Little in college football is guaranteed, but there is something you can count on when Ole Miss and Arkansas play: It’s going to get weird.
It was weird in 1914 when Ole Miss won 13-7.
Arkansas charged Ole Miss with using an ineligible player and claimed victory for the Razorbacks.
The matter was never settled, and to this day the teams disagree on series records.
And that doesn’t even count wins vacated by NCAA sanctions that would come later.
Arkansas visits Ole Miss Saturday morning at 11; Mississippi State has an open date.
The weird seems to have amped up in recent years, and it’s almost always seemed to favor Arkansas.
There is the 2018 game in Little Rock where Ole Miss fell behind by 17 but rallied to win with a late long touchdown drive. Scottie Phillips scored the game-winner with 42 seconds left.
Aside from that Ole Miss success, the Rebels, emotionally flat after losing star receiver Laquon Treadwell to a horrible injury in 2014, lost 30-0 in cold, rainy Fayetteville a week later.
That was the first of four-straight losses to the Razorbacks after Ole Miss had won four of the previous six.
The next year, 2015, was the fourth-and-25 game, the wild lateral, a 53-52 overtime loss to the Razorbacks that would ultimately keep Ole Miss out of the SEC championship game in Atlanta.
Last year was weird in the sense that Matt Corral had six interceptions and a fumble.
We didn’t quite know what to expect from Corral when the 2020 season began, but by that fourth game of the COVID season it was clear that Corral was a big playmaker in Lane Kiffin’s offense.
Corral struggled against the base 3-2-6 and the drop-eight sets of Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom.
So great was the struggle that Kiffin took a liking for the 3-2-6 and installed it in the off-season with hopes of improving the Rebels’ tragic 2020 defense.
While the 3-2-6 confused Corral in much of last year’s game the question remains how successful the defense can be against a solid run game, and running quarterbacks like Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson only complicate matters.
The Rebels looked energized and much improved when they held Louisville to 155 rushing yards on opening night. Much of that game when Ole Miss was playing with a big lead and keeping the Cardinals in front of them.
The Rebels made Malik Cunningham look like Howard Cunningham.
They also had a year to prepare for that game.
Alabama was the next team with sho’ nuff backs, and the Tide rushed for 210 yards. Brian Robinson Jr. had a career day with 170-plus and four touchdowns.
Arkansas comes in averaging 223.8 yards a game, fifth in the SEC and No. 17 in the United States.
The Razorbacks rushed for only 75 yards last week, but that Georgia defense is pretty good. Maybe Kirby Smart should have been involved in Afghanistan exit planning.
What tilts this game to Ole Miss is the same thing that, in one important way, tilted last week’s Ole Miss-Alabama game to the Crimson Tide: Lane Kiffin is motivated.
Kiffin’s offense ran all over the Tide in Oxford in 2020. So good were the Rebels on defense you could almost overlook the fact that they gave up 63 points.
Everyone was impressed except Nick Saban, who was just mad, and after accusing Kiffin of stealing defensive signals settled down to just make sure it didn’t happen again.
And it didn’t.
Saban adjusted and was ready for Kiffin.
Kiffin will adjust and be ready for Odom.
Corral is playing against the 3-2-6 in practice when the Rebels go “good on good” as former Arkansas and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt used to say. It’s impossible to do the Houston Nutt voice in print, and that’s a shame.
One of the big take-aways from Corral’s game in Tuscaloosa is that he didn’t throw an interception.
That’s quite significant since he was pressured more than at any other time this season.
He absorbed that pressure and did what he could. He made good decisions, played within himself and didn’t force throws.
He’ll have games with more yards and touchdowns, but last week’s stat line validates Corral’s effort to show scouts what they want to see, and that’s a playmaker who can keep his head too.
Kiffin will be motivated for this game, and so will Corral.
Prediction: Ole Miss 28, Arkansas 23
The Beat Guys: Katz, Ole Miss; Krajisnik, Ole Miss.
Recipe of the Week
Sweet, Hot Pickles
The contents: 1 quart jar of Mt. Olive pickle slices/chips, 2 cups sugar, 6 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 teaspoon chili powder, Tabasco sauce.
The process: Combine ingredients in a big mixing bowl. Leave on the counter long enough for sugar to dissolve, stir occasionally. Shake in a Tabasco to meet your taste and heat tolerance.
Stefan 17-13, PA 15-15, Michael 14-16.
Stefan 4-4, PA 3-5, Michael 2-6
Maryland at Ohio State
Alford: Ohio State
Katz: Ohio State
Krajisnik: Ohio State
South Carolina at Tennessee
Oklahoma v. Texas (Dallas)
Georgia Tech at Duke
Alford: Georgia Tech
Katz: Georgia Tech
Krajisnik: Georgia Tech
Georgia at Auburn
Penn State at Iowa
LSU at Kentucky