Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
How Arkansas and Ole Miss compare at each position
Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) hands the ball off to running back Quinshon Judkins (4) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)
OLE MISS Jaxson Dart (150-247-7, 2,123 yards, 15 TDs) won the competition for the starting job with Luke Altmyer (8-17-1, 125, 2) after 2 weeks. The 6-2, 220-pound sophomore is 10th in the FBS at 14.2 yards per completion. Dart’s 60.7% completions rank 10th in the SEC, and his 147.3 efficiency rate is sixth in the SEC, 39th in the FBS. He has 508 rushing yards (no TDs) on 5.3 ypc, including 82 yards in sacks.
ARKANSAS KJ Jefferson (148-222-3, 1,981 yards, 17 TDs), who is dealing with a clavicle injury, seemed more on track to play this week. Jefferson racked up 411 yards and 6 TDs vs. his home-state school last year. He’s 10th in FBS passing efficiency (164.19) even after an off game vs. Liberty. Malik Hornsby (13-27-2, 268, 1 TD; 172 rush yards) and Cade Fortin (14-29-0, 135, 1) have both played better in relief roles.
OLE MISS Quinshon Judkins (205-1,169 yards, 15 TDs) took over the SEC rushing lead from UA’s Raheim Sanders this week. The 5-11, 210-pounder, who had 135 yards, 2 TDs vs. Alabama last week, leads all FBS freshmen in rushing. His 15 rushing TDs are an Ole Miss season record. Zach Evans (114-692, 7) is questionable after suffering a concussion last week.
ARKANSAS Raheim Sanders (185-1,147, 7, 6.2 ypc) has seven 100-yard games, but he’s coming off two sub-par weeks. Sanders ran for a then career-high 139 yards at Ole Miss last year. AJ Green (68-425, 2, 4.3) has seen more playing time recently. Freshman Rashod Dubinion (39-115, 3, 2.9) has not gotten traction the past couple of games. Can Arkansas pass to its backs tonight?
ADVANTAGE Ole Miss
OLE MISS Malik Heath (38-614, 3 TDs) and Jonathan Mingo (37-723, 5) are dynamic playmakers for a solid unit. They average a hefty 16.2 and 19.5 ypc, respectively. Jordan Watkins (24-335, 1, 14.0) and Dayton Wade (14-148, 2, 10.6) also figure in to the rotation. Top tight end Michael Trigg (17-156, 3) has missed four games and per Lane Kiffin almost made it back last week. He’s questionable.
ARKANSAS Jadon Haselwood (49-592, 3, 12.1 ypc) continues to be the Hogs’ top target with 3-plus catches every game. Matt Landers (37-663, 4, 17.9) has proven to be the team’s top deep threat. TE Trey Knox (19-233, 5) has gotten more targets in the red zone. Ketron Jackson (13-238, 2, 18.3) and Bryce Stephens (8-92, 1, 11.5) are capable though not targeted as much. Warren Thompson (12-178, 2, 14.8) left the team.
OLE MISS The Rebels’ line, one of nine semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award, has core veterans inside in junior C Caleb Warren, senior LG Nick Broekder and RG Jeremy James, whom UA Coach Sam Pittman recruited out of suburban Atlanta. The Rebels are youthful on the edges with freshman LT Jayden Williams from Conway and redshirt freshman RT Micah Pettus, who is listed at 6-7, 350 pounds.
ARKANSAS The Hogs’ unit did not make the cut to 9 semifinalists for the Joe Moore Award. The past two games it has not created run seams and pass protected as it did earlier. RT Dalton Wagner says he’s back and healthy after giving way to Ty’Kieast Crawford last week. The other four: LT Luke Jones, LG Brady Latham, C Ricky Stromberg and RG Beaux Limmer are on track to start their 11th consecutive game together.
ADVANTAGE Ole Miss
OLE MISS The Rebels base out of a 3-man front, with DEs Cedric Johnson (25 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 4 hurries) and Tavius Robinson (30, 5, 4, team-high 5 hurries) both 265 pounds. The beef is in the middle in 6-2, 315-pound JJ Pegues (20, 3 sacks, 3 hurries), a former Auburn signee. KD Hill (15, 1 TFL, 1 hurry) plays DT. Austin Keys (34, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 4 hurries) and Jared Ivey (26, 4.5, 3.5) also get in on the action.
ARKANSAS The Razorbacks have gone largely with an 8-man rotation, with DEs Jordan Domineck (27, 7.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 2 FF, 1 FR) and Zach Williams (26, 5.5, 3.5, 5 hurries) vying for the unit tackle lead. Cam Ball (23, 1.5 TFL), Terry Hampton (21, 2.5, 1), Eric Gregory (13, 3.5, 2, 4 hurries) and Isaiah Nichols (12, 1 PBU) play inside; Landon Jackson (21, 3 sacks, 2 hurries) and Jashaud Stewart (9, 1 sack, 1 hurry) outside.
ADVANTAGE Ole Miss
OLE MISS Troy Brown (71, 2.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 4 hurries), a 220-pound Central Michigan transfer and preseason All-America, leads the team in tackles. Austin Keys (34, 3.5, 2 sacks, 4 hurries, 1 FF), a 245-pounder, lost half of 2021 with an injury. Backups Ashanti Cistrunk (45, 1 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF) and Khari Coleman (30, team-high 8.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks) get plenty of playing time in the rotation.
ARKANSAS Junior Drew Sanders (86, 12 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 6 hurries, 3 PBU, 3 FF) had two more half-sacks last week and is tied for ninth in the FBS in sacks. Senior Bumper Pool (90, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 5 hurries, 3 PBU) continues to lead in tackles despite losing some passing down reps to sophomore Chris Paul (34, 6 TFL, 4 sacks, 2 hurries, 1 FF, 1 FR). Jordan Crook (5) and Jackson Woodard (5) are next.
OLE MISS Versatile rovers Otis Reese (63, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 PBU, 1 hurry, 1 FR) and Tysheem Johnson (59, 4 TFL, 1 PBU, 3 hurries) and safeties AJ Finley (62, 1.5 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PBU) and Isheem Young (44, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FR) all rank in the team’s top six in tackles. CBs Deantre Prince (32, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 9 PBU) and Davison Igbinosun (32, 2 PBU) are a senior and freshman, respectively.
ARKANSAS Nobody tested the Arkansas DBs like Ole Miss in 2021. The Dwight McGlothern (32, 3 INT, 6 PBU) and Quincey McAdoo (9, 1 INT, 3 PBU) pairing at CB has been solid. Simeon Blair (55, 1 TFL, 4 PBU), Hudson Clark (48, 1 INT, 10 PBU, 2 FF, 2 FR) and Latavious Brini (44, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 2 FR) have gotten most safety reps. Myles Slusher (20, 4 TFL, 2 sacks) and Jayden Johnson (31, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) are top nickels.
ADVANTAGE Ole Miss
OLE MISS PK Jonathan Cruz is second in the SEC in FG% (9 of 10) and he’s 45 of 45 on PATs. Cruz has 34 touchbacks on 62 kickoffs (54.8%). P Fraser Masin averages 42.1 yards, seventh among SEC qualifiers. The Rebels are 44th in net punting (39.7). PR Jordan Watkins has a 6.3 average on 11 returns, and KOR Dayton Wade averages 23.2 on 12 returns. Cedric Johnson and Zxavian Harris have blocked kicks.
ARKANSAS Cam Little improved to 10 of 12 on FGs, 35 of 35 on PATs last week. Reid Bauer averages 45.2 yards per punt, Max Fletcher, who had a pooch punt last week, is at 38.0, and the Hogs are 110th in net punting (36.2). PR Bryce Stephens (9.9, 1 TD) had a 14-yard return last week. KOR AJ Green’s average on 6 returns is 14.8. Quincey McAdoo has blocked a punt; Landon Jackson a blocked field goal.
ADVANTAGE Ole Miss
OLE MISS LSU QB Jayden Daniels did not cope with the Fayetteville cold well last week, so how will Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart handle it? The Rebels could be in the running for a January bowl, so the incentive is there to finish up strong. Overcoming the physiological grief from losing a chance to upset Alabama last week is a key component to a sharp showing by the Rebels.
ARKANSAS How eager are the Razorbacks to snag that elusive sixth win and bowl eligibility? The Hogs got there on their first try last year and this will be the third of 2022. If QB KJ Jefferson can play, he’ll have a second shot at his home-state school, which he lit up last season. The Arkansas defense seemed to turn a corner in the last 6 quarters, so the onus is on the offense and the run game to re-ignite the Razorbacks.
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