The SEC has taken center stage the last few weeks with several high-profile games with massive playoff implications. All eyes have been laser-focused on Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and LSU as they battled it out to shape the College Football Playoff rankings. Two weeks ago, Georgia reasserted its dominance by throttling Tennessee, while LSU knocked Alabama out of the playoff conversation. College football fans were still reeling from the reality of a playoff bracket without Bama as bettors contemplated how each team would respond.
LSU survived a 13-10 nail-biter against Arkansas, and Alabama held off Ole Miss 30-24. But, despite the huge letdown spots, neither the Razorbacks nor the Rebels could capitalize on stealing a signature win against one of the conference's top dogs. So, one week after coming up short on their own golden opportunities, the two teams collide in Fayetteville.
Arkansas-Ole Miss sets up to be the SEC's most exciting game this weekend. Of course, it's not Georgia-Tennessee, but both teams will clash on Saturday with a lot on the line. Lane Kiffin looks to capture his second consecutive 10-win season, while an Arkansas victory will send it to a bowl for the second straight year. Mississippi is a 2.5-point road favorite at BetMGM, but this is a game where I see much more value in the total.
Mississippi at Arkansas (Over 60.5)
The Razorbacks' offense sputtered hard against LSU without starting quarterback K.J. Jefferson. However, head coach Sam Pittman seems optimistic Jefferson will return Saturday to face a Rebels defense that has regressed after starting the year strong. I expect this total move toward the over as we get later into the week, barring any setbacks from Jefferson. Even if Jefferson isn't 100%, his presence on the field forces the Rebels' defense to account for his mobility. That will help open up everything for "Rocket" Sanders and the rest of the Razorbacks' rushing attack. Sanders' 1,147 rushing yards ranks just outside the Top 10 nationally and second in the conference behind only Mississippi's Quinshon Judkins.
The Ole Miss defense has struggled to stop the run this season, and the Hogs' rushing attack should unlock its offense. Ole Miss has allowed an average of 34 points per game over the past four weeks, and I am confident penciling Arkansas in for at least 28. Mississippi's last five conference opponents, including Vanderbilt, have hit that number. Kentucky was the only conference opponent the Rebels held below 28, and that game was back in Week 5.
If you have had the opportunity to see Judkins carry the football, then you understand why Ole Miss will run up and down the field on Arkansas. The Razorbacks have a solid rush defense but will be no match for college football's best (non-service academy) rushing attack. Ole Miss averages just under 260 yards rushing per game and will also be able to attack Arkansas through the air. The Razorbacks' secondary has allowed 44 explosive passing plays of 20-plus yards, ranking 128th out of 131 FBS teams. With Kiffin's offense built to beat Arkansas' defense at its strength, the Rebels' punter can take the day off.
Typically, a game featuring two strong rushing attacks is a signal to the under, but that's only if you can slow them down. Soft red-zone defenses will help fuel the scoring. Ole Miss allows points on 91.43% of drives (120th), while Arkansas isn't much better at 84.38% (71st). Ole Miss should be able to stay on schedule offensively and dictate the pace against this Razorbacks' defense. Tempo is another indicator that points toward the game going over the total. The more plays run, the more scoring opportunities are available for both teams. Kiffin's offense operates at the third-fastest rate in college football, and Arkansas clocks inside the Top 20. In its six conference games, Ole Miss is 4-2 to the over with an average combined score of 65. I see both teams with a strong chance of scoring 30 or more, so the over 60.5 is a bet for me.
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