Hogs Vs. Ole Miss

ON THE GROUND
ADVANTAGE: ARKANSAS

Arkansas' ground game struggled in losses to Florida, Auburn and Georgia, but bounced back with a 247-yard effort last week. Quarterback Matt Jones ran for a season-high 111 yards and has a team-high 499 this season.

Tailback De'Arrius Howard didn't record a carry against the Bulldogs, but ran hard against the Gamecocks (21 carries, 91 yards, 1 TD). Howard is third in rushing (346 yards). DeCori Birmingham is second (361) despite struggling the past four games.

Tailback Alan Abrams (44-212) started against Auburn in place of leading rusher Vashon Pearson (126-629-3 TDs), who missed the first quarter for disciplinary reasons. Pearson missed practice last week because of a death in the family and Abrams should earn his second start today. Brandon Jacobs (42-111-5) and Jamal Pittman, who ran for 30 yards on 4 carries against Auburn, also will contribute.

Quarterbacks Robert Lane (21-75-1) and Michael Spurlock (27-59) are quick and athletic outside the pocket.

THROUGH THE AIR
ADVANTAGE: ARKANSAS

Marcus Monk caught a team-high 7 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown at South Carolina to continue a stellar season. Monk has 28 catches, 442 yards and 6 scores. Steven Harris (21-464-2) has two catches in the past two games.

Jones is third in the SEC in passing (199.8), second in total offense (262.1) and sixth in passing efficiency (136.7 rating). But Jones threw two costly interceptions last week and has nine this season, which is a career-high.

Ole Miss has played three quarterbacks the past three games, but sophomore Ethan Flatt is the best passer and has thrown for 1,299 yards and 6 touchdowns. All three have combined for 1,709 passing yards, 6 scores and 8 interceptions.

Senior Bill Flowers (21-260-2) missed two games with a bruised kidney, but needs one catch to move into second on the school's career list. Flowers has a catch in 18 straight games. Junior Mario Hill leads the team in receptions (33) and yards (400). Mike Espy, Kerry Johnson and Taye Biddle are experienced options.

IN THE TRENCHES
ADVANTAGE: OLE MISS

Four of Ole Miss' five starters have battled nagging injuries, but the experienced group should be intact today. Left guard Doug Buckles was hospitalized with a staph infection in his elbow last week, but returned to practice Monday. Ole Miss has surrendered 11 sacks the past two games (Tennessee and Auburn) and 15 this year.

Junior McKinley Boykin leads Ole Miss' defensive line with 28 tackles, 8 for losses and 2 sacks. Linebackers Charles Clark (52 tackles) and Rob Robertson (49) are first and second, respectively in tackles along with big-hitting safety Eric Oliver (49).

Arkansas used its fourth offensive line combination against South Carolina. Interior linemen Gene Perry, Kyle Roper and Stephen Parker have started all eight games. Robert Felton will start his third straight game and second at right tackle.

Jeb Huckeba was limited with a broken right hand last week, but felt more comfortable with a club protecting his hand during practice. Defensive tackle Arrion Dixon recorded a team-high 7 tackles and 3 for losses against South Carolina.

SPECIAL TEAMS
ADVANTAGE: OLE MISS

Ole Miss place-kicker Jonathan Nichols made four field goals during the Rebels' 19-7 win against Arkansas in 2003. Nichols has made 14 of 20 field goals and 16 of 16 extra points. The senior was 4 of 6 during the 26-23, overtime win at Vanderbilt.

Espy is a dangerous specialist who leads the SEC in kickoff returns (20.6 yards) and is eighth in punt returns (5.7). Senior Cody Ridgeway is fourth in punting, averaging 42.2 yards an attempt.

Birmingham broke Derek Holloway's school record for kick return yards (1,211) last Saturday and also holds the school record for total return yards. Receiver Cedric Washington is third in the SEC, averaging 18.5 yards on kickoff returns.

Chris Balseiro's 32-yard field goal last week was his first since the Sept. 11 Texas game. The junior has made 3 of 5 field goals and 30 of 31 extra points. Freshman Jeremy Davis averaged 43 yards on 3 punts last week and 39.6 this season.

INTANGIBLES
ADVANTAGE: ARKANSAS

Arkansas returns to Razorback Stadium after playing three of its past four games on the road. The Hogs are 2-2 in Fayetteville, but the losses were tight games against Top 10 teams Texas (22-20) and Georgia (20-14).

The Razorbacks plan to feed on the home crowd and energy surrounding Senior Day, as veterans like Huckeba, Jones and Birmingham play their final game in Fayetteville. Arkansas is 12-3 in November the past three seasons. The losses have come on the road at LSU (2001, 2003) and South Carolina (last Saturday).

Ole Miss has played one game the past three weeks, sandwiching its 35-14 loss to Auburn between bye weeks. The Rebels healed up during their second bye week, got more practice time for its struggling offense and believe they're better prepared for the Razorbacks.

But Ole Miss has lost four of its past five games in Fayetteville, including the 48-28 loss in 2002. Arkansas has won those games by an average of 21 points.

OVERALL
ARKANSAS 30, OLE MISS 24

Arkansas and Ole Miss have lost five games apiece so today's game amounts to a playoff for both as they fight to keep consecutive bowl streaks intact. The winner of today's SEC Western Division clash will continue to have plenty to play for, while the loser has nothing but a long offseason to look forward to.

Arkansas' defense must come up with big plays and key stops if the Razorbacks have any hope of knocking off the Rebels. The Hogs also must avoid untimely and critical turnovers that plagued them in the second half at South Carolina if they intend to crawl out of the SEC West cellar.

The Razorbacks haven't won a game in 49 days, a streak that has included four consecutive losses and two bye weeks. Ole Miss hasn't won in 28 days after two losses and two bye weeks. Arkansas historically has been at its best with its back against the wall and have a big challenge in front of them. The home crowd and Senior Day festivities should help the Hogs push past the Rebels.

THE KEY MATCHUP
RB De'Arrius Howard (6-foot, 228 pounds • junior) vs. FS Eric Oliver (6-foot-2, 215 pounds • senior)

Howard didn't record a carry against Georgia, but led Arkansas tailbacks with 91 yards on 21 carries against South Carolina. The junior scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter and will be counted on for tough yards today.

The dependable Oliver led the Rebels in tackles the past two seasons and is second on the team this season (49). The senior is the SEC's active career tackle leader (307) and the focal point of a defense intent on slowing Howard and the Hogs.

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