With the Southeastern Conference race starting to take shape and the calendar halfway through October, Mississippi will experience something new Saturday when it faces West division rival Arkansas.
The Rebels’ visit to Fayetteville, Arkansas, will represent their first true road game of the season.
Already sporting a pair of blemishes from defeats to Florida State and Alabama, the Rebels are one of the nation’s top two-loss teams behind the NFL caliber arm of Chad Kelly and a defense whose front seven has masked some secondary deficiencies.
When not making questionable decisions off the gridiron — last week he sprinted across the field at a high school game in upstate New York after his brother was the victim of an apparent late hit — Kelly, the nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, is making a name for himself on it. Through five games, the 6-foot-4-inch senior has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,596 yards and 13 touchdowns against four interceptions.
Kelly ranks among the top five quarterback prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft.
While Mississippi (3-2) is coming off a bye, Arkansas (4-2) committed five turnovers in last week’s 49-30 home loss to top-ranked Alabama. The Razorbacks gained 473 total yards offense against the vaunted Crimson Tide defense, but two of Austin Allen’s three interceptions were returned for touchdowns by linebacker Tim Williams and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Still in search of their first SEC win of the season and off of a loss, expect Allen and the Razorbacks to pull out all the stops against the Rebels.
Additionally, Mississippi has historically struggled when cast as a road favorite, going 8-20 against the spread in that role since early in the 2001 season.
Look for Arkansas to stay in this one until the end and possibly record the upset, so take the 7½ points.
Five more plays (home team in CAPS):
MARYLAND (-6) over Minnesota — Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner will miss the game due to a concussion. In his absence, Minnesota will start junior Conor Rhoda, a former walk-on who has attempted two passes in his collegiate career.
Iowa State-TEXAS (Over 70) — Whether the defensive coordinator is demoted Vance Bedford or coach Charlie Strong, the Longhorns cannot stop any legitimate opponent with a hint of an offense. Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele, however, can throw the long ball, and punishing D’Onta Foreman is an underrated tailback.
TEXAS TECH (+1½) over West Virginia — Like Mississippi, West Virginia will be playing its first true road game of the season. Lubbock can be a tricky place for out-of-towners, and proof can be found in the Red Raiders’ 11-5 ATS mark as conference home ’dogs since 2006.
NOTRE DAME (-3) over Stanford — If a banged-up Christian McCaffrey gets the green light to play, the Cardinal shape up as nothing more than a middle-of-the-road Pac-12 team. Without him, they are something less.
OREGON STATE (+7 ½) over Utah — Utah’s injury list continues to grow with each passing week. Tailback Joe Williams came out of “retirement” this week to shore up a position that has been hit especially hard. While Oregon State still has a ways to go on the road to respectability, coach Gary Anderson’s team shows signs of life.
Last week: 3-3 against the spread
Paul Stone of VegasSportsAuthority.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow on Twitter: @paulstonesports