Aside from the earliest games of the season, Saturday's matchup between the Rebels and Razorbacks is perhaps one of the most difficult to assess. Both teams have only one SEC victory through one-half of the season and both teams have had good moments offensively and defensively, interspersed amongst a bevy of bad. Both teams have good defensive lines. Both teams have quarterbacks which aren't playing fully to their potential (yes, Hog fans, we know there's a wider gap there than we're leading on, save us the trouble).
Yet, both teams are distinctly different. Screen cap of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet is after the jump, y'all.
This chart is not only self explanatory, but it's also somewhat predictable. The asterisks symbolize a perceived significant advantage. As one would expect, Arkansas has the edge in primarily offensive categories while Ole Miss' cover most defensive categories.
This is one of those rare instances where I can legitimately claim to have watched and paid attention (important point) to both games. My immediate observations from each game completely correlate with the numbers. This is especially true defensively. Arkansas was, at times, seemingly passed against at will. Greg McElroy and company comfortably passed downfield and outside of the hash-marks for a decent portion of that game.
Against Ole Miss, this wasn't the case. McElroy and his wideouts struggled. The Tide was almost helpless in the red zone. And there was only one big offensive play really in the entire game. Alabama fans will blame playcalling, Ole Miss fans will credit the defense, but really it was a combination thereof. Regardless, Ole Miss clearly has the better defense between the two teams facing off this Saturday.
And, without any doubt, Arkansas has the better offense. There is incredible balance in terms of talent and ball-distribution, and good play calling. Receivers are routinely open, halfbacks routinely have a gap in which to run, and Mallett has enough time to make things happen. The problem is, they have really struggled against legitimate defenses.
Arkansas only scored seven on Alabama and, without the help of turnovers, ten on Florida. Ole Miss' defense is a top-ten defense nationally, and clearly the 3rd best in the conference behind the Tide and Gators. If the Rebels limit the mistakes on Saturday, Arkansas will be in a real struggle to score more than 20.
All of these factors are why I have been calling this one a potentially close game for the last week or so now. Arkansas has yet to prove themselves offensively against good defenses, whereas we Rebels have proven our defense to be worth the effort of fielding a football team in the first place. If our offense can play adequately--notice, not "great" or even "good;" just "adequately"--this game should be decided in the fourth quarter.
At this point, some would chime in with some sort of notion of Bryant-Denney's home advantage and the disadvantage that plays against Arkansas in this comparison. I'll buy it, but only tentatively. Remember, Alabama has Mark Ingram who, if you haven't been paying attention to college football thus far (welcome to the season!), you know is a perfect form of the human male chiseled out of an amalgamation of silver and getoutofmygoddamnwaybecausei'mmarkingram-amantium. He negates any sort of advantage or disadvantage that pesky bastard known as "geography" may play on any game because, duh, Mark Ingram is so above geography. Like, so above it that he likely hasn't learned it. Ask him. He'll tell you that the capital of Vermont is "a little town called 'none of your fuckin' business' " before stiff-arming you into the Twilight Zone.
Seriously, he's good.
I think I'm going to regret this tomorrow. Anyway. There you have it. Numbers and such. Digest and opine.