Arkansas: The Matchups

It's Nutt vs. Petrino III in Fayetteville, Ark., this weekend. So far the former Razorback turned Rebel head coach is 2-0. Another battle is set for 11:21 a.m. Saturday.

Both teams are coming off losses on the road in the state of Alabama. Houston Nutt's Ole Miss Rebels fell at Alabama 23-10, while Bobby Petrino's Arkansas Razorbacks gave up 65 points in losing by 22 points – a 65-43 loss at Auburn.

Basically Arkansas scored 43 points – and still got blown out. Almost an indescribable scoring fest in Southeastern Conference lore. It won't soon be forgotten.

But Arkansas must forget. A hungry Ole Miss team, playing to get to a bowl, playing to keep its head coach's streak against his former school alive, playing for all that remains half a season through, is showing up for this one.

The Rebels are just 3-3 (1-2 SEC) and stumbled early. But lately they've looked more like a team that can go to Fayetteville and win again. Prior to Alabama and an open date before that, it was an Ole Miss team putting up points and leading the SEC in scoring – 55-38 against Fresno State and 42-35 vs. Kentucky.

Arkansas' stellar passing quarterback Ryan Mallett should be available to play. He suffered a concussion in the Auburn game and there was some question as to whether he would play this weekend. He practiced this week, and Nutt said he figures the Rebs will see the UA starter.

"We expect Mallett to play," Nutt said.

But even if he doesn't, the Hogs (4-2, 1-2) are in good hands. Backup Tyler Wilson relieved Mallett at Auburn and kept the Razorbacks in it until late.

"He was coached very well in high school," Nutt said of Wilson. "He came in (last Saturday) and showed a lot of confidence. He has a lot of weapons in those backs and receivers. They (offensive line) protected him and he was accurate."

Either way, the Rebels will have their hands full against the SEC's top passing team.

And then there is the Nutt factor. Arkansas would love nothing better than to get back on the winning side of things with its first win against Ole Miss since Nutt was the coach there and Ed Orgeron coached the Rebels.

"I think it's probably died down a little bit," said Nutt, who spent 10 seasons as the Razorbacks' head coach. "I'm sure there are a few people who naturally want to see that.

Houston Nutt

"But again, the thing about the SEC that I'm more concerned with, because our league is so tough, is so good, you'd better be focused on the task at hand. You'd better worry about that. You really don't have time to worry about, well, what do they think or what about the emotion and all that. I'm not really concerned about that. It's about getting these players ready to play."

Same goes for Petrino, according to what he has to say.

"We've got to go out and perform," Petrino said. "We've got to do the things we know how to do and play well together as a football team."

Ole Miss offense in brief: The Rebels were shut down for the first time all season as Alabama held them to 10 points. They had come into the game leading the SEC in scoring at nearly 38 points per contest. Jeremiah Masoli tried to make some positive things happen but struggled much of the night, running for his life at times. He was only 18 for 40, but some of the passes that were incomplete were drops that might have made a difference in the outcome. The Rebs will have a chance given their offense and the Hogs' apparent vulnerability on defense – as in 65 points last weekend.

Ole Miss defense in brief: This weekend the Rebs face the SEC's No. 1 passing offense. Next weekend when Auburn comes to Oxford, they will face the SEC's No. 1 rushing offense and Heisman candidate quarterback Cam Newton. Such is life in the country's best conference. The Rebel secondary will see balls flying their way all afternoon long with either Mallett or Wilson at the controls. Pressure from the guys up front on the Rebel defense is imperative for Ole Miss to have a chance to slow the Hogs'potent offense down.

Ole Miss wins if…the Rebels can indeed slow down the Arkansas offense. Ole Miss is capable of scoring, and could put up four, five, six touchdowns themselves. But this game rests on how well an Ole Miss defense that has been vulnerable to the passing attack of other teams performs. And also if Masoli doesn't have to do too much by himself.

Arkansas wins if…Mallett (or Wilson) is on and he moves their offense downfield as he is capable. The Hogs have playmakers and can run the football. The Rebels must score points (more than 10 like last week obviously) to have any chance. Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium is sold out, and the Arkansans want a win in the worst way – over Ole Miss and Nutt. They'll be focused, ready, and loud.

Arkansas offensive player to watch: Ryan Mallett. Need I say more? Maybe a bit. Through six games he's thrown 14 touchdown passes, thrown for more than 1,800 yards and completed 70 percent of his throws.

Arkansas defensive player to watch: Jerry Franklin, Arkansas' leading tackler the past two seasons and again so far this year. He has experience and poise and is arguably the Hogs' leader on his side of the ball. Through six games he has 47 tackles, 23 of them solos, six tackles for losses, two and a half sacks, and a pass breakup.

Noteworthy: Arkansas will honor former head coach and athletics director Frank Broyles before kickoff Saturday. Interesting timing. Perhaps Broyles' worst winning percentage against any team was the one his teams posted when they played Ole Miss. Six tries. Six defeats. Arkansas finally called off the series in 1961, and prior to a renewal of the series in 1981, the only time the two met after that was in two Sugar Bowls. Those six defeats for Broyles at the hands of the Rebels include those two Sugar Bowls that concluded the 1962 and 1969 seasons...Arkansas has played Ole Miss more games in football than any other team in the SEC.


OM Spirit Top Stories