The Arkansas Razorbacks got their teeth kicked in by the Georgia Bulldogs. Arkansas had notched highly meaningful victories over former Southwest Conference rivals Texas and Texas A&M in September.
By Matt Zemek
When the calendar turned to October, the Hogs ran up against a steamroller they could not handle. Georgia and Alabama are both playing like the big dogs in the SEC. Arkansas realized it isn’t in Georgia’s league. There’s no shame in that. What matters now is trying to win second place in the SEC West behind Alabama. If Arkansas can do that, it will very likely get a New Year’s Six bowl bid, which would be a tremendous reward for all the improvements the Razorbacks have made under Sam Pittman. Beating Ole Miss is therefore central to that goal of being the top non-Alabama finisher in the West. Let’s see what the Razorbacks need to do to get this job done.
1 – Learn from the master
Georgia and Kirby Smart love to play physical football. The “manball” style might have its limitations against Alabama, which has smartly learned how to implement a spread passing offense and get its receivers the ball in open space, but against most teams, Kirby Smart’s style works. Yes, this is mostly the product of recruiting beasts and bad dudes on the trail. Arkansas doesn’t have the same caliber of recruit Georgia does. However, Sam Pittman worked under Kirby Smart, and he now has a close-up story to tell to his players about how they can grow and improve. He can show Georgia film and illustrate to his players the necessity of being the tougher, stronger team. This idea has already been communicated to Arkansas players; it’s why the Hogs have made such forward strides in recent years. Now, though, the Hogs have realized what it takes to make that next step from “good team” to “great team.” Beating Ole Miss is part of that journey for Arkansas. Being able to apply the lessons of the Georgia game to this upcoming clash with Ole Miss could prove to be a defining moment of the Hogs’ season.
Ole Miss got punched in the mouth by Alabama and couldn’t respond. If Arkansas can play with force and controlled fury in the first half, it can establish the tempo and style it wants for this game.
2 – Positive plays
Arkansas won’t win a shootout against Ole Miss. It needs ball-control drives to keep the Rebels’ offense off the field. Starting possessions and series of downs with positive plays is the formula Arkansas needs. The Razorbacks can’t win this game if they face a lot of third and 8 situations. They need to encounter third and 2s and third and 1s. They need five to seven yards on first down so that they can shape drives the way they want to.
3 – Corral Matt Corral
Alabama corralled Matt Corral, who went from being a Heisman contender to being a Heisman non-factor. Corral will study Alabama film and look at all the things he did wrong last week. He will be motivated to play well. Arkansas needs to be ready for a bounce-back game from Corral. The Hogs need to do everything in their power to prevent that from happening.