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Per the Data: Why Ole Miss can beat Arkansas

In another new series, we dust off the TI-83 and dive into analytics.

Portland State v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Fans should be careful to make sweeping generalizations from one week of football. Yes, even an abysmal performance on offense in the Liberty Bowl. But against an FCS opponent in the season opener before a road SEC game? It’s a glorified scrimmage where the only goals are staying healthy and showing as few tricks as possible.

Nevertheless, we must press on and look at how the Hogs fared against a mediocre Big Sky opponent in Portland State.


Arkansas had just 5.13 yards per play against the Vikings. Of course, against an FCS team the point isn’t to put up 700 yards and show your entire playbook, but still, in the 77 plays the Razorbacks ran, they didn’t exactly impress. For comparison, Louisiana Tech gained 5.16 yards per play against Texas on the road.


The Hogs rushed for 4.86 yards per carry. Against an FCS front seven that has won just four games in the last two seasons, that’s a bad look. Not as bad as their passing numbers though.


Arkansas was breaking in a transfer QB. Ben Hicks was good as a three-year starter at SMU, but his first game in an SEC uniform won’t inspire much confidence. The Hogs gained 10.6 yards per completion, worse than San Jose State and UConn.


First week jitters are normal, and there really is not much correlation between penalties and wins or losses, but Arkansas still struggled with discipline against Portland State. In a close game, especially one on the road, a well-timed late hit or false start could prove costly.


Far be it from me to point out a stat that likely won’t matter on Saturday, but this is just terrible. Arkansas brought in a Colorado/Vanderbilt transfer to punt and he was so bad, Chad Morris pulled him for the last punt of the game. I’m not sure if it’s a kicking issue or a coverage issue, but averaging a 27.6 net punt is horrible. If the Ole Miss defense can force some three-and-outs, look for short fields for the offense.


Rakeem Boyd was a problem last year in Little Rock, and the Rebels should dread seeing him line up against them again this weekend. Boyd had 6.33 yards per carry and 136 total all-purpose yards. Tell me Boyd’s numbers for Saturday and I can tell you who wins the ballgame.


McTelvin Agim recorded two solo sacks and six total tackles against the Vikings. The 6’3, 300-pound senior is a brute force up the middle. After seeing the Rebel offensive line last week against Memphis, this should be cause for concern. Run blocking really wasn’t the main culprit, but without Scottie Phillips and Jerrion Ealy gaining some yards on the ground, the offense could again look lifeless.

Take these numbers for what they are worth—not much. It’s hard to extrapolate much from 60 minutes of football, whether it is against Alabama or Portland State, but after this week some identities should begin to take shape.