By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
Independence is the town that Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze calls home. He grew up loving the Rebels, and following the Mississippi State Bulldogs enough to know what they were doing each week.
Freeze understands how big Saturday is for his Rebels, who host No. 1 Alabama, and for the Bulldogs, who host No. 6 Texas A&M.
The Rebels and Bulldogs are back-to-back on a national stage, with the Rebels’ matchup on CBS at 2:30 that afternoon.
“We’re excited about having (ESPN’s) GameDay here for the first time and being able to showcase our great university, and campus, and the Grove,” Freeze said. “Hopefully our team will represent very, very well on the field Saturday.”
The 11th ranked Rebels (4-0 overall) has gotten better and better over the past two seasons under Freeze, while the Bulldogs have also gotten better under the direction of Dan Mullen.
Freeze said it speaks “volumes” for the state of Mississippi for the job that the staffs from both Ole Miss and MSU have done on the recruiting trail. He credited the vision of the administration to continue to elevate the facilities and the resources in the league.
“We’ve made great strides at both places in all of those things the past few years,” Freeze said. “The Mississippi people, the deserve this. They’re great people with great hearts. There is tremendous passion for this game at both places, and it’s exciting for this to happen.”
Freeze said he couldn’t overstate the importance of quarterback Bo Wallace not turning the ball over against Alabama on Saturday.
“It will be one of the huge deciding factors in this game as to how we perform in regards to turnovers and negative plays that get us off track,” Freeze said. “Bo is a huge part of the that. There has been a game and a half where he was not solid in his decision making. Some of it wasn’t just him. We’ve had a couple of poor routes that probably caused it. He’s also had two and a half games where he was phenomenal. So we hope that it’s time for him to be phenomenal.”
Freeze went on to say that his play calling, especially early, will be decided on how the defense is performing against the Crimson Tide.
“It’s also special teams and field position, all those things, as a play caller, make you think about minimizing the risk,” Freeze said.
Alabama’s offense is more dynamic under the direction of Lane Kiffin, and Freeze admitted that it would be tough to always put extra players in the box every single snap to stop ‘Bama’s running attack.
Freeze also felt like Kiffin would have some new wrinkle to offer since the Crimson Tide just had an off week.
“There is going to come a point in the game, because they are so talented at running back and along the offensive line, where we have to win a one-on-one matchup,” Freeze said. “If you take turnovers and everything as equal, it’s going to come down to who wins most of those one-on-one battles. We still have work to do where we recognize what is going on, we’ve got to elevate that. And at the same time, I know we’ll see different stuff, too.”