It's Sunday, so that means it's time for this week's Observations from the Best Seat in the House. There was no shortage of observations this week. Let's get into it:
1. It's the day after, and I still can't believe yesterday happened. Ole Miss became the epicenter of college football, from ESPN's "College GameDay," to Katy Perry, to the game itself, to the celebration and national attention that followed. It could not have been a better day for the football program, athletics department and the university itself.
"Let's utilize the filter, the platform and the marketing power of athletics to then help the entire university," said Athletics Director Ross Bjork earlier this week. "This is one of those examples that because of athletics the university can be put on a pedestal in a great way to showcase all the great things that are happening. That's a responsibility that we take very seriously.
"We're not the most important thing, but we happen to be the most visible and this will be one of those examples where because of athletics that visibility takes hold and now we can show the world how beautiful our campus is and the hospitality of the Ole Miss family."
2. Let's start with "College GameDay." The crew loved it and the fans loved the show's first visit to the Grove, to the tune of the highest overnight rating this season. The passion and hospitality of Ole Miss fans and the beauty and atmosphere of the Grove were on full display.
And depending on future results, the show may make a return later this season, either Nov. 1 vs. Auburn or Nov. 29 vs. Mississippi State.
3. Beside the bliss of standing within shouting distance of Katy Perry as she made her way to the GameDay set to make her picks, which was a great moment for me, she was great for Ole Miss. With her fame and popularity, she got people to tune into GameDay and then promptly stole the show.
She picked the Rebels, which started a full-on embrace of Ole Miss and Oxford, as she hugged the Black Bear mascot, became a regular on the Jumbotron wearing an Ole Miss visor, stormed the field with the masses of fans and then celebrated with them at the bar at Funky's. I can't begin to describe what her ties to Ole Miss, if even for a day, means to the university.
4. There are a lot of places you can start with the game itself, but I'm going to start with Bo Wallace.
The much-maligned quarterback had his day, much like Andrew Ritter had against LSU last year, becoming the first quarterback since Eli Manning to defeat Alabama.
He completed 18-of-31 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, completing each of his final three pass attempts for 57 yards and two touchdowns with the game on the line. "Good Bo, Bad Bo" had been the popular narrative entering the game, one that Wallace hoped to have rid of once and for all.
"That thing's the most annoying thing I've ever heard," Wallace said. "I also feel like I'm the only quarterback in the nation who throws interceptions. Hopefully I can be 'Good Bo' the rest of the year."
5. When called upon, to keep Ole Miss in the game in the first half and then win the game on the final drive, the Rebels defense rose to the challenge as they have all season. Sound familiar?
The Ole Miss defense allowed just 10 points, despite facing an Alabama offense that entered the game averaging 42.0 points. The Rebels also created two timely turnovers, one of which led to the game-winning touchdown, and the other effectively ended the game.
6. Including the fumble returned for a touchdown by Alabama, the Ole Miss defense has given up just four touchdowns this season, the fewest in the nation. The Rebels also rank second in scoring defense, giving up just 10.2 points per game, and rank fifth in total defense (277.6 ypg) and yards per play allowed (4.1 yard per play).
7. To quote the great philosopher Drake, the Ole Miss senior class started from the bottom, and now they're here.
From a forgettable 2-10 season, to a 5-0 start and a top-five national ranking. There are a lot of talented underclassmen on the roster, but these seniors who stayed have showed out themselves and have provided invaluable leadership so far this season.
"After the 2-10 season and we lost our head coach, a lot of players were thinking about getting out," senior Senquez Golson said. "I almost left to go play baseball and we talked to the coaches and we just decided to stay."
8. For the historic 2013 signing class, Saturday was another moment of validation, the first win over a top-ranked team in program history and the Rebels' first win over Alabama since 2003. They all played big roles in the win and creating a "new normal" in Oxford.
"I came here with the 2013 class to change the culture around here," said sophomore Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation from that class. "We came to do something different. I could have gone to Alabama or LSU, but I wanted to come here and make a difference. And that's what we have done. I'm really proud of ourselves."
9. Ole Miss' win over Alabama was just one shockwave as part of Shakeout Saturday that saw five of the top eight teams in the AP poll lose on the same weekend. Florida State, Auburn and Baylor survived, while Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA joined Alabama in defeat.
10. As part of the shakeout, Ole Miss moved into a tie with Mississippi State for No. 3 in the AP poll. And with Auburn at No. 2, three of the top four teams in the AP poll reside in the SEC West. Mississippi State hosts Auburn and ESPN's "College GameDay" this Saturday.
11. The eyes of college football descended on Ole Miss. To see what everyone is saying in local and national news and the best tweets from Saturday and Sunday morning, click here.
12. There are a lot of great photos and videos out there from Saturday. Here is a photo of the mass of fans storming the field, a video of fans tearing down the goal posts and a video of the game-winning touchdown.
13. Speaking of photos and video, Josh McCoy did yeoman's working covering the days leading up to and including "College GameDay" and the win over Alabama. Check out his gallery from the Alabama game here.
And a tip of the hat to Michael Thompson, Micah Ginn and the rest of the marketing and productions staff for creating a big-time atmosphere in the stadium to match the big-time atmosphere in the Grove.
14. I would stay tuned for what might be the best episode of "The Season: Ole Miss Football" yet.
15. Lost in the euphoria of "College GameDay" and the historic win over Alabama, volleyball head coach Steven McRoberts and his team had a signature moment of their own. Missouri came in as the defending SEC Champion with a 20-match conference win streak, and the Rebels swept the Tigers 3-0 in front of a nationally-televised audience on the SEC Network.
"It's huge," said junior Nakeyta Clair who led the team with 14 kills and a .500 hitting percentage in the match. "It shows not only us, but it shows our fans that we can do it this year. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves this year. It didn't faze us they were SEC champs last year."
16. Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick tied the school shutout record with the Ole Miss soccer team's 1-0 win at Alabama on Sunday. The Rebels grabbed four points on the road this weekend, as they also played Auburn to a 2-2 draw Friday.
17. The Ole Miss men's basketball team opened fall practice Friday, and the team's trip to the Bahamas in August is already paying dividends. Don't forget Square Jam is set for Friday, Oct. 17, the day before the football team's homecoming game against Tennessee, and the men's and women's basketball teams open their respective seasons Friday, Nov. 14.
"We're so far ahead based on what we had the opportunity to experience in the Bahamas," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We have been with this team for 10 practices in July and August, and then we had two games in the Bahamas, so I feel much further along with this group.
"We already put in some of our baseline stuff so that we can start to make adjustments based on what we saw this summer. Our foundation is pretty much set. Now, we're building off that based on the skill-set of our players."
18. Two former Ole Miss Rebels in Aaron Barrett (Washington) and Lance Lynn (St. Louis) are still playing in the MLB Playoffs. He took a no-decision, but Lynn worked six strong innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in Game 2 of the NLDS against Los Angeles on Saturday.
19. Looking ahead, it doesn't get any easier for the football team as Ole Miss travels to No. 14 Texas A&M this Saturday. With an 8 p.m. kickoff on ESPN, Kyle Field should be rocking. A trademark under head coach Hugh Freeze has been a team that bounces back from the highest highs and the lowest lows, but the spotlight has never shined as bright as it does right now.
AUDIO: Ole Miss-Alabama Final Call from David Kellum of Ole Miss IMG
VIDEO: Ole Miss vs Alabama Highlights from Ole Miss Sports
No. 11 Mississippi stuns No. 3 Alabama, 23-17, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press
No. 11 Ole Miss knocks No. 1 Alabama from unbeaten ranks, writes Dan Wolken of USA Today
Rowdy Ole Miss fans party with the goalpost after beating Alabama, writes Laken Litman of USA Today
3 things we learned from Ole Miss' exciting upset of Alabama, writes Laken Litman of USA Today
Ole Miss upsets Alabama: How far can Rebels go in CFB Playoff race?, writes Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports
Ole Miss back on the map, shakes up SEC West by beating Bama, writes Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports
Finally, these Rebels have reason to yell, writes Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com
Ole Miss rallies past Alabama in upset Rebels waited years to capture, writes Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated
Ole Miss beats Alabama 23-17 after thrilling fourth-quarter comeback, writes Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated
Ole Miss enjoys beats Bama, but wants more, writes Matt Hayes of Sporting News
Ole Miss caps off historic day, incites bedlam with thrilling upset of Alabama, writes Pat Forde of Yahoo!
Madness in Mississippi as Rebels and Bulldogs Knock Off Top-10 Team, writes Rusty Hampton of the New York Times
Ole Miss has 'a tremendous day,' writes Neal McCready of Rebel Grove/Rivals.com
The New Normal, writes Ben Garett of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
Game-Saver, writes Jeff Roberson of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
Greater Opportunities, writes Jeff Roberson of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
Freeze has Rebels among nation's elite, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Clutch Bo: Wallace's huge fourth quarter leads upset, writes Riley Blevins of the Clarion-Ledger
In a big moment, Senquez Golson came through, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Bo-dacious: Wallace sharp as Rebels rally past Crimson Tide, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal
Rebels talented, mature enough to survive mistakes, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal
Senquez Golson, Bo Wallace provide heroics in Rebels' upset, writes Jack Schultz of the Sun Herald
In the aftermath of Saturday's historic win, the Rebels' first win over win over a top-ranked opponent and the first win over Alabama since 2003, senior quarterback Bo Wallace was at the center of it.
After throwing three second-half touchdown passes, including the game-tying and game-winning scores, the fans stormed the field and mobbed Wallace and his Ole Miss teammates. They would later raise him up and carry him for a distance, and they would go on to tear down the goal posts.
With the game on the line, he completed each of his final three passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns, as he finished the game 18-of-31 for 251 and three touchdowns.
"It was special because I know a lot of those guys that rushed the field are doubters, and for them to lift me up, it was special," Wallace said. "And it's huge for the seniors. Those guys have been through some rough times here. And to get a win against the No. 1 team in the country, it's definitely special."
"He just played so solid," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "On that last touchdown, that ball was right where it needed to be for us. Who knows what the next week holds, but tonight, Bo led his team to defeat the No. 1 team in the country. He deserves credit for being a big part of that."
Down 14-3 at the half, Ole Miss held Alabama scoreless on its opening drive and then put together a four-play, 66-yard drive, capped by Wallace's first touchdown pass, a 14-yard one to sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to help set the stage for late-game dramatics.
"Our team has never quit, not one single time, not even when we got beat that first year bad by Texas here," Freeze said said. "They fought to the end. We're not going to quit. We're going to fight to the end. That was never really a question in my mind.
"Whether or not we were going to stop Alabama and score points, I didn't know, but I knew our kids were going to fight. Playing for 60 minutes is a trademark of our program."
For the seniors such as Senquez Golson, it was one big step forward to the top after starting their Ole Miss careers at the bottom, playing through a forgettable 2-10 season. His transformation and emergence as a leader continued, as he sealed the win with an interception with 37 seconds remaining in the game.
"I knew we were going to get a stop," Golson said. "We're that good of a defense. I knew we were going to come up and make a big play. I didn't know who it was going to be, but I knew we were going to get a stop."
The interception by Golson provided the exclamation point to a dominant defensive effort, as the Rebels held the Crimson Tide to just 10 points. Alabama entered the day averaging 42.0 points per game on offense.
"They play for each and care for each other," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "They want to do good. They came from the bottom and are trying to head back to the top.
"We have some good leadership and we have a nice mixture of seniors who have been here in the past and juniors and sophomores who are really talented play. The experience and maturity has helped them get to where they are now."
On one of the biggest weekends in school history, complete with the first-ever visit of College GameDay, it marked another moment of arrival for the program.
"It's a great feeling," sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "I have seen this team put in the work all through the week. We have worked toward this since spring practice. We have a new spirit. We believed we could do this, and that's where it started. We believed we could beat these guys, and we did."
With the schedule ahead, there are possibilities of many more moments of arrival, as well as Wallace's goal of becoming the first quarterback to lead Ole Miss to Atlanta and the SEC Championship game.
"Right now, we have to focus on winning the West," Wallace said. "If you win the West, with the opponents you're going to play, you're going to be in the conversation, and that's all you can ask for."
After Senquez Golson's interception to seal the win over Alabama, here's what the last 32 seconds looked like from the field, including the fans storming the field and then lifting up and carrying Bo Wallace.
Three areas to watch as No. 11 Ole Miss faces No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.
Wallace Gets Another Shot at Alabama
Senior quarterback Bo Wallace has said he wants to be the first quarterback to get Ole Miss to Atlanta, and becoming the first quarterback since Eli Manning (2003) to defeat Alabama would be a big step forward in achieving that goal.
Wallace keeping his composure, ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff said, is one of the keys to victory for Ole Miss.
The Southeastern Conference's active leader in most passing categories, Wallace ranks second in the SEC and 13th nationally passing (317.8), but he's been up and down some this season, and he's coming off a game against Memphis where he completed 22-of-37 passes for 248 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
"His mindset never changes," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "He'll be as confident as any kid on the field entering Saturday's game. He's always that way. It's a really good quality about him. He's very resilient. He'll be looking forward to this game."
Alabama ranks fifth nationally in total defense (250.3 ypg), second only to Ole Miss among SEC teams, but the Crimson Tide have been more susceptible to the pass than the run.
On the ground, Alabama ranks second nationally, giving up 62.0 yards per game, including just 2.67 yards per attempt, while through the air the Crimson Tide rank 25th nationally, giving up 188.3 yards per game and 5.8 yards per attempt.
"It's obviously a big challenge playing Alabama," Wallace said. "They're a top-five team and the distractions are going to be here. It's a great opportunity for our team. We're excited about the challenge, and we know it's going to be a good game."
Eliminating Negative Plays, Staying on Schedule
The biggest mismatch on paper is the Ole Miss rushing offense against the Alabama rushing defense. The Rebels' rushing offense ranks 76th nationally, averaging 160.8 yards per game, and ranked 82nd nationally, averaging 4.0 yards per attempt, while the Alabama rushing defense ranks second nationally.
Ole Miss has showed more two-tight sets to help in the run game, and sophomore Jeremy Liggins has found success in short-yardage situations, converting three third-and-shorts, three fourth-and-shorts and scoring a 2-yard touchdown in his 10 carries this season.
"It's a tall task to consistently do it," said Freeze of running the football against Alabama. "You have to be balanced. You have to mix it up and find things that give your kids a chance to do what you're asking them to do, but it's a difficult defense to do it against."
Eliminating negative plays, staying on schedule and staying out of third-and-longs, offensive line coach Matt Luke said, are among the little things it takes to win close games, and those little things start with running the ball effectively and finding balance offensively.
"They're big and fast," Luke said. "They have a lot of good players. They have a very good scheme. They mix it up quite a bit. They're a very, very good team, and we're going to have to play very, very well to run the ball."
Tough Test for Stout Defense
If called upon, whether to keep Ole Miss in the game, or win the game, can the Rebel defense rise to the challenge as they have so far this season?
Through four games, the Ole Miss defense has been among the nation's best, giving up just 8.5 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally.
More impressively, the Rebels have given up just two touchdowns this season, the fewest in the nation.
"I don't know if we have had a better effort than that in our two and a half years here," said Freeze after holding Memphis to three points and 104 total yards in a 24-3 win this past Saturday. "They were really phenomenal. That was a team that was putting up some really good numbers."
In Alabama, the Ole Miss defense faces a balanced attack, one ranked 16th nationally in scoring offense (42.0 ypg), 19th in rushing offense (258.5 ypg), 12th in passing offense and fourth in total offense (594.3 ypg), headlined by senior quarterback Blake Sims and junior wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Sims ranks second nationally in completion percentage and fourth in passing efficiency (190.3), leading the SEC in both categories, while Cooper leads the nation with 163.8 receiving yards per game, and leads the SEC with 10.8 receptions per game and five receiving touchdowns.
"The most impressive thing with Sims is his accuracy and how efficient he's been running the offense," Freeze said. "He's completing a huge percentage of his passes and throws the deep ball extremely well.
"Cooper is arguably one of the top three receivers in the nation, if not the best, and he's been super explosive. You have to guard him on runs because of the screen game, and you have to guard him on the deep ball. He's a difficult matchup for everybody, including us."
Gaining experience and building chemistry were two big talking points for the Ole Miss men's basketball team coming out of its Bahamian exhibition tour in August. The practices leading up to and including the games in the Bahamas are already paying dividends, as the Rebels began preseason practice Friday.
"We're so far ahead based on what we had the opportunity to experience in the Bahamas," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We have been with this team for 10 practices in July and August, and then we had two games in the Bahamas, so I feel much further along with this group.
"That, and and this is the most-experienced team I have coached at Ole Miss, where nine of our 13 scholarship players are upperclassmen. I'm pleased with where we are and the prospects of this team."
With the departure of Marshall Henderson, senior Jarvis Summers, an All-SEC second team selection and the SEC's second-leading returning scorer, is looking to lead and be more vocal on a veteran-laden team with nine upperclassmen.
"I want him to be a leader and I want him to be steady," Kennedy said. "He has showed he is capable of those things. He had a great junior year. He's an all-league level player. For the first time, he realizes this is his team. We will go as far as he carries us, and he has accepted that challenge.
"Last year, a lot of the focus was on Marshall, and Jarvis did a great job of playing off of that. This year, he will be the focus. It will be a new role for him, and he will have to adjust accordingly."
Summers himself said it's everyone's responsibility to lead and take ownership of the team.
"I feel like everyone has to play a role," Summers said. "I know I played the most minutes and I'm the player from last year that got things going, but we're one, and we have to lead together."
Among the nine upperclassmen are two graduate transfers in Terence Smith and M.J. Rhett and two junior college transfers in Stefan Moody and Roderick Lawrence. Moody and Smith, Kennedy said, will help Summers with ball-handling responsibilities in the backcourt.
"With our two post-grad transfers, you're getting a mature kid who's been in game action before," Kennedy said. "And they're hungry because they never really experienced much team success. Stefan Moody and Rod Lawrence have really helped us from an athleticism and versatility standpoint."
It's a big weekend on campus with the first-ever visit of ESPN's College GameDay and the SEC West Showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Ole Miss in football, and it only benefits the other programs, Kennedy said, including men's basketball.
"Everybody's under the brand of Ole Miss," Kennedy said. "We're all on the same team, whether you're a basketball player, a football player or a volleyball player. We're all Ole Miss. Anything that can raise that profile is awesome. What Hugh (Freeze) has been able to do, getting College GameDay here and the excitement it brings and the platform it presents, we're all excited about it."
Highlights from today's media opportunity with ESPN College GameDay producer Lee Fitting, host Chris Fowler and analysts Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit discussing the show's first-ever visit to Oxford and the SEC West Showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Ole Miss on Saturday.
College GameDay Producer Lee Fitting
On when he starting looking at Ole Miss-Alabama as a possibility for College GameDay...
"Over the summer when the schedule came out. We're always looking for opportunities to come to Oxford, so this one has been sort of earmarked for a while. We followed it for the first several weeks and it got real about two weeks ago. It made us sweat a little bit last week with Memphis.
"Every year we're looking for opportunities to get here. We are thrilled to here. I mean that. This is awesome. It re-energizes us whenever we go somewhere for the first time. This weeks feels different than all the other weeks. In turn, our show is typically better because of that. It's exciting to see how excited the fans and people are here, and the product reflects that."
On the excitement to be in Oxford...
"Behind closed doors in our little group, we talk about the Grove all the time. 'When are we going to get there? When is it going to fall on the right week? I want to get down there and I want to experience.' Our crew typically after the show, most weeks, will leave and go home.
"This week, there is a huge pack of us sticking around, tailgating in the Grove, going to the game, hanging out after the game. This is a big deal for us. I'm not in here just to say that for a quote in the newspaper or TV. This is a big deal. This is fun. I'm excited, and the guys are excited. This is more than Oxford. This is a chance to introduce and explain to the country in further detail what the Grove is about."
On Katy Perry as a celebrity guest picker...
"We're excited. She's really fired up to do it. We may have had equal superstar status on our show before, but she's up there. This is awesome. Twitter doesn't tell you everything, but she has 57.5 million followers, which is pretty good. She's pretty popular."
College GameDay Analyst Desmond Howard
On Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss...
"He's done an excellent job recruiting, bringing in some great young talent. They have been doing a tremendous job of coaching the young men up. Defensively, I was really impressed early in the season when I watched them play Boise State.
"Not only were there guys in the right position, but I also thought they did an excellent job of tacking. You watch a lot of football nowadays and guys just want to hit and try to put their shoulder pads on somebody, but these guys are actually hitting and wrapping, making excellent tackles in the open field against Boise State. That was refreshing to see, so defensively I was very impressed.
"Offensively that night, there were too many interceptions and too many poor decision with the ball, but it was something that Boise wasn't good enough to take advantage, so Ole Miss ended up winning that game. Those were the pros and cons of what I saw earlier in the season with Ole Miss."
On the opportunity Saturday's game and this weekend presents for Ole Miss...
"This game doesn't just have the potential to define a season, but it has the potential to define a program."
On Ole Miss playing on the big stage...
"As a former player, they will be very excited. They will come out with a tremendous amount of energy, but after the first couple of plays, things will settle down for them and they will get back to the basic. You look toward your coaches and team leaders to make sure the guys get focused on the task at hand. It's going to be a tremendous atmosphere for those guys.
"In my opinion, this is why you to come to Ole Miss. You come to Ole Miss to play games like this and in atmosphere like we're going to experience tomorrow, so hopefully they're prepared for it."
College GameDay Analyst Kirk Herbstreit
On getting the opportunity to come to Oxford for College GameDay...
"For us, the pageantry of the sport and the passion that fans have for it, that's we love about it. To be able to go place like Fargo, North Dakota, even though it's not necessarily what people think of as big-time college football, but in their world, it is. We have always had in our mind that it would be great to get to Seattle, and we got there last year.
"We always talked about getting to the Grove forever. I have been on the show 19 years, and it's one of those landmarks that people love to come to. We have never looked at ourselves as 'Hey, we have arrived. Everybody pat us on the back.'
"We're very much more about the place we're visiting and being a conduit between the fans nationally and the university we're on that week. And what better place to celebrate a college football Saturday than in Oxford, Mississippi with a huge showdown, arguably one of the biggest games in school history. We're thrilled to be here.
"I have been here for the Egg Bowl, but it's during Thanksgiving and it's like 45-50 degrees, so it doesn't really count. This will be my first real experience of the Grove and looking out over the stage, I can't imagine what it's going to be like. It's going to be sweet. We feed off the energy of the crowd, and this crowd will be one of the best we will have all year."
On Katy Perry as a celebrity guest picker...
"We have so much fun with segment, not just because of Lee (Corso) at the end and whatever he might be up to it, but the person and whatever their background and industry is, they get up there and they get intertwined into the fun and the prediction.
"Lee's telling them, 'Not so fast my friend,' and it's a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to see how she does and hopefully she will have fun with it."
On Ole Miss and the opportunity Saturday...
"In the past with a new coach, when they would get into these types of games, there was a hope they could compete and they needed something good to happen for them to buy in.
"When you're down for so long as a program -- and there have been some moments with Eli and some other moments over the decades -- it's hard to go from being irrelevant in the SEC West to mattering over night.
"There have been enough steps forward that when they get into this setting now against Alabama, at home especially, I don't think they hope they can catch a break and compete. Deep down, they think they can play.
"The X's and O's to me would be Bo Wallace and the running game. They have to run just enough to avoid those 3rd-and-8 and 3rd-and-9 plays. If they're not running the ball, they're not going to win. They have to be able to run the football to take pressure off of Bo Wallace.
"If you put him into obvious passing situation, you're going to turn it over two or three times, and you're going to lose. Running the football and getting into those 3rd-and-manageable situations will be really big.
"The other thing is Lane (Kiffin), who everybody kind of made fun of when Nick Saban hired him, has become maybe the national story with what he's been able to accomplish with a new quarterback who's really never played.
"That's the difference with Alabama and the old Alabama teams. It's no long defense, special teams and running the ball. Now, they're spreading you out with empty formations, throwing the ball down the field. Its' very different from what AJ McCarron and Greg McElroy operated in. Defense has been a strength for Ole Miss, and it will be interesting to see how they matchup against Amari Cooper and arguably the best group of receivers in the SEC."
On Saturday as a program-defining game for Ole Miss...
"It would earn them instant credibility on a national scale. I was talking to Huge (Freeze) yesterday at practice. If you win the game, it's exciting, everyone runs on the field and you took advantage of a great opportunity, but you're going to Kyle Field next week, and you can lose that game and be forgotten.
"I wouldn't say this is a program-defining moment, but this is definitely an opportunity to prove to people that you can beat the best teams in the SEC and that gets a lot of attention from a lot of people. Look at their schedule. No matter what happens Saturday, it's not as if they beat Alabama, reserved your hotel tickets for Atlanta and the Final Four. They can beat Alabama, but I don't know if anybody in the SEC West is going through the gauntlet of all these teams. It's just too tough."
College GameDay Host Chris Fowler
On mentioning Oxford as College GameDay destination in the opening segment of the picks last week...
"We go where the game is, and we have wanted to come here for a long time. The people who follow this program might know there have been some close calls and some games we had circled, but then the result didn't quite fall the right way, namely Ole Miss stumbled before the big game we had circled. We were just hoping that it didn't happen this year.
"Obviously this game has been on the schedule and we have looked at it from the beginning of the season. We thought there was a very good likelihood that both teams would be undefeated. It came down to one final hurdle to clear with Ole Miss home against Memphis as a three-touchdown favorite. We thought we would have fun with it. We have started to talk more in the show about games that have GameDay implications and let it out there that if this happen, we will likely be at this place next week.
"That was the blatant I have ever been about it. We had some fun, although I wasn't really kidding. If the game here had fallen through, we likely would have been in Starkville."
On the experience so far in Oxford...
It's great. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We have all been here for games. To be clear, the show hasn't been here, but those of us who have been around for a long time in this have been to Oxford for games and to do features.
"It's just the first time the show has arrived here on Saturday. Doing some of the Thursday games, it's not quite the same. I have been looking forward to a big Saturday atmosphere for a long time. You can tell the buildup is as advertised, so we can't wait until tomorrow morning."
On what Hugh Freeze has done at Ole Miss...
"It starts with inheriting a situation where he needed to make drastic changes right away, and he talked to me about that yesterday, on the field and off the field. He has brought in top-flight talent, which is one of the reasons he was an attractive coaching candidate.
"Now, the next step is getting those guys to not just win the games they're supposed to win, but to beat people like Alabama and LSU. Everybody knows, in soccer teams, the SEC West is the group of death. There's no easy passes. Every game is going to take the best effort that Ole Miss has and now it's time to step up.
"I sense a real difference from being around practice yesterday and some of the comments I have read. It's no longer viewed as Ole Miss just trying to be respectable against big, bad 'Bama. Now, those guys really believe they belong with anybody and should win the game.
"Nationally, there's always going to be skeptics because until you have done it, you haven't done it. There will be a lot of eyes on this town tomorrow afternoon to see if they can take that step and beat Alabama. And then keep it going because the season isn't over, win or lose, and that's what Hugh has preached, and rightfully so. You can't let down for one week in this division."
On Saturday being perhaps the biggest college football day in the history of Mississippi...
"The ingredients are there. You talk about two top-15 matchups that are 75 miles apart as the crow flies. Any place in the country would be thrilled to have that. The fact that it's been a long time down here certainly makes it fun for us.
"It's hard to imagine it being bigger, but if they keep winning, there are going to be a lot more big weekends. Tomorrow's result will determine whether Mississippi gets a lot more weekends like this and if there will be biggest Egg Bowl in the history of Egg Bowls."
On the Grove and Oxford...
"It's a place of good food and drink and great atmosphere. I have been to the Grove before, but I haven't seen it quite like that. There is stuff that's unique about it. I was trying to explain it. You see this picture on television with these red and blue things, and I don't think people even knew what that was, and I explained they were staking out territory and what it is going to look like tomorrow.
"It's our job to capture what's unique about it because at first glance, you might look at the show and say every week is kind of the same where there's a bunch of screaming kids with signs. If we're not doing our job, we won't be able to point out what's distinct and what's unique about this. We're going to get on the ground and go all over the place and try to capture it as best we can sprinkled throughout the show. There are few surprises thrown in there too that even the people on the desk don't know about yet."
Ahead of the first-ever visit of ESPN's College GameDay and one of the biggest weekends in school history, here's an exhaustive link roundup of stories from local and national media regarding the SEC West showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Ole Miss:
Alabama vs. Ole Miss, 1969: The night college football went prime time, writes Lars Anderson for AL.com
Katy Perry for GameDay? Katy Perry for GameDay, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Two top-15 games make for the biggest weekend ever for Mississippi football, writes Mike Herndon of AL.com
New York Giants' Eli Manning likes Ole Miss' chance against Alabama, writes Dan Graziano of ESPN.com
Mississippi's Moment: The Newly Relevant Rebels and Bulldogs Take Center Stage in the SEC West, writes Matt Hinton of Grantland
Mississippi becomes epicenter of college football, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press
Good Guys Finish 1st: The Hugh Freeze Story, writes Lars Anderson for Bleacher Report
Big week in Mississippi a milestone for coaches Freeze, Mullen, writes Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports
Alabama's got 'chinstrap in and locked and loaded' for Ole Miss' 296-pound running QB, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com
Alabama QB Sims has Ole Miss' respect, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
This is the Rebels' best chance, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal
Alabama's top-ranked run defense poised for different sort of challenge vs. Ole Miss, writes Andrew Gribble of AL.com
At Ole Miss, evolving perception both outward and inward, writes Dan Wolken of USA Today
Bo Wallace eager for another shot at Bama, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com
Hugh Freeze preps for Lane Kiffin curveball, says 1-on-1 battles could determine Alabama-Ole Miss, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com
Alabama defense to be tested by Ole Miss tempo, Laquon Treadwell, writes Alex Scarborough of AL.com
How Lane Kiffin improved Bama's offense, writes Mackenzie Kraemer of ESPN.com
Ole Miss can make a statement vs. Bama, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com
Blake Sims (then a RB) had a memorable night in Alabama's last Ole Miss trip, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com
Alabama-Ole Miss: Kiffin has turned Tide into nearly unstoppable force, writes Coy Wire of Fox Sports
Game-changers: Cooper, Treadwell major keys in Ole Miss-Alabama matchup, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Amari Cooper 'banged up' after Florida win, not listening to Heisman talk, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com
No. 11 Mississippi prepares for Alabama offense, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press
History on schedule for Mississippi, writes Chris Low of ESPN.com
Ole Miss and its Landsharks a legit threat to Alabama's run as the SEC's best defense, writes Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com
Ole Miss confident it can compete with Alabama, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Alabama faces biggest test yet in Ole Miss, writes Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com
Wild, wild SEC West set for historic day, writes John Zenor and David Brandt of the Associated Press
Epic, writes Chuck Rounsaville of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
In case you missed it, 3 Things You Should Know About Gameday, The Memphis episode of The Season: Ole Miss Football and Get Your Grove On - Get Up. It's GameDay
Ahead of one of the biggest games in school history, I caught up with ESPN.com SEC reporter Edward Aschoff and had him finish the following statements that are on the minds of many Ole Miss fans. Among them, he discussed the impact of "College GameDay," matchups to watch, what Ole Miss has to do to win the game and what a win over Alabama would mean for the program.
Earlier this week, Aschoff wrote how Ole Miss can make a statement against Alabama. Check it out.
Austin Miller: The impact of 'College GameDay' will be...
Edward Aschoff: huge for the Ole Miss program and the Oxford community. It's crazy to think this will be the very first time GameDay will be in the Grove. It's been a long time coming, but folks in Oxford should be ecstatic. This is a chance for the rest of the country to really see what makes the Grove so special and why it might be the nation's best tailgating venue.
AM: When Ole Miss is on offense, the matchup to watch will be...
EA: Bo Wallace against Alabama's pass rush. We all know Wallace has had problems with consistency when the pass rush gets dialed up against him. Alabama didn't get a lot of pressure on Jeff Driskel in the Tide's win over Florida, leaving him plenty of time to make plays. While he didn't take advantage of those opportunities, Wallace can, if he doesn't try to press. That's been an issue for him in the past, and we saw a little of that against Memphis. Wallace has to be patient but also confident when Alabama brings pressure. At the same time, Alabama's secondary has to be ready to tighten its coverage. It has a tough time with these fast-paced offenses, and if Wallace gets into a groove, that could create problems for this younger defense. Without the threat of a true pounding running game, Ole Miss' offense will live and die by Wallace's decisions, as will Alabama's defense.
AM: When Alabama is on offense, the matchup to watch will be...
EA: Ole Miss' defensive line vs. Alabama's offensive line. The Tide has done a pretty good job of protecting quarterback Blake Sims this year -- it's only allowed three sacks thus far. I can't wait to see the matchup between Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson and Ole Miss defensive end C.J. Johnson. That should be fantastic TV right there. Also, Robert Nkemdiche facing Arie Kouandjio and Ryan Kelly in the middle should be great too. If the Rebels, who have 28 tackles for loss on the season, can bring more pressure Sims' way, that will go a long way to keeping Alabama's offense honest.
AM: Ole Miss wins if...
EA: Wallace keeps his composure and the defense can contain that vicious running game.
AM: Alabama wins if...
EA: the running game can make some plays and the defense keeps up with Ole Miss' uptempo offense.
AM: A win for Ole Miss would be...
EA: huge for a program that hasn't beaten Alabama since 2003 and has an unpleasant history in games like this. It would thrust the Rebels right into serious playoff conversation and put them right at the top of the SEC West, and probably the SEC in general. It would also be a great momentum builder for the West gauntlet that awaits.
AM: A loss for Ole Miss would be...
EA: hard to swallow for a team with such lofty expectations. These are the games Ole Miss just doesn't generally win, so many people would chalk it up to the Rebels just not being ready. It certainly wouldn't hurt the Rebels' chances at a big season, but it would put them behind the eight ball when it comes to winning the West, especially with such a tough stretch approaching.
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