No. 19 Mississippi hosts Arkansas in SEC West matchup
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze said he's prepared for an ''SEC fistfight'' when Arkansas comes to town on Saturday.
This time, he hopes the Rebels have the ability to counterpunch.
No. 19 Mississippi (7-2, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) hosts Arkansas (4-4, 2-2) one year after being embarrassed during a 30-0 loss to the Razorbacks in Fayetteville.
Ole Miss - which still controls its own fate in the Western Division race - has much more to play for than revenge, but both the players and coaches have acknowledged that last year's game is an ugly memory.
Quarterback Chad Kelly wasn't playing for the Rebels last year, but said he has no doubt the game provides motivation to his teammates.
''That was the old team, this is the new, but you've got to have a chip on your shoulder going into this game for sure,'' Kelly said.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Kelly's presence is one of the biggest differences between this year's Ole Miss team and last year.
Kelly leads the SEC with 2,856 yards passing and 20 touchdowns, but Bielema said it's Kelly's mobility in the pocket that makes him especially dangerous. Kelly has also run for four touchdowns.
''Not just designed runs, either, but he escapes and makes plays happen with his feet,'' Bielema said.
When Freeze and Bielema meet on the field, it's always a contrast in style. Freeze is a proponent of the spread offense while Bielema is much more traditional.
''We're going to play the way we want to play, and they're going to play the way they want to play, and we'll see where it's at after four quarters,'' Bielema said.
Some other things to watch when No. 19 Mississippi hosts Arkansas on Saturday:
CUTTING THE TURNOVERS: Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly has had a very successful first season after transferring from a junior college, throwing for 2,856 yards and 20 touchdowns so far this season. But one troubling issue is interceptions - Kelly has thrown seven over the past three games and is tied for the league-lead with 12 interceptions this season.
DEFENSE GETTING HEALTHY: Ole Miss has been a beat up football team during recent games and is now playing its 10th game in 10 weeks, but the Rebels are starting to get healthy. Linebacker C.J. Johnson returned two weeks ago from a knee injury, defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche came back to contribute during last week's win against Auburn. Now the Rebels hope safety Tony Conner can return against the Razorbacks after missing the past six games with a knee injury.
WATCH FOR TREADWELL: Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell is in the midst of the best stretch of his career. He's caught at least 100 yards and at least one touchdown in each of the past four games, which is a school record. His 61 catches for 870 yards this season lead the SEC.
CONSISTENT COLLINS: Arkansas running back Alex Collins is 40 yards away from reaching 1,000 yards rushing for the third straight season. The junior, the Razorbacks primary runner since Jonathan Williams' preseason foot injury, has 3,086 yards rushing in his career - passing former standouts Felix Jones and Cedric Cobbs last week for fourth on the school's career rushing list.
SACK WOES: A year after finishing 10th in the country in total defense, Arkansas has struggled to recapture its form this season. The Razorbacks have an SEC-worst seven sacks in eight games, and they are allowed more than a touchdown more per game (26.6 points per game) than a year ago. Tevin Beanum and Mitchell Loewen lead Arkansas with 1 1/2 sacks each.
AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt in Fayetteville, Arkansas, contributed to this story.
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