Fayetteville, AR (SportsNetwork.com) - After snapping a 17-game SEC losing streak last week, the Arkansas Razorbacks will try to keep that momentum going on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the eighth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Ole Miss was once in the driver's seat in the SEC Western Division after a 7-0 start, which included a 23-17 victory over Alabama, but it dropped back after suffering back-to-back losses to LSU (10-7) and Auburn (35-31). The Rebels took their frustrations out on Presbyterian on Nov. 8 with a 48-0 win, and at 4-2 in the SEC, they are not eliminated from contention just yet. If the Rebels can win this game and the Nov. 29 matchup with Mississippi State, and Alabama loses to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, they would own the head-to-head tiebreaker over both teams and earn a berth to the SEC Championship Game.
"There's so much football left to be played," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "Regardless of what happens (with the other teams in the SEC West), I want to stay focused on the journey we're on, which to be sitting here ranked in the top 10 or so in the country. For being in year three, I couldn't be more pleased."
With close losses this season to Alabama (14-13), Texas A&M (35-28 in OT) and Mississippi State (17-10), it was clear that Arkansas was much better than its record showed, and it proved that last week by snapping its lengthy league losing streak with an outstanding home win over LSU, 17-0.
"I think the great thing about our guys is we've been through so much that nothing is going to really faze them," Arkansas coach Brett Bielema said. "There's nothing they haven't been through that they can learn from. We say it all the time: it's not what happens, it's how you react to what happens. We've had some bad things happen to us, but we kept reacting in the right way and eventually good things were going to happen."
Arkansas holds a 32-27 lead in the all-time series with Ole Miss, although the Rebels won last season's matchup in Oxford, 34-24.
Ole Miss has a dependable offense that scores 33.4 ppg and amasses 447.1 ypg, with the efforts spearheaded by its senior leader under center.
Bo Wallace may have fallen off as a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate with the Rebels' recent losses, but he's still in the midst of an outstanding season. He's completing 64 percent of his passes for 2,554 yards with 22 touchdowns to just eight interceptions and has been a factor with his legs as well with 233 yards and four more scores on the ground.
Although Laquon Treadwell (48 receptions, 632 yards, five TDs) has been lost for the season with a leg injury, the Rebels have no shortage of receiving talent to make up for it. Vince Sanders (37 receptions, 647 yards, six TDs) and Cody Core (32 receptions, 437 yards, five TDs) have been solid out wide, and Evan Engram (27 receptions, 410 yards, two TDs) is one of the best pass- catching tight ends in the conference.
Several rushers are involved in a ground game that picks up 174.4 ypg, including Jaylen Walton (398 yards, four TDs), Jordan Wilkins (311 yards, TD), I'Tavious Mathers (264 yards, three TDs) and Mark Dodson (235 yards, four TDs).
The main reason for Ole Miss' success this season has been the excellent play of its defense, which yields just 11.9 ppg and an FBS-low 11.9 ppg
The catalyst for a defense that has forced 27 turnovers is Senquez Golson, who's picked off nine passes while adding another seven pass breakups.
"(Golson) has had a phenomenal year," Freeze said. "He's made great plays for us...(He's) doing the little things right. It's really pleasing when you see a kid do that and have success on the field.
Other defensive standouts include Mike Hilton (54 tackles, three INTs), Tony Conner (54 tackles, 6.0 TFL, INT) and Marquis Haynes (6.5 sacks, three FF)
Arkansas' impressive offense (34.0 ppg, 432.8 ypg) is run through arguably the nation's most prolific running back duo.
Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins have nearly split the workload 50/50 with 155 and 150 carries, respectively, and the two have put up remarkably similar production. Williams has 932 yards and Collins 886 yards, and both have scored 11 touchdowns. The pair combined for only 3.0 yards per carry last week, but each found the end zone and their combined 34 carries help the Razorbacks control the clock.
Brandon Allen isn't asked to do much under center - he's completing just 58 percent of his passes for 190.5 ypg - but he has accounted for 17 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions.
The modest receiving corps is led by Keon Hatcher (34 receptions, 435 yards, three TDs) and Hunter Henry (30 receptions, 417 yards, two TDs).
Defensively, Arkansas has more than held its own by allowing only 22.2 ppg and 340.6 ypg.
Martrell Spaight (97 tackles) has nearly twice as many stops as any of his teammates to go with 6.5 TFL, a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Trey Flowers anchors the defensive line with 11.0 TFL and 3.0 sacks.