KEYS FOR VICTORY
1. Run the football
An inability to generate much rushing offense has been a glaring common denominator in Ole Miss losses.
Hugh Freeze challenged his players to run the football against Missouri, but the Rebels didn’t get much done in that department beyond two long runs.
MSU has a solid defense, but teams have moved the ball on the ground against the Bulldogs.
2. Feed Moncrief
The Rebels really hurt the Bulldogs in the air last year, with wide receiver Donte Moncrief getting open against the MSU secondary.
Tendencies have changed a little bit for the Bulldogs, but Bo Wallace-to-Donte Moncrief has still been an effective plan for Ole Miss.
Wallace threw for 294 yards and five touchdowns against MSU last year. He also threw a couple of picks.
Reducing the give-aways is something Wallace has really improved on this season.
3. Wrap up
Gang-tackling is preferred and even encouraged, but Ole Miss players have to make SEC plays against an SEC foe. Just wrap up.
In a one-on-one situation, Ole Miss defenders have to find a way to get the ball-carrier to the ground.
They lost some of those battles against Missouri, and poor tackling led to 260 rushing yards for the Tigers.
Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack says the tackling issues were due in part to poor “fits” in the defensive schemes.
Whatever the case, the Rebels need to do a better job tonight wrapping up against a physical group of running backs.
WHAT TO WATCH
When MSU has the ball
What to watch when the Bulldogs have the ball will depend on lot on who’s taking the snap from center, and that’s somewhat of an unknown.
MSU coach Dan Mullen has said that Dak Prescott, his mobile quarterback and mid-season starter, will not play. Tyler Russell, the better passer, has been listed as day-to-day, and freshman Damien Williams has been listed first on the depth chart.
Ole Miss will likely see a mix of Williams and Russell, and their presence will often bring a good idea of what to expect – a run from Williams, a passing threat from Russell.
While the quarterback situation may serve to make MSU less multiple, the Rebels should expect to see something they haven’t seen before but most of all need to be ready to tackle against physical running backs.
When Ole Miss has the ball
It was hoped that the return of running back Jeff Scott would give the Rebels a boost in the perimeter run game against Missouri. Scott was unable to get outside against the Tigers and didn’t practice much during the short week for MSU.
The Rebels will rely on sophomores I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton in the run game. Those two have been very capable, and Scott’s status could open the door for more carries for freshman Mark Dodson.
Whatever the Rebels can accomplish in the run game will open the door for quarterback Bo Wallace, who was held without a touchdown pass against Missouri.
Wallace said during the week to expect a “new wrinkle” from the Rebels’ offensively, not necessarily because it’s MSU but because Freeze has new wrinkles in the plan every week. Sometimes they’re just not used.
Ole Miss front seven vs. MSU offensive line
MSU offensive tackle Gabe Jackson may be the best pro prospect on the field tonight. The Rebels need to be run-conscious when Williams is at quarterback for the Bulldogs.
They should also expect to see Russell taking snaps most of the time. To that end, getting in the backfield will reap even greater rewards against a passer who likes the pocket and is at less than full strength.
Even with Jackson, the Bulldogs have been only average in pass protection, their 1.82 sacks allowed ranking 49th in America and ninth in the SEC.
Getting to the quarterback hasn’t been an Ole Miss strength but it needs to be one tonight.