Know Your opponent: Arkansas

Bob Holt is a veteran reporter who covers the Arkansas Razorbacks for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He shares some insight on the game between Ole Miss and Arkansas by answering a few questions from The Ole Miss Spirit.

* Spirit: How has the week been since Arkansas beat LSU 17-0 for its first SEC win in 17 games?

* Holt: Practices are closed but in talking to the coaches and players, they feel they’ve done a good job putting the win behind them and moving on to Ole Miss. One thing they’ve stressed is that they’ve had these agonizing losses throughout the year, like a one-point loss to Alabama and a fourth-quarter lead against Texas A&M and lost in overtime. People have kind of marveled at how they’ve gotten over those losses and been able to play well again the next week. So their point, and I think it’s a valid one, is that if they can put those tough losses behind them, they can put a big win behind them.

* Spirit: Shutting out LSU was impressive. How has the Hogs’ defense progressed and played?

* Holt: The defense has had a great year. They're up to No. 22 in total defense. Last year they were at No. 75. (First-year) defensive coordinator Robb Smith has come in and done a fantastic job. The players and the other assistants have, too. Like a lot of teams, they stop the run first. The key against LSU was they really keyed in on stopping the run and tried to make LSU beat them through the air. They had four sacks in the game. Arkansas did a good job of containment and played a really sound overall game. They are disciplined, and they are a much better tackling team than last year. They don’t miss many tackles and they swarm to the ball. And there’s talent there.

* Spirit: Offensively it appears Bret Bielema has a team on that side of the ball that is playing like he wants them to.

* Holt: They’re on route to having two different thousand yard rushers in Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins. That’s a nice one-two punch at running back. The offensive line is massive. According to Arkansas’ game notes, they’re the biggest offensive line in the country, bigger than some of the NFL teams. It’s a big, physical offensive line. They played two freshmen last year in (6-10, 326) Dan Skipper and (6-5, 337) Denver Kirkland, two national type recruits. They put those guys in at guards and they’ve started every game since the SEC opener last year. They’ve got some other veterans, and they’ve developed line depth they didn’t have previously. That helps their play-action passing, and that’s their game. They’re really not a big drop-back, throw it around team like they were under Bobby Petrino. And they really don’t have those kind of receivers. Brandon Allen is a pretty good SEC quarterback. I’m not saying he’s Cam Newton or somebody like that. But he’s a solid quarterback and he’s come a long way since last year. This is a much more Bret Bielema type team with the power running game.

* Spirit: What kind of factor should the weather have since it apparently could rain a lot on Saturday?

* Holt: It’s artificial turf, so no matter how much it rains, there won’t be mud. And it drains pretty well. (Arkansas) has played in the elements before. If it’s pouring rain, that would affect ball security for both teams. Hopefully it won’t be a downpour. I don’t think it will alter a gameplan entirely, but we’ll see how severe it might get. They played in extreme cold last week. It was 33 at kickoff. Very cold but it was dry. They practiced in the cold. They played at Auburn and that game was delayed by lightning. They came back out and it was just pouring rain. (Auburn won 45-21 in the season opener on Aug. 30). So they have had some experience playing in bad weather this year.

* Spirit: Arkansas has five wins. How important would a bowl game be for the Razorbacks if they can get another win this season?

* Holt: Arkansas went to the Cotton Bowl in 2011 and beat Kansas State to cap a great year at 11-2. Then things unraveled. They want to play in a bowl. The coaches want those extra practices. In the SEC West the last two years, Arkansas is the only team that hasn’t been to a bowl. So in 2012 and 2013 they didn’t get those 30 extra practices like the division rivals did. So it’s important for them to get to a bowl for a lot of reasons. They’ve been through a whole lot. They really want to go to a bowl for the seniors. They’d like to win both these last two games, Ole Miss and at Missouri. But they definitely want to win one of them to get to a bowl and get some reward out of it. They’ve talked about it, and they’re not shying away from it.


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