Got an email last week from a reader who asked if I was a believer. When I read the one-sentence message I thought, “I am,” but it turned out we were on different theological wavelengths.
Each Thursday for our Ole Miss blog, I do an analysis of the game ahead and offer my guess at the end. I picked Ole Miss to play close at Texas, not to win, and several people I heard from reacted like a cat does when you stroke its fur the wrong way.
So when the Rebels continued what has now become a trend of execution on offense and halftime adjustments and dominated Texas in the second half, I received the belief question.
As Ole Miss prepares to face No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, here’s what I believe about the Rebels:
• Execution on offense is a result of quarterback play. The effort Bo Wallace has made to reduce his interception total is noticeable. He’s now gone 102 passes without a pick dating back to the Compass Bowl win over Pittsburgh. Wallace’s job will get harder, and he jumped into the spotlight with his Monday comments comparing the Ole Miss wide receivers to those at Texas A&M.
He didn’t set out to “punk” the A&M receivers. That was a by-product of his expression of confidence in his teammates which he could have handled better.
• Senior running back Jeff Scott is playing the best ball of his career. It will be harder for him to get the corner against Alabama the way he did against a Texas team that struggled early to stop the run.
Maintaining possession against Alabama may require more running between the tackles, and you may see more of sophomore I’Tavius Mathers. Running back is a deep position at Ole Miss that hasn’t been fully utilized yet as Scott and Wallace have performed at such a high level with the read option.
• I like the way the defensive front is playing, and end C.J. Johnson looks like he’s getting stronger. The Rebels need more consistent pass rush and took a step forward with that against Texas.
• The pass rush is necessary to help cornerbacks who are learning their way (Mike Hilton), just getting healthy (Senquez Golson) and just getting back in the mix after an arrest (Charles Sawyer).
The biggest thing to know about this Ole Miss team is that it believes in itself. That confidence alone won’t be enough to help the Rebels win in Tuscaloosa. Throw in some early success, make the halftime adjustments, have self-doubt creep in for a couple of Alabama players, mix all ingredients and stir … that could be the recipe.
I’ll pick a close game for Ole Miss this week, not a win. The most important thing for the Rebels, though, is that they pick themselves.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.