Happy Wednesday, everybody, and welcome to the Ole Miss Wake-Up Call.
You made it to Hump Day, but try not to trip over it.
It’s Arkansas week, and the last thing Ole Miss wants to do is trip over the Razorbacks for a third year in a row. Ole Miss (3-2, 1-1 SEC) is everybody’s favorite two-loss football team, including ESPN College GameDay’s Chris “the Bear” Fallica, who said the following to Arkansas sports radio host Bo Mattingly:
Fallica: Pollsters can’t get over the W-L record. I think Ole Miss & Florida State are way better than Wisconsin & Nebraska.
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) October 11, 2016
Way better than Wisconsin and Nebraska?
That’s high praise considering the Badgers are currently ranked No. 8 in AP Top 25. Undefeated Nebraska is 10th.
Ole Miss is getting the benefit of the doubt from media types like Fallica despite its 3-2 record. While the Rebels have believers out there, there’s no margin for error for a team with two losses. That’s why the game between Ole Miss and Arkansas on Saturday is so important. It’s a must-win, really.
But Fallica isn’t the only believer. The Rebels are also confident that they have what it takes to win big the rest of the way.
“We have the talent,” Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram told ESPN. “We have the offense. Our defense is getting confidence. It’s getting better. We’ve got a lot of great talent left to play, a lot of tough road games, and that’s going to be a huge test for us, but just from what I’ve seen the first half of the season, I definitely think we have enough to run the table. We have enough talent, and we have enough grit and belief to do that.”
“I think the only people that can stop us is ourselves,” quarterback Chad Kelly said at the weekly news conference. “We have a great game plan. We’ve got great players. And we’ve got great coaches that put us in good situations. As long as we get better every single day in practice, it will relate to the game.”
Ole Miss has scored 43 points or more in its last three games, including 43 against Alabama and 45 against Georgia. Arkansas, meanwhile, gave up 49 points to Alabama and 45 to Texas A&M. Ole Miss can pretty much count on Kelly and his high-flying receivers to rack up some points against the Razorbacks.
The game on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN) will probably come down to whether the Ole Miss defense can get enough stops to allow Kelly and the Rebels to keep the edge on the scoreboard. The Rebels are still young in their defensive secondary, but those players have improved each week. The difference in this game will likely be whether they have improved enough to slow down Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen.
Allen has thrown for 1,652 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, including a 400-yard passing performance against Alabama. Those are Kelly-like numbers. The Razorbacks will likely have some success moving the football, especially against the admitted bend-but-don’t break philosophy of the Ole Miss defense. But if Ole Miss can get some key stops and force turnovers, that could be the difference in the game. Under constant duress, Allen threw three interceptions against Alabama. Ole Miss will definitely try to replicate those forced errors with a strong pass rush from Marquis Haynes and D.J. Jones.
How the program was built
When Hugh Freeze took over the as the head coach in December 2011, the football program was in one of the darkest places it’s ever been. Hired just two months before National Signing Day, Freeze barely had time to put together a signing class, but he found a few diamonds in the rough in Trae Elson, Bo Wallace, Issac Gross, Cody Core and Jaylen Walton. None of recruits were highly sought after, but all would go on to be key contributors over the next four bowl-bound seasons. Freeze promised the Ole Miss faithful that he would field a team that would fight hard for 60 minutes, which wasn’t just coach-speak for fans that had witnessed the Rebels play dead during Houston Nutt’s final year. Using that 60-minute philosophy and Freeze’s special brand of offense, the Rebels improved from 2-10 (0-8 SEC) under Nutt to 7-6 (3-5 SEC) in just one season.
Check out this article from the Ole Miss Spirit’s Ben Garrett chronicling the rise of Ole Miss football under Freeze.
Watch this guy ball
These highlights of new Ole Miss basketball commit Devontae Shuler demonstrate why Ole Miss is so excited to land the 4-star shooting guard.
Tim Tebow is already making an impact in the Arizona Fall League.
Tebow signing autographs. Fan has what looks like seizure. Not moving. Tebow puts hand on him and says a prayer. Man breathes. WOW.
— Kari Van Horn (@KariVanHorn) October 11, 2016
Ole Miss in the news
- Former Ole Miss players aren’t having noteworthy seasons in the NFL.
- But who would have thought that Channing Ward would start before Robert Nkemdiche?
- Nkemdiche hasn’t learned the defense.
- Ole Miss is still shuffling linebackers.
- How does Ole Miss recruiting compare to the rest of the SEC?
- Marquis Haynes is underrated.
- Andy Kennedy is ready for Sebastian Saiz to be the man.
- Greg Hardy just needs to go away.
- Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco is optimistic about his young but talented roster.