GAMEDAY PREVIEW: Arkansas At Ole Miss

Hugh Freeze

Nov. 9, 2013

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Monday Blog: Rebels Not Overlooking Arkansas

Thursday Blog: Rebels Continue Arkansas Preparations

OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss seeks bowl eligibility for the second straight year under head coach Hugh Freeze, as it hosts the Arkansas Razorbacks with a kickoff set for 11:21 a.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

"To be at home again is always nice," Freeze said. "We're looking forward to getting an early kickoff. That's something we haven't had this year. We've enjoyed the ones we've had, but it's always nice to get a variety." 

"I'm so glad that we have an early kickoff," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We wake up and go play, instead of having to sit in the hotel room all day and watch games, so yeah I'm excited about these morning kickoffs."

The Rebels (5-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) won back-to-back games over then-No. 6 LSU and Idaho entering their second bye week of the season, while the Razorbacks (3-6, 0-5 SEC) won their first three games but have lost six straight, including most recently a 35-17 loss to No. 8 Auburn.

"The off week came at a good time, and hopefully we won't be very rusty at all, but we'll continue to improve, as I thought we had the last couple of weeks," Freeze said. “We're playing a very scary football team to me. If they ever convert drives, they'd be very, very dangerous. They control the time of possession, and they run the football extremely well." 

"They're a lot better than a lot people think they are," Wallace said. "They're close to coming through and winning some games, and they're still playing hard. If you watched the Auburn game, you could tell they're still playing hard. They'll be a tough test."

For Ole Miss, Wallace ranks fifth in the SEC in total offense (266.2 ypg) and fifth in passing (247.0 ypg), having completed 15-of-22 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns in his last game against Idaho.

"We were 5-3 at this same point (last year), so the first step is being bowl eligible, and then building on that,” Wallace said. “Any time you can get that sixth win, it's a big game and a big week."

Arkansas is led by the running back duo of freshman Alex Collins (98.8 ypg) and sophomore Jonathan Williams (79.6), who rank fourth and seventh in the SEC, respectively. As a team, the Razorbacks have rushed for at least 200 yards in six of nine games and average 211.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the SEC.

"They are closer than people realize, and they scare you," Freeze said. "If you have one or two turnovers, you may not see the ball again. Last week, Auburn, which is somewhat similar to us in a tempo offense, only had 21 snaps in the first half."

Entering the week, Freeze said they’re as healthy as they’ve been in a while, as three starters are expected to return from injury in freshman defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and sophomore cornerback Mike Hilton.

"Robert gives us better depth and some flexibility to move people around up front," Freeze said. "Denzel was our leading tackler last year and hopefully to have him healthy for a stretch of games will pay great dividends. Hilton, I thought was maybe the most-improved player on our defense. We do a lot of things with him. He can play our nickel, our corner and anywhere in six-defensive back formation. All those guys give us some flexibility." 

"All of the people who played and contributed whenever everyone was gone, it helps them and help us as a defense because it gives them confidence when they come into the game," said junior linebacker Serderius Bryant, the Rebels’ leading tackler. "They give us more depth on defense."

This game marks the 60th meeting all-time between Ole Miss and Arkansas dating back to 1908. Ole Miss. The Razorbacks lead 31-27-1 in the series, including a 12-9 advantage since it joined the SEC in 1992. The Rebels won last year’s meeting in Little Rock, Ark., 30-27, on a Bryson Rose 31-yard field goal as time expired.

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