Mississippi and Arkansas have combined to produce some doozies their last few meetings.
Hold their beer. Or at least their hotty toddy.
The 16th-ranked Rebels (5-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) are set to host the Razorbacks on Saturday night, a week after a breathless 55-49 win over No. 23 LSU. It makes these teams’ last three matchups look a little less wild, which is saying something.
Last season’s game produced three 200-yard rushers. A 52-51 Ole Miss win ended with a failed two-point conversion two years ago. The Razorbacks had six interceptions, including a win-sealing pick-six, in 2020.
“I think it’s going to be one helluva game for fans to watch,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said.
The Pittman vs. Lane Kiffin matchups have certainly delivered to this point.
The Razorbacks (2-3 ,0-2) have lost three straight games. The Rebels rebounded strongly from a loss to No. 11 Alabama when their offense looked uncharacteristically pedestrian. Ole Miss, which had 706 yards against LSU, is favored over the struggling Razorbacks.
“When Arkansas plays Ole Miss, it doesn’t matter what they’ve done before,” Kiffin said, noting that the Razorbacks won last year’s meeting a couple weeks after losing to Liberty. “And then they come out with us and look like a top five team in the country.”
Five of the last eight games between Ole Miss and Arkansas have been decided by four or fewer points.
Arkansas got one of its best players back in the loss to Texas A&M. Running back Raheim Sanders returned from a knee injury sustained in the opener and had 11 carries for 34 yards. The SEC’s No. 2 rusher last season has just 76 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
“He’ll obviously be better this week than he was last game,” Pittman said. “I don’t think that was the old Rocket yet, but I think he certainly will get there.”
Like Arkansas, Ole Miss has a big playmaker back in the fold. Wide receiver Tre Harris returned full steam from a knee injury to tie a career-high with eight catches for 153 yards and a touchdown against LSU. He’s averaging 21.3 yards on 16 catches and six of them have been for scores. Tight end Caden Prieskorn is also back. He and Harris are both transfers.
The last two meetings have produced substantial offensive fireworks. Ole MIss won 52-51 in the Razorbacks’ last visit to Oxford, when Pittman’s decision to go for two points after a last-play touchdown didn’t work. Last season, Arkansas won 42-27 despite giving up 703 total yards and 200-yard rushing efforts to both Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans.
3 X 200 YARDS
The two teams combined for 798 yards on the ground last season. Sanders ran for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Judkins (214 yards) and Evans (207) became the first Ole Miss duo to rush for 200 yards in the same game.
Like Sanders, Judkins has battled injuries and hasn’t had quite the start many expected of him. But he’s coming off a huge game for the Rebels when he had 33 carries for 177 yards and two touchdowns against LSU.
“When I go on the field, I know the player I am, the best player in the country,” Judkins said. “I just proved it (last Saturday).”
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson has played well in two meetings with the Rebels. He has combined to complete 74% of his passes for 494 yards and six touchdowns against one interception. He has also run for 132 yards and three scores.
Kiffin was asked about the 6-foot-3, 247-pounder’s growth as a quarterback.
“Growth? I mean, he gets bigger every year,” Kiffin said. “This guy, he’s so hard to bring down and so challenging to play against. He always brings his A-game against us, also.”