The Opponents: Arkansas

Ole Miss-Arkansas is a rivalry again. The last two years have once again made this contest one that fans on both sides of the Mississippi River talk about.

That's because Houston Nutt moved from Fayetteville to Oxford. And when he did, the annual meeting between the Rebels and Razorbacks took on heightened meaning.

Ole Miss-Arkansas was once a fierce rivalry when the Hogs played in the Southwest Conference. Former head coach Frank Broyles stopped the series in 1961, and for the next 20 years the only times the teams played were in the 1963 and 1970 Sugar Bowls. As the Arkansas coach, Broyles was 0-6 against Ole Miss teams, all of them coached by John Vaught.

The rivalry was renewed in 1981 when Lou Holtz coached the Razorbacks and Steve Sloan led the Rebels. In 1992, the game became even more meaningful when the Hogs moved into the Southeastern Conference where Ole Miss had been since the league formed in 1933.

From the time the two became members of the same conference until Nutt left Arkansas for Ole Miss in Nov. 2007, the rivalry wasn't normally a headliner. Nutt changed all that when he changed addresses.

Bobby Petrino

In the two seasons since, Ole Miss and Nutt have gotten the best of the Razorbacks, 23-21 in Fayetteville in 2008 and 30-17 in Oxford in 2009.

This year the scene shifts to Fayetteville again as Bobby Petino, Nutt's successor with the Hogs, tries for the third time to claim a win over the Rebels. On Oct. 23, fans should be treated to yet another exciting saga in this long-running series between the flagship universities of Mississippi and Arkansas.

Pete Fiutak of, affiliated with, takes a closer look at the Razorbacks of 2010.

What to watch for on offense: The Pistol. The type of offense can mean a lot of things to a lot of teams, most famously at Nevada where Chris Ault's team set records for the ground game, but all it'll mean for Arkansas is that Ryan Mallett will line up a bit differently. The idea is to get the ball in the hands of the backs a bit quicker while allowing Mallett to survey the field a bit more and get the downfield passing game going more efficiently. It's a tweak, but it could make an already explosive attack even more dangerous.

What to watch for on defense: The secondary shuffle. The team's Achilles heel could be a secondary that's long on speed and experience but short on production. The Hogs have been ripped apart over the past few years and finished last in the SEC in pass defense and pass efficiency defense last season. The coaching staff is moving some of the key parts around with one of last year's starting corners, Rudell Crim, moving to strong safety while Darius Winston gets his chance to improve the playmaking in his place.

Rudell Crim

The team will be far better if... the special teams are rock solid. The difference between winning the SEC and being an also-ran can be a paper thin, and Arkansas has to be better and more effective on special teams to get though all the tight games. Only three games last year were decided by seven points or fewer, and they all came down to a field goal with a miss against LSU and two key misses against Florida proving costly. The defense isn't good enough for the punting game to be so miserable after averaging just 32.63 yards per try.

The schedule: If Arkansas wants to make some noise with Ryan Mallett and the high-powered offense, this is the year to do it. Going to Georgia isn't a plus in interdivisional play, but missing Florida helps and getting a home game against Vanderbilt is a layup. Against the West, the Hogs get Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU at home ... Merry Christmas. Yes, a road date at Auburn isn't going to be easy and Mississippi State is getting nastier, but Arkansas has to win two of the three big division home games. Facing Texas A&M in Dallas should be a blast with 1,000 yards of total offense, and the rest of the non-conference slate should be a breeze.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Ryan Mallett. He could've turned pro this year and rolled the dice on possibly being the No. 1 overall pick, but instead he chose to continue to hone his skills, return to a great situation, and up his profile and draft stock even more. The 6-7, 238-pound bomber started out his career at Michigan and showed great promise, but he left when the Rich Rodriguez era began and is now the perfect fit for the Bobby Petrino attack. While he threw 30 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions, he struggled with his consistency and his accuracy in the bigger games and on the road. If he can be the star against the Alabamas and LSUs of the world, the Hogs might win the West.

Jerry Franklin

Best defensive player: Junior LB Jerry Franklin. He was a nice redshirt freshman making 81 tackles with two picks and two fumble returns, and then he turned his game up a few notches with a team-leading 94 stops with three interceptions and an 85-yard fumble return for a score against Texas A&M. At 6-1 and 241 pounds he's big, quick, and very, very active. He's the playmaker who comes up with the stops needed on a shaky defensive front seven.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore CB Darius Winston. If the secondary can make the changes needed, with Rudell Crim moving to safety, Winston, Isaac Madison, and/or Andru Stewart have to make the pass defense stronger after yet another rocky year. Winston's emergence is a must with his tremendous skills and big-time upside.

The season will be a success if...the Hogs finish 10-2 and make a big push for the West title. There are only so many chances for the schedule, the franchise quarterback, and the experience to all come together for a huge season, and while it might be asking for way too much to win the West (Alabama is still Alabama), the Hogs need to come close.

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