Arkansas' Southeastern Conference Western Division hopes have been blown apart because of the 0-3 start. Running back Darren McFadden's Heisman Trophy hopes have suffered a near-fatal blow because of the losses. So when Arkansas opens what Houston Nutt described as its "new season" at Ole Miss today, what are the Razorbacks playing for? Maybe their coach's job?

Whatever the rallying cry, Arkansas (3-3, 0-3 in SEC) will play another pivotal game against the Rebels (2-5, 0-4) in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Pick up a win and gain a glimmer of hope for the second half. Lose again and the Razorbacks will find themselves all alone in the basement of the SEC standings. Not only that, they'll also fall in serious danger of missing out on bowl eligibility for the third time in four seasons. Does that catch their attention?


It's hard to blame Arkansas' defense for the latest shortcomings, but for the third time the Razorbacks botched a lead in the fourth quarter of a Southeastern Conference game. A bad kickoff gave Auburn good field position. The Tigers got their biggest play -- a 30-yard completion -- to move into field goal range. Then Auburn got the game winning kick and a 9-7 win.

The late-game problems have been a source of frustration for defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, whose group turned in its best performance of the season despite the final drive last week. He'll be urging his defense to dig deep, force a turnover or come up with the stop if in a similar situation today.


McFadden is a defense's first priority and should be because of his unique blend of power, speed and athleticism. But while the junior was being bottled up by Auburn's defense last week one thought was growing obvious: Where in the world is backup running back Felix Jones?

The explosive junior carried the ball only six times for 42 yards against the Tigers. He caught only two passes. Jones has happily taken a backseat to McFadden throughout his career, but deserves more of the load at Ole Miss.

Jones is averaging 10.2 yards a carry and has turned in some of the Razorbacks' biggest plays. He's healthy too. Arkansas needs to use him today.


The Ole Miss passing offense has been one of the SEC's biggest surprises this season with former walk-on quarterback Seth Adams and a receiving corps viewed as one of the league's worst in the preseason.

But Adams has thrown the deep ball with incredible efficiency this season. His primary target on the deep passes is junior receiver Mike Wallace, who leads the team in receiving yards (597), yards a catch (23) and touchdowns (5). His five scores have come from 77, 68, 54, 45 and 36 yards.

Arkansas' secondary had a problem with the deep ball against Kentucky, but eliminated the big play against Auburn. The pressure will be on cornerbacks Matterral Richardson and Michael Grant as well as free safety Kevin Woods.


Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick's performance is viewed as a key to the game every week. For good reason. McFadden and Jones get all the attention, but junior holds the Razorbacks offensive hopes in his hands.

Dick hasn't been awful this season. He is averaging 141.2 passing yards a game. He has thrown eight touchdown passes and five interceptions. But he hasn't consistently made the big pass or the key play when Arkansas needs it.

The Razorbacks want that to change after Dick's 13-yard touchdown toss to receiver Lucas Miller late last week. The well-thrown ball gave Arkansas a 7-6 lead. The Hogs are hoping it will give Dick some confidence too.


OK. We get it. Nutt said the Razorbacks intend to open up the playbook this week. But in no way does it mean the 10th-year coach will ditch his rushing attack, put his team in the spread and start flinging the ball around the field. That's not going to happen.

But Arkansas much keep Ole Miss defensive coordinator John Thompson guessing if it has any hopes of winning. A one-dimensional offense was easy for Auburn to figure out last week. The Rebels will, too, if things don't change.

Test the water with a deep ball. Try a new trick play. Get Ole Miss on its heels.


Ole Miss thinks it was robbed. Plain and simple. There's no other way to describe the mood around Oxford after receiver Shay Hodge's last-minute catch was overturned by replay officials at the end of the 27-24 loss to Alabama. Not only did it take away Ole Miss' chance to force overtime or win in the closing seconds, it also snatched away another chance to win an SEC game.

The Rebels are 3-17 in conference games under coach Ed Orgeron and winless so far this season. The three victories came against Kentucky (2005), Vanderbilt and Mississippi State (2006), teams that finished below .500, in those respective seasons. So in other words, Ole Miss continues to wait for that first "big win" in Orgeron's three-year tenure. They don't want to wait any longer and consider Arkansas as the perfect opponent to get over the hump.


The Achilles' heel for Ole Miss under Orgeron has been its inability to make a big play in key moments. Last season, the Rebels lost four games -- to Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Alabama -- by a combined 17 points.

Their motto in 2007 has been the word, "finish" because of last year's shortcomings late in the game. But it hasn't helped them snap out of the funk so far. The Rebels trailed Florida 27-24 entering the fourth quarter. They held a late lead against Alabama last week. They even pulled ahead of Georgia in the second half before being rolled by the Bulldogs' ground game.

Sooner or later someone has to make that game-deciding play in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss hopes it is this week against Arkansas.


Orgeron has spent his career tutoring defensive linemen. So it's no surprise he intends to build his program around its play in the trenches.

His defensive line turned in one of its best performances under Orgeron in its 27-24 loss to Alabama. One player in particular -- defensive end Greg Hardy -- led the charge. Hardy was all over the field, collecting a career-high 13 tackles, 4 1/2 for losses. He also had three sacks, two forced fumbles and a pass deflection en route to SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors.

Hardy leads the SEC in sacks (8) and tackles for losses (16). Hardy and the Ole Miss defensive line need another solid performance against the Hogs.


Adams has done a remarkable job as Ole Miss' starter, entering today's game completing 58.4 percent of his passes for 1,641 yards and 12 touchdowns. But if there's one knock on the senior's performance, it has to be the turnovers he has accumulated the past two weeks.

Adams has thrown three interceptions in each of the past two games against Louisiana Tech and Alabama. He leads all SEC starting quarterbacks in interceptions with 10 in seven games. Again, the mistakes haven't overshadowed his unexpected impact on the Ole Miss offense, but if Adams can avoid tossing any costly picks the Rebels upset hopes will grow tremendously.


Ole Miss' hopes of upsetting Arkansas in Fayetteville last season ended on the opening kickoff, when Jones raced 100 yards for a touchdown in the 38-3 win. The Rebels haven't forgotten how dangerous Jones and McFadden are and plan to limit their touches. But it has been a sore spot. Ole Miss is last in the SEC in kickoff coverage.

Ole Miss also expects to make an impact on special teams in another area. Cornerback Dustin Mouzon blocked a punt in the second half against Alabama and the Rebels are looking for more against Arkansas. Ole Miss has blocked two punts this season and returned one for a touchdown.


Most of the talk has been centered around Ole Miss' ability to slow McFadden and Jones, but the Rebels have one of the SEC's best running backs.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis has struggled at times, but has rushed for 701 yards and two touchdowns in seven games. He is fourth in the SEC in rushing yards a game (100.1) and is on pace to become just the second running back in school history to have consecutive, 1,000-yard seasons.

Green-Ellis doesn't have the breakaway speed to reel of 70-yard touchdown runs, but is tough and physical. His specialty is turning one-yard gains into four yards. The Rebels will count on him to turn in another big game today.

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