By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
There is no must-win game for Ole Miss this season. Hugh Freeze has already told us that.
He won’t put that kind of pressure on his players.
Since his hiring last December, the Ole Miss football coach has talked process and procedure, not wins and losses.
A 49-27 victory against Central Arkansas in his debut game won’t change that.
Given the state of the program, the goal is big-picture. It’s restoration after the fire. If the goal was winning the division, cracking the top 15 or getting to a major New Year’s Day bowl game, the pressure to win would be different, and maybe Freeze would communicate that to his players in some way – whether through a must-win message or something else.
When confidence is so closely linked with success, pressure from the coaching staff isn’t what you need.
The Rebels’ confidence got a major jolt last week, but confidence needs to be evaluated weekly. It comes and goes.
In simple terms, Ole Miss did what an SEC team should do to an FCS opponent.
Most people understand, though, that the dynamics are different for Ole Miss right now. At the end of 2011, the Rebels weren’t your typical SEC team.
It was important for Ole Miss not only to win against UCA but to win impressively, and in many areas the Rebels were impressive.
Rarely are all questions about a team answered in the season opener. If so, the answers aren’t what you want.
On the whole, there was more good than bad and a lot to like about this team in the first game.
Wins against lower-level opponents always come with an asterisk, however.
The question is will the Rebels rise with the competition this week?
While Freeze isn’t counting wins, most of his fan base is, and expectations were heightened in Week 1.
Based on summer assessments, the Rebels desperately need a win against UTEP this week as part of the plan to get to four wins and to dare to dream for more.
The Miners were picked fourth in Conference USA’s West Division by media who cover the league. In standing toe-to-toe with Oklahoma for three quarters, they looked more like a Memphis team from back in the day when Tommy West had some talent and was winning a few fist fights.
This is a big game for Ole Miss. Beating UTEP would further validate the improvement shown against Central Arkansas.
More importantly, it would create genuine excitement for a Week 3 meeting with Texas and would keep the Rebels on track to overachieve in the wins department.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.