A week after going toe-to-toe with Alabama for 45 minutes or so with the Alabama Crimson Tide. The offense was humming and had Nick Saban and Pete Golding on their heels all night. Matt Corral and Co. put on an absolute clinic, but the defense couldn’t do enough to slow down Mac Jones, Najee Harris, and the rest of the Tide offense and Saban’s bunch eventually pulled away.
But, 4.9 million people tuned in and I think it’s safe to say they know what they saw. Lane Kiffin and the Rebels (1-2) aren’t going to be shoved around like years past. They’re going to be an absolute headache to prepare for offensively and are going to stress you from the opening kick to the final whistle.
Now, the good guys take their high-flying act to Northwest Arkansas for a huge game against a Razorbacks team (1-2) that, despite the under-.500 record, are vastly improved under first-year coach Sam Pittman. New offensive coordinator Kendal Briles has former Florida Gator Feleipe Franks improving and former Missouri head man Barry Odom has the Hogs refusing to yield again on the other side of the ball.
Something has to give though.
Both staffs are quite familiar with each other, but this game is going to be decided under center. The Rebels offense might only be ranked 26th per Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings, but Corral is on a record pace right now, exposing folks across the middle with his pals Elijah Moore and Kenny Yeboah. The two are mismatch nightmares and are doing whatever they want right now. If DJ Durkin and the Rebels’ 65th-ranked defense can get a few stops, things could be sitting pretty for Kiffin and the fellas on their way back to Oxford on Sunday.
Arkansas’ offense is nowhere near as explosive as the Gators or Tide so the opportunity is there for Ole Miss to embrace chaos and come out of the blocks, begging for a track meet. Briles will be hoping that running back Rakeem Boyd can give them something resembling a balanced attack. The Houston, Tex. native has been banged up through the first three weeks but seems like he’s going to give it a go.
Franks seems to have settled in to Briles’ attack, but again, he won’t be anywhere close to what Jones and Kyle Trask put the Rebels’ defense through.
The key for the Rebs on Saturday is going to be doing what they do best offensively and creating some havoc plays defensively. Starting linebacker Jacquez Jones is back from concussion protocol and Durkin and co-defensive coordinator Chris Partridge have to think that he will provide a lift in stopping Boyd and Franks’ aerial attack.
I wouldn’t call this game a must-win since it’s a COVID-abbreviated season that we’re frankly lucky to have. But, you know Kiffin and the Rebels want this one badly. They have a ton of momentum on the recruiting trail and a win would go a helluva long way in maintaining that and keeping this team on schedule through four weeks of the season.
Stand clear of the closing doors, please, and get ready. This one is going to be fun.
Hell, they’re all going to be fun, y’all.
Line: Ole Miss -4
How to watch
Where: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.
When: 2:30pm CDT
TV: SEC Network
Online streaming: WatchESPN