arkansas has a lot of talent on offense. Will it be tougher for the Ole Miss defense to contain the rushing or passing attack of Arkansas?
Hipp: It’s the passing attack, no doubt about it. The Razorback passing attack ranks 15th in the country in yards per attempt at 8.4. Arkansas also has weapons such as wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, who averages over 16 yards per catch and has four touchdowns on the year, and the return of tight end Chris Gragg, who is one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the SEC. 
Sigler: The passing attack for sure. With an NFL-caliber quarterback in Tyler Wilson and a big play receiver in Cobi Hamilton, the Rebels will have a lot on their plate in stopping those two. 
Collier: I think they will have a bigger problem than people think stopping the run. In 2010, Knile Davis ran for 179 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries, and if he can get going, it could be a big day for him.
Miller: Ole Miss has improved a lot in generating pressure and pass coverage. With that said, I think stopping Knile Davis, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo remains the bigger challenge with an undersized front seven and other teams’ success on the ground against Ole Miss..
4. What is the key to Ole Miss getting the win over Arkansas Saturday?
Hipp: In a game that has the potential to be a shootout, Bo Wallace and the Ole Miss offense has to continue its trend of taking care of the football. Arkansas has some confidence built back up, and committing turnovers to give Tyler Wilson the ball back is an easy way for the Rebels to lose a very winnable game Saturday.
Sigler: The key to the game will be whether or not Ole Miss can exploit the Razorback’s 14th ranked pass defense in the SEC and whether or not they will able to go vertical against them. 
Collier: Play with the lead. Ole Miss is 4-0 when they score first, and 0-3 when they don’t. In a game that could be a shootout, it’s important to get off to an early start. 
Miller: I have alluded to it, but the key to the game is taking care of the ball. Bo Wallace has improved and done a much better job of doing just that. A lot of teams have had success on offense against Arkansas, and that can certainly continue on Saturday.