FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — No. 22 Arkansas is scheduled to host No. 12 Ole Miss on Saturday night at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Neal McCready covers Ole Miss for RebelGrove.com of the Rivals network and joined the Borderline Erotic Podcast earlier this week to help us break down the game. What follows is an abridged version of that conversation.
Jason Kersey: Considering Arkansas has won two straight in this series, what is the vibe around the Ole Miss program this week?
Neal McCready: Two years ago, they went up to Fayetteville and got curb-stomped. They absolutely got it handed to them in every possible facet of the game. It was as humiliating a loss as I think the program has had since Hugh Freeze took over. Last year, it was a game that, quite frankly, depending on who you believe, it might have cost Ole Miss a chance at the Playoff. It certainly cost Ole Miss an SEC West title. It cost them probably an SEC title; I think Ole Miss would have been a significant favorite over Florida in the SEC title game in Atlanta had they met.
Kersey: How do you see these two teams matching up?
McCready: I love both quarterbacks. I think in a lot of ways, they’re really similar. They’re both tough kids with a lot of arm talent, a lot of leadership. I don’t know Austin Allen … but just watching him on television, it appears that he has a lot of charisma and that he is a kid that other kids rally around. … There’s always a lot of talk from people who don’t cover Chad Kelly about the stuff that happened at Clemson or the stuff that happened at the nightclub in Buffalo or the stuff that happened last Friday night at his brother’s high school game, but on the field, he is the unquestioned leader of that team. Kids like him. They respect him. He’s tough as nails. He’s got lots of arm talent like Allen does. From that perspective, I think it’s gonna be a great game.
Then I look at both teams, and defensively, at least what I see of Arkansas — and I don’t mean any disrespect because I’d say the exact same thing about Ole Miss — they have a hard time covering people underneath, out of the backfield. They appear to have that issue with defensive backs where the eyes get in the wrong place. Ole Miss has that as well. I think both quarterbacks are the type that can capitalize on those mistakes. I think there’s gonna be a lot of points. I really do.
Kersey: Ole Miss is ranked a lot higher than you’d expect a 3-2 team to be ranked. Do you think the Rebels are ranked in the right place?
McCready: Yeah, probably so. They certainly didn’t duck anybody. I think people go back and they look at that Florida State game, and hindsight is perfect, as we know, but I think you look back and think, man, if they hadn’t turned it over a couple times, that’s a different deal. And 12 days later, they play Alabama. To me, it was probably the antithesis of the Ole Miss-Alabama game a year ago in Tuscaloosa, where Alabama kinda gave the game away to Ole Miss. I’m in the minority here; I think Ole Miss kinda gave the game away to Alabama. And you give Alabama credit; they took it and they made plays when they had to make them. … But Ole Miss committed 4 turnovers and Alabama committed 1. … So I think people see that, they see what they did to Georgia, they see what they did to Memphis, and they see that this is a really good team that could have been a little bit better. If Ole Miss had played, say, Middle Tennessee or Louisiana-Monroe or somebody instead of Florida State, right now they’re 4-1 with one loss to Alabama and they’re probably a top 10 team.