From several corners this week I’ve heard this described as a trap game for Ole Miss.
I see this less as a trap game and more of an opponent that potentially troubles the Rebels because it has recruited well and has talent in the program.
As often happens with programs on a “journey” it takes a while for everything to click.
I think of a trap game when one falls before a next game that demands a lot of attention and perhaps has a given team looking ahead.
In many years Ole Miss might look at a 3-3 rebuilding team and be tempted to think about LSU.
Right now, though, on paper Ole Miss will be the favored team at LSU.
The Tigers have had their struggles and had many chances to lose at Florida last week. It will be interesting to see how their home game with an improving Kentucky team plays out this week.
The LSU game, of course, will not be easy for Ole Miss. Neither will this Tennessee game.
But neither was Texas A&M, although the Rebels made it look easy. It took a lot of concentration and effort to do what Ole Miss did.
That was an environment that could have been the most difficult they faced all season. Instead, the Rebels went in focused and prepared, delivered the first strike on defense, played efficient on offense. They took control of the game early and never let go. Their team defensive statistics are lower this week than they might have been had they stayed in attack mode. Dave Wommack’s style, however, is complete disregard for style points. “We did what we had to do to win the game,” he said. Ole Miss led A&M 35-7 after three quarters en route to a 35-20 win.
If there was ever a time for the Rebels to be flat and listless, to play one of those games where you’re watching and wondering if/when they’re going to wake up, last week was it.
There was every reason to think the emotional high of the Alabama win would carry over and affect the Rebels at A&M. Hugh Freeze and his staff had them prepared and ready to go, however.
So that makes me think the Rebels will be prepared and ready to go again.
Tennessee is 3-3 overall, 0-2 in the SEC but has competed well in its big games. That includes an early 34-10 loss at Oklahoma and SEC losses to Georgia and Florida by a combined four points.
Georgia was ranked No. 12 when Tennessee lost 35-32 in Athens. The Vols had 313 yards against Oklahoma, 401 at Georgia with 284 passing and no picks.
In their most recent SEC game, against Florida, the Vols had 232 yards, the Gators 233. Each team had three turnovers. For Tennessee they were three interceptions, two thrown by starting quarterback Justin Worley who told local media earlier this week what a good job the Ole Miss secondary does in disguising its coverages. May be a matchup edge there for an Ole Miss defense that leads the SEC and is second in the nation with 12 interceptions.
Another edge for the Rebels should be their defensive line against a Tennessee offensive line that starts two true freshmen on the right side.
That inexperience shows up in the fact that Tennessee is last in the SEC in rushing offense at 109.7 yards a game, last in sacks allowed – and No. 118 out of 120 teams nationally – at 3.83 per game and last in the SEC and No. 119 in tackles for loss allowed at 8.0.
The Vols’ pass defense numbers are strong, fourth in the SEC with an efficiency rating of 101.11.
However, Oklahoma had a 300-yard passing game against Tennessee, and the teams that haven’t passed against the Vols – Florida and Georgia – have had trouble passing against most teams.
Sometimes pass defense numbers get a lift when opponents don’t pass much because they don’t have to pass. The Vols are 10th in the league in rushing defense.
The Rebels have been an improved rushing offense of late. How well they do with that Saturday could affect the fluency of the offense.
There are a lot of numbers that will favor Ole Miss, so too will the fact that the Rebels are back at home for a night game, thankfully one that starts at 6 and not 8.
Tennessee, like Ole Miss in the earlier stages of its “journey,” has the confidence of knowing it’s come close in some SEC games and believing a break-through is near.
You don’t want teams like that to hang around. The fast start the Rebels had on the road last week would greatly benefit them at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this week.
Prediction: Ole Miss 35, Tennessee 17