After knocking off Texas A&M 20-10 last Saturday, Arkansas will now be challenged with going between the hedges and playing Georgia on the road. If that was not tough enough, Georgia’s roster just became more stable with the return of tight end Darnell Washington, a huge target at 6’7”, 260 pounds.
Over in Tuscaloosa, it will be the return of Lane Kiffin to Bryant-Denny Stadium, but this time as the Head Coach of the Ole Miss Rebels. Can Coach Kiffin be the first former assistant coach to beat Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban after he became a head coach?
Along with Inside The Knights contributor Jason Hamby, here’s a closer look at this weekend’s two big matchups, with a podcast defining each game:
Arkansas at Georgia
Not many people will pick Arkansas to win this game. Outside the state of Arkansas, not many people picked the Razorbacks to defeat Texas A&M last weekend either.
With Arkansas Head Coach Sam Pittman and his Defensive Coordinator Barry Odom coming up with a great game plan on offense and defense last week, there’s a chance the upset could take place. Here are a few statistics and factors to consider:
**Arkansas allows just 28.3% of its opponent’s third downs to be converted, while counterpart Georgia allows just 28.1% from the same category. That’s good defense by both teams.
**Both teams possess talented defenses, but Georgia does hold a decided edge with rushing defense. The Bulldogs allow just 69.5 yards per game, while Arkansas proved to just be solid so far by allowing 123.0 yards per game.
**Arkansas signal caller KJ Jefferson is known as more of a runner than a passer, but he’s done well enough to lead the Razorbacks to victory by way of completing 46 of 78 passes for six touchdowns and two interceptions. When combined with his running ability -- 32 attempts for 230 yards and two touchdowns -- Jefferson is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the SEC.
**Georgia’s stable of running backs provides an incredible overall group, but will the Bulldogs lean on any one particular running back this weekend? At some point, one would believe that Head Coach Kirby Smart would want a true No. 1 running back. Then again, it might not matter with the level of talent that’s there one-through-five on the depth chart.
**Matchup to watch: Which Georgia cornerback(s) play man coverage versus Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks? He’s one of the best wide receivers in the SEC, and he’s a massive target at 6’3”, 225 pounds. For Arkansas to hold a chance, Burks needs to be a major factor against Georgia.
**Second matchup to consider: Defending the run is Georgia’s specialty, thanks in large part to nose guard Jordan Davis, all 6’6”, 360 pounds of him. It will be hard for Arkansas to run the football against Georgia’s front seven to begin with, but handling the best nose guard in the country will be the biggest priority. He’s quite disruptive, already registering 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss despite being constantly double teamed.
**Look for Arkansas to keep it close, but Georgia will be too much for the Razorbacks. Georgia gets it done at home.
Georgia 31 Arkansas 17
Ole Miss at Alabama
Being caught up in the coaching matchup will not be what Coach Kiffin and Coach Saban do. They will do battle, however, and there’s no question that each of them will have some special plays ready for the opponent, regardless of what they might say publicly.
The key here will be if Ole Miss can keep Alabama from being a two-dimensional offense. If the Crimson Tide consistently runs the football and then quarterback Bryce Young can consistently utilize play-action passing to his bevvy of wide receivers and tight ends, it’s going to be a long day for the Rebels and their defense.
**The Rebels allow 136.0 yards rushing per game, while Alabama averages 151.8 yards rushing per game. If Alabama approaches that 150-yard rushing mark, it’s likely to be a loss for the Rebels. They have to make Alabama one-dimensional on offense.
**From all of Alabama’s playmakers at wide receiver, Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams would be the showstopper. He’s averaging 24.9 yards per reception by way of catching 12 passes for 299 yards. That’s the player Ole Miss needs to find a way to defend with one defensive back so it can place another defender in the box to slow down Alabama’s running game. Tough task.
**When Ole Miss possesses the football, quarterback Matt Corral will be the player to watch. He’s a leading Heisman contender and for good reason. He’s thrown for nine touchdowns and rushed for another five touchdowns. He’s an electric talent.
**To combat Corral, Alabama will be sure to bring several different pressures and stunts. The bottom line though, outside linebacker and big-time pass rusher Will Anderson, Jr. needs to harass Corral, as do his teammates.
**Alabama will be attempting to defend several skill players that Ole Miss likes to get in space and let them be athletes. Running backs Jerrion Ealy and Henry Parrish, Jr. can make defenders miss inside the tackle box, but they can do as much if not more damage when running or catching the football on the perimeter.
Each player caught six passes so far this year, and look for Coach Kiffin to attempt to place each in one-on-one situations with Alabama’s linebackers.
**The difference in this game could be Alabama’s depth. Ole Miss does not provide quite the same level of reserve talent as its counterpart, and that’s a reason for so many picking Alabama to win and to win going away.
While this game will not be a blowout, look for Coach Saban to keep his winning streak against his former assistants intact.
Alabama 41 Ole Miss 38
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