Arkansas season hangs in the balance heading to Ole Miss

Updated: October 23, 2003, 1:22 AM ET

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas hopes it can find some solace on the road this week after back-to-back home losses wrecked what could have been a special season.

The Razorbacks (4-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) may not find relief on the road either, because Ole Miss is working on a special season of its own.

The Rebels (5-2, 3-0) are off to their best start in the SEC since 1970, when Archie Manning was a senior quarterback.

Manning's son, Eli Manning, saved his best season for his senior campaign. The youngest Manning has thrown just six interceptions in 243 attempts after throwing 15 in 279 passes last year.

He leads the SEC in passing at 303.9 yards per game and with his 17 touchdown passes.

Manning followed his family's first victory at Florida with Mississippi's ninth victory ever over Alabama last week.

That's not to say Manning is doing everything.

The Rebels are running the ball better than ever, ranking third in the SEC at 176.6 yards per game, and their defense is doing a good job of stopping the run. It ranks third, holding teams to 87.3 yards per game.

However, Ole Miss has been susceptible to the pass, ranking last in the nation at 331.1 yards per game. That number is inflated a bit because Texas Tech's B.J. Symons threw for 661 yards.

Arkansas may have to throw the ball more this week if running backs Cedric Cobbs (hamstring) and De'Arrius Howard (ankle) can't play.

Aside from two interceptions against Florida, quarterback Matt Jones showed he can perform when asked to throw 30 times. He was 20 of 30 for 299 yards and three touchdowns in the loss.

But if Arkansas can't run the ball, Jones hasn't proven he can beat a team all day with his arm.

OLE MISS 31, ARKANSAS 27

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Arkansas State (3-4, 1-1 Sun Belt Conference) needed the off week to get over its 55-0 loss to Ole Miss and get ready for Utah State.

The Indians were completely dismantled at Ole Miss, giving up 35 second-half points and 582 yards to the Rebels offense.

Arkansas State managed just 54 yards on the ground against the SEC's third-rated rush defense. About the only bright spot was having one turnover.

The Indians start a five-week run against Sun Belt teams with an eye toward a league title and a berth in the New Orleans Bowl. Arkansas State didn't look great defensively in beating Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 4, but the offense seemed to come alive.

Utah State (1-6, 1-1) played well in a 37-27 loss to North Texas last week. The Aggies like to throw the ball, with quarterback Travis Cox, who has completed 132 of 248 passes for 1,481 yards and nine touchdowns.

He leads the conference at 211.6 yards per game.

Arkansas State cornerback Johnathan Burke, who leads the Sun Belt with six interceptions, should see lots of action.

ARKANSAS STATE 28, UTAH STATE 17

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The AP's record last week was 4-3. The overall season record is 36-22, a .621 winning percentage.

Predictions for other games being played this week:

SOUTHERN ARKANSAS 34, OUACHITA BAPTIST 31

DELTA STATE 35, HENDERSON STATE 34

HARDING 28, ARKANSAS-MONTICELLO 21

ARKANSAS TECH 21, WEST GEORGIA 17

NORTH ALABAMA 38, CENTRAL ARKANSAS 21

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index