Happy Friday, all. I meant to post this Thursday, but I've been traveling down for my first weekend in Oxford this season and that kind of got in the way. Sorry I'm not sorry.
In any event, I got with Ryan Higgins over at our SB Nation Razorback blog, Arkansas Fight, for a little question and answer session. Give it a read, and make sure to check out our answers to their questions, as well. I'll post a link when they get their post up and running.
Catfish Powe-boy: Two seasons ago, the Razorbacks were a top-10 team on the back of an exciting, pass-happy spread offense. Now you're using a grinding power run game. How is Bret Bielema's offensive scheme being perceived around the state? How much patience will a fan base that ran Houston Nutt out of town, at least in part, for his reliance on running have with this brand of football?
Ryan: The style is irrelevant as long as you are winning. With Arkansas losing, people are pretty impatient. Everyone sees this all over the country when a new coach is hired. The new guy is usually the exact opposite of the previous. Petrino was the opposite of Nutt and now Bielema is the opposite of Petrino. There are definitely some similarities between Bielema and Nutt's style. Nutt did some things off the field that added to the division of the state and hopefully Bielema can stay away from that.
Powe-boy: Speaking of Bielema, his very public spat with Auburn's Gus Malzahn came to a head last week. Malzahn, of course, coached high school ball in Northwest Arkansas for years, served as a coordinator for the Razorbacks under Nutt and spent last season heading up Arkansas State in Jonesboro. With the start Malzahn has gotten off to at Auburn, are Arkansas fans kicking themselves for letting him slip out of the state?
Ryan: To some degree, yes, but Malzahn knows he made the right decision for him. I'm not sure Bear Bryant could go 6-6 with this Arkansas team. Arkansas was a rebuilding project no matter who took over the head coaching job. Petrino recruited based on his own evaluation of guys that would fit his system and didn't care what rankings the recruiting class received. Thus, Arkansas is now a team full of two and three stars that were not recruited to play in this system.
Powe-boy: Stopping the run has been the biggest weakness of the Rebel defense, which is allowing 5.1 yards per carry in SEC play. How worried should we be about running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams? How is each guy used and what should we expect to see from each on Saturday?
Ryan: If Ole Miss puts eight in the box, plays man-to-man on the receivers and makes sure tight end Hunter Henry is covered, they will have no problem. Sure, Arkansas may still run for 200 yards, but Ole Miss won't give up a big play to give Arkansas any momentum. Arkansas has had an uncanny ability to shoot themselves in the foot anytime they gain momentum. Arkansas has a fumble problem like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has a smoking crack problem. With 16 total fumbles and nine of them being recovered by the other team, Ole Miss should just go for the strip if Arkansas ever gets any momentum. Williams is a little bigger than Collins and is more developed as a runner. Williams has speed, proof in a 75-yard touchdown run, but he's more patient waiting for blocks where Collins just hits the hole as fast as he can. Both are a homerun threat.
Powe-boy: The Razorback defense is allowing an SEC-worst 42.8 points per conference game and got destroyed by Auburn's run-heavy spread last week. Do they have any hopes at slowing down a relatively similar attack this weekend? Which players will be the keys to stopping Bo Wallace and our HUNH?
Ryan: There really isn't anyone. Arkansas has a good defensive line, but they have given up 179 yards a game on the ground. Arkansas has been destroyed by the run because of the undersized linebacker core. The Auburn game showed no sign of it getting any better. Just to give you a name, Arkansas finally started true freshman Brooks Ellis at middle linebacker and he was very productive. Hog fans are excited to have him on the field, because not only is he a Fayetteville native, he shows there is hope for the future. He's 6'2'' and 230 pounds, so he's a little undersized for middle linebacker, but he's just a freshman who will get bigger.
Powe-boy: A drunken and disgruntled Bielema stumbles into a Fayetteville Sonic at 2 a.m. following a tough loss. What's his order? Does an individual Sonic keep enough frozen footlong hotdogs in stock to assuage that level of hunger and discontent?
Ryan: I think Coach Bielema is more of a Catfish Hole kind of guy. I could see him having a couple of margaritas at Theo's and then have some poor operations intern drive him to Catfish Hole. He sneaks in the back door and cleans out the restaurant of day old hush puppies and coleslaw.
[EDIT: If you ever find yourself in Fayetteville, Ark., go to Catfish Hole. Do it. Thank me later.]
Powe-boy: What happens on Saturday? Give us a score prediction and explain why it turns out that way.
Ryan: Arkansas is 2-7 against the spread this year. Their two covers were Louisiana-Lafayette to open the season and, somehow, Texas A&M at home. Ole Miss has Troy after Arkansas so this isn't a trap game and Ole Miss is coming off a bye week. There is literally nothing to tell me that Ole Miss won't cover the -16 this weekend. I'll go 41-17 and Mississippi gets bowl eligible.