OPINION — Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Hogs will need to protect their X-factor QB

Way back in August, when it was hot enough to melt fire, it was predicted here that the Arkansas Razorbacks would be 7-5 and playing in a bowl game.

It was assumed and believed that the Hogs would have beaten Western Carolina badly, Kent State thoroughly and blown through Brigham Young.

They got the first one right, had a decent but somewhat shaky win over Kent State and then gave up 17 unanswered second-half points to lose to Brigham Young, which was smaller but faster than the Razorbacks.

They were not expected to beat LSU -- which returned a great quarterback from a team that tied for the SEC West title last season -- and they didn't, although the Razorbacks played an inspired game and appeared to turn the corner in time for Texas A&M. which they were overdue to beat and still are after struggling on offense the last three quarters.

So instead of heading for Oxford and the Ole Miss Rebels 4-1, the Razorbacks are riding a three-game losing streak and sitting at 2-3 with vague dreams of Sam Pittman getting his fourth consecutive bowl bid.

Ole Miss looms large after coming from behind in the fourth quarter to beat LSU 55-49.

It was like a Big 12 game as the teams combined for 935 yards.

The Rebels' quarterback, Jaxson Dart, was Jayden Daniels-like. Daniels passed for 414 touchdowns and 4 touchdowns and ran for 99 and a touchdown.

Dart passed for 389 yards and 4 touchdowns and ran for 50 yards and a touchdown.

The Tigers' dynamic receiving duo of Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas each had eight catches for more than a 100 yards, but the Rebels mirrored that with Tre Harris making eight catches for 153 yards and Jordan Watkins five for 103, plus Dayton Wade had seven catches.

So Arkansas faces a team very much like LSU on offense except the Rebels have a featured running back in sophomore Quinshon Judkins, who led the SEC in rushing a year ago and had 177 yards on the ground against the Tigers.

If that isn't a load enough for the Razorbacks to prepare for, they are experimenting with their offensive line. Not personnel, but getting them into different positions in hopes of not giving up 15 tackles for losses.

Even though Ole Miss gave up a lot of yards and scores, the Rebels are improved on defense in Lane Kiffin's fourth season.

They are tied for fourth in the league in sacks with 17. With seven sacks last Saturday, A&M jumped up to second behind Tennessee, which has recorded 22 sacks this season.

The Razorbacks are tied for fifth with 14. They averaged 10 tackles for loss in their first three games and since entering SEC play are averaging just 3 per game.

Oddsmakers, who seem to have become a huge part of sports anymore, have made the Rebels an 11.5-point favorite, but there is an X factor in this game.

KJ Jefferson is from Sardis, Miss., 30 miles from the Ole Miss campus. He was offered a scholarship by the Rebels but not as a quarterback.

Jefferson is 1-1 against the Rebels and this is the last time he will face them. His loss to Ole Miss was in Oxford and nobody on either team wants this win more than Jefferson.

That's evidenced in his first two performances against Ole Miss.

The first time was a 52-51 loss when the Razorbacks failed on a 2-point conversion. Jefferson completed 25 of 35 passes for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns. He ran for 85 yards and 3 more scores.

Last season, a 42-27 win, Jefferson was 17 of 22 for 168 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he ran for 47 yards.

The X factor, though, needs more protection to get a win.