Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Freeze: Soak it In

GameDay, CBS, No. 3 Alabama...

Hugh Freeze is preparing for the biggest game on the biggest stage of his coaching career, but he seems to have the right perspective. Whereas some coaches might be drinking Pepto while losing sleep and hair with stomachs twisted in knots under the pressure of facing the Crimson Tide, Freeze just wants to soak in the experience.

"I’m going to enjoy this week," Freeze said. "Last week, I have to be candid, it wasn’t enjoyable for me. This week I’m going to enjoy it and have fun and get our kids ready."

Perhaps Freeze knows that being loose is a good thing. Playing tight against Alabama won't help the Rebels. 

Loose but focused. That's where Ole Miss needs to be. 

"We’re coming into the game with the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked defenses in the conference and No. 2 and No. 4 ranked total offenses in our conference, so something has to give at some point," Freeze said. "At the end of the day, it’s about players playing their individual matchups and that’s something we’ll challenge our kids all week long to prepare themselves to do. It should be a great, great atmosphere, and we’re looking forward to the challenge."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bring on Bama

Sometimes winning is more important than how you look doing it.

That was certainly the case Saturday night, as Ole Miss beat Memphis 24-3 on an otherwise frustratingly sloppy night offensively. But in this case looks really don't matter. No. 10 Ole Miss is 4-0, and can now turn the entirety of its focus to No. 3 Alabama. It's arguably the biggest game in modern Ole Miss history. ESPN GameDay will be in attendance and the game itself will be televised nationally by CBS. There isn't a brighter spotlight in college football than the one the Rebels will be in this week. A win would catapult the Rebels into the Top 5 and into early playoff discussions, and it really doesn't get any bigger than that in this new playoff era of college football.

And if it's true that defense wins championships, the Rebels would deserve to be in the playoff discussion. This Landshark defense just keeps getting better.

Memphis gained just 104 total yards the entire night, averaging a paltry 1.7 yards per play. On some drives the Tigers just went backwards. The defensive domination was so thorough that the game never seemed in jeopardy despite the Rebels holding only a 7-3 lead early in the 4th quarter. It stayed close until freshman defensive end Marquis Haynes wrapped his arms around Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch and forced a fumble deep in Tiger territory. Ole Miss capitalized on the very next play with a 23-yard touchdown bolt from that flash of lightning Jaylen Walton for a 17-3 lead. The 14-point margin may as well have been 40. Memphis wasn't going to move the ball on Ole Miss.

"We haven’t had a better effort than that in our two and a half years here," Hugh Freeze said. 

Offense was a different story.

The once unstoppable up-tempo Rebels looked like a team that had been knocked out of rhythm by the bye week. Interceptions, penalties and the inability to execute plagued the Rebels for most of the 1st three quarters. Wallace threw two picks, and threw for less than 300 yards for the first time this season. 

Laquon Treadwell's 123 yards receiving and two touchdowns highlighted the offense.

It would be easy to be alarmed by the offensive struggles, but the fact is Ole Miss beat Memphis by 21 points on an off night. To me, that's a good sign.

Ole Miss is 4-0 for the first time since 1970. ESPN's College GameDay is coming to our city, and the Rebels can at last turn their attention to the game most of us have been waiting for since the schedule was announced last spring - ALABAMA.

Weeks like the one to come are what you dream about if you're an Ole Miss fan.

Thanks to an inspirational head coach named Hugh Freeze, your dreams are coming true.

It's a fun time to be a Rebel.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Picking the SEC: Week 5

Three fun conference games are slated for Saturday, highlighted by the contest between Texas A&M and upstart Arkansas and including Tennessee-Georgia and Missouri-South Carolina.

I made some headway in the OMRebelNation Pick 'Em last week, moving all the way up to 11th place (I was in dead last 38th after the first weekend). Week 5 is critically important to my goal of College Football Pick 'Em Domination.

Here goes:

Tennessee (2-1, 0-0 SEC) at Georgia (2-1, 0-0 SEC)            
Series: UT leads, 21-20-2
Noon ET  • ESPN                                                                              
Athens, Ga. • Sanford Stadium (92,746)                                
Sirius: 91 • XM: 91           

Georgia is a 17-point favorite. Despite the game being in Athens, that's too many points against a hungry Tennessee team in an SEC rivalry. I'll take the Vols. 

Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC) at Kentucky (2-1, 0-1 SEC)          
Series: Tied 41-41-4
11 a.m. • SEC Network                                                                       
Lexington, Ky.  • Commonwealth Stadium (62,903)          
Sirius: 119 • XM: 190     

Vanderbilt playing South Carolina close last week was a fluke. Kentucky will trash the Commodores. Pick the Wildcats (-17). 

Texas A&M (4-0, 1-0 SEC) vs. Arkansas (3-1, 0-1 SEC)       
Series: ARK leads, 41-26-3
2:30 p.m. CT • CBS                                                                           
Arlington, Texas  • Cowboys Stadium (71,167)                    
Sirius: 91/126  • XM: 91/191

We were in awe of Texas A&M's win over South Carolina back in August. Since then we learned that the Gamecocks are somewhat pedestrian. So just how good are the Aggies? We'll know this weekend. Arkansas is a tough team with a strong offensive line. If A&M can stop the Hogs that'll be a real good sign for Kenny Hill and Kevin Sumlin's SEC West prospects. Arkansas won't be able to stop A&M, and once the Aggies get a two touchdown lead it'll be over. I'll take the Aggies (-9.5). 

Louisiana Tech (2-2) at Auburn (3-0, 1-0 SEC)                       
Series: AU leads, 11-0-1
3 p.m. CT • SEC Network
Auburn, Ala. • Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)                      
Sirius: 119  • XM: 190  

Auburn will cover (-33).    

New Mexico State (2-2) at LSU (3-1, 0-1 SEC)                      
Series: LSU leads, 1-0
6:30 p.m. CT • SEC Network
Baton Rouge, La. • Tiger Stadium (102,321)                          
Sirius: 119 • XM: 190

LSU will take its embarrassing Mississippi State loss out on New Mexico State. Tigers (-43). 

Memphis (2-1) at Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC)                             
Series: UM leads, 47-10-2
6:30 p.m. CT • FSN                                               
Oxford, Miss. • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (60,580)     
Sirius: 196 • XM: 191

Will the week off slow down Bo Wallace and his fleet of receivers? I don't think so. Memphis gave up nearly 400 yards passing to UCLA. Wallace will surpass that if he's not pulled early in the 3rd quarter as he was against Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Lafayette. With so much to play for, a group of motivated Rebels will cruise over the Tigers (-21). 

Missouri (3-1, 0-0 SEC) at South Carolina (3-1, 2-1 SEC)    
Series: Tied, 2-2
7 p.m. ET • SEC Network                                                               
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)               
Sirius: 91 • XM: 91

Two relatively mediocre SEC East teams. It's a tough call, so I'll take the home team. Gamecocks (-5.5)