Once again, the lights are down low, the mood is just right, and we've got the film ready to go. When we entered this hallowed ground earlier in the season, Chad Kelly was busy taking notes on one of the ways he could attack Alabama's defense. While I'm sure he appreciated that information, Chad is also pretty good at doing his own thing.
This week's opponent, Arkansas, doesn't present quite as many defensive challenges as Alabama, but it's a defense that shut out Ole Miss last season, and created six (SIX) turnovers. However, thanks to losses to the NFL and graduation, the 2015 version of the Arkansas defense is not as good as last year's version, but they have a pretty good idea of what works against Ole Miss.
The good news for Ole Miss heading into Saturday's game is that Laquon Treadwell will be on the field, and the Rebels are not less than two weeks removed from possibly the most emotionally devastating loss in the history of the program. Surely those two things will help, right? RIGHT?
(ENGAGE NERVOUS SWEATS)
So let's turn on the film and see what Arkansas did last year that gave Ole Miss so much trouble (video available here).
On the first play of the game, you can see that Arkansas is in man coverage across the board, with a two-high safety look. We can see what the secondary is intending to do, but what's the plan for the linebackers?
As soon as the ball is snapped, they turn and look for any tight end releasing or running back coming out of the backfield. Arkansas' plan here is to rush four and drop seven, a theme they would repeat for the next 59:56 of game time.
So how does this bother Ole Miss? With the deep safeties taking away long throws, Ole Miss' receivers (minus Treadwell) have to win one-on-one matchups or else Dr. Bo is forced to put a pass in a very small window, throw it away (LOL), or run.
Here's how it played out.
No wide receiver wins his matchup and Dr. Bo, who actually escapes the pocket, takes off, but a safety quickly closes down the space and keeps the scramble under five yards.
As noted just a few sentences ago, that rush four, drop seven look would be Arkansas preferred choice for most of the game, but they did give Ole Miss a few different looks, such as this one.
As you'll see in the next screenshot, the Arkansas doesn't do anything spectacular on this play, but the look they show is important. Since it's 3rd and 5, there's the threat of a run, which Arkansas counters by putting its defensive ends wide and relying on its defensive tackles to not be pushed out of the way by Ole Miss' interior offensive line. The strategy Arkansas uses here has continued to give Ole Miss problems even in this season.
You would not be shocked to learn that two linemen pulling when they aren't supposed to does not lead to positive yards.
Here's another method Arkansas used to hold Ole Miss to 63 yards rushing on 33 attempts.
On yet another down where the run threat is there, one of the linebackers will essentially become a wide defensive end in an effort to force Dr. Bo or Jaylen Walton to run inside, with a safety arriving for run support.
All signs point to yet another Ole Miss rushing attempt for less than a yard. But, in an incredible display of "this can only happen to Ole Miss", watch what happens.
A safety overrunning the play is good, right? Normally, yes. But by overrunning the play, he gave Dr. Bo a running lane, where he would get hit about five yards from here and fumble, which led to Arkansas' next touchdown.
In review, the Arkansas safety does something bad, Ole Miss counters by doing something worse, and Arkansas' lead became 14-0. Ahem, "THIS CAN ONLY HAPPEN TO OLE MISS."
But enough about the run game because we all know SWAG is gonna be slinging that thing all over the place on Saturday. Let's look at two more passing situations and wrap this thing up.
It wasn't all man-to-man for Arkansas last year. They did break out a pretty powerful zone look, if you ask me.
Did Dr. Bo check it down? No, he did not (however, the pass was only incomplete!).
And finally (HUZZAH), here's a really good look at how Arkansas took away deep throws and challenged Ole Miss to beat them underneath.
So what lessons did we learn from an evening at Club SWAG? Arkansas very much believes in the rush four, drop seven approach, which can have success if Ole Miss isn't able to protect or carry over the success of the running game against Texas A&M and Auburn.
Ole Miss has to feel better about the wide receiver/defensive back matchups than they did last year, especially given the pass defense numbers for Arkansas in 2015, but odds are Chad Kelly will have to make throws into relatively tight spaces and must be satisfied with checking it down because of the deep safeties Arkansas loves to use.