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Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze will team with former All-SEC basketball player Sean Tuohy to represent the Rebels for the fourth straight year and compete for a share of the $520,000 total purse in the ninth annual Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament April 26-28.

The nation's premier head coach and celebrity golf event will be held April 26-28 at the Reynolds Plantation resort on Lake Oconee outside Atlanta. Over the past eight years, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge has provided $4.7 million in scholarship and charitable contributions.

Freeze and Tuohy finished 7-under par for fifth place last year, their best finish in three years of competition at the event. In their three years of competition, Freeze and Tuohy have combined to earn $85,000 in scholarship funds for Ole Miss. Team Ole Miss has appeared in the Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament every year since 2009, earning a cumulative $147,500 in scholarship funds for the Rebels. 

The Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge main event features pairings that include a university head coach and a celebrity or former athlete from the same school competing in a two-man scramble over 18 hotels. The tournament will be broadcast on ESPNU in August and December. Specific air dates will be announced this summer.

The 13 university teams will be vying for the $125,000 first-place prize, with all teams receiving a portion of the $520,000 scholarship purse. Freeze and Tuohy are paired with the N.C. State team of Dave Doeren and Terry Harvey in Group Five.

The field of competitors for the featured event is scheduled to include: 

Alabama: Nick Saban, Mark Ingram

Arizona: Rich Rodriguez, Kenny Lofton

Auburn: Gus Malzahn, Bo Jackson 

Cincinnati: Tommy Tuberville, Kevin Huber

Clemson: Dabo Swinney, Steve Fuller

Georgia Tech: Paul Johnson, Jon Barry (2011, 2012, 2014 winners)

Maryland: Randy Edsall, Scott McBrien

Mississippi State: Dan Mullen, Fred McCrary 

North Carolina: Larry Fedora, Roy Williams 

NC State: Dave Doeren, Terry Harvey

Ohio State: Urban Meyer, Jeff Logan

Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze, Sean Tuohy 

South Carolina: Steve Spurrier, Sterling Sharpe (2008, 2009 winners)

For a full list of pairings and more information on the event, visit Chick-fil-APeachBowlChallenge.com.

At one point, co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said, all three quarterbacks had completed around 66 percent of their passes, a testament to how close the competition has been this spring. Going into the Grove Bowl, Freeze said one had a slight lead, but even that might have changed after the game itself Saturday.

"After one drill I'd like that one, after the next drill I'd like that one," Freeze said. "So, I go back and forth. In the totality of spring, going back before today, I would say that Ryan Buchanan had a lead in my mind. That certainly doesn't mean that he is going to be the starter. After today I will go back and watch the film and put it with our cumulative stats and everything else that we are judging on them. We will see where it is after today. 

"Again, even if we say that he has the lead, it is so minute and so small and so far from being over. That is everything being transparent and that is how I felt today. I might feel differently come Monday. I will watch the film this weekend and we will see." 

Junior quarterback Chad Kelly had the best statistical day of the group, completing 9-of-19 passes for 104 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Sophomore quarterback DeVante Kincade was 9-of-18 for 93 yards and also rushed for 50 yards on 10 carries, while fellow sophomore quarterback Ryan Buchanan was 5-of-16 for 49 yards with an interception.

"I feel like I really improved since the start of camp," Buchanan said. "Like I have said from the beginning, being behind Bo, you don't get as many of the first-team reps and don't go against the first-team defense. This spring, we had a chance to do that, and gradually I feel like I improved with my decision-making.

"I feel like I have made improvements, but I know for a fact that I can do way better," Kincade said.

Earlier this spring, Freeze said he expected the competition to continue into the middle of fall camp, but if it stays as close as it appears to be right now, it might continue into the season itself.

"If they are as close as they are now, I could see us going a couple games making sure we have done due diligence in naming a starter," Freeze said. "But, I do not want to do it beyond that or even if that. It wouldn't shock me to go into week one planning to give them all reps to look at how they do when the lights come on. We won't go too long like that. I don't mind playing a couple, but you need to have a guy that is your guy when the time comes." 

Revamped Running Game

Ole Miss returns its two leading rushers from last season in senior running back Jaylen Walton (106 carries, 586 yards, five touchdowns) and sophomore running back Jordan Wilkins (52 carries, 361 yards, one touchdown), but the Rebels appear to have made some changes in the ground game.

"We tweaked a few things," Werner said. "We got some ideas from some other teams that run similar offenses and it's been really good for us."

Despite just 10 healthy offensive linemen by the end of the spring, one of the areas where Freeze was most pleased this spring was the running game, and it showed in the Grove Bowl. 

Wilkins led the way with six carries for 62 yards, highlighted by a 28-yard run, but sophomore Eugene Brazley and redshirt freshman Akeem Judd had their moments as well. Walton even threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow on a halfback pass.

"We have a bunch of good backs," Werner said. "They're in a situation where they have so many guys who are really good players that they have to compete. When you get a chance to run the ball, you better make a good run."

Jones, Hampton Among Spring Surprises

Freeze has said they are searching for more consistency at the wide receiver position, but when asked earlier this week who has been the biggest surprise of spring practice, the first name that came to his mind was junior wide receiver Derrick Jones.

Jones credited another year in the program and the confidence of playing on just one of the ball for his breakout spring. In the Grove Bowl, he led the Red team with three catches for 35 yards.

"It gives me a lot of confidence, knowing that I'm going to be in this spot and keep working at one position, and not wondering if I'm going to be a cornerback or a receiver," Jones said.

Sophomore defensive back C.J. Hampton was another name that Freeze mentioned as players who have impressed this spring. After a year learning behind All-American safety Cody Prewitt, Hampton is now competing for playing time at free safety, and he was named the most improved defensive player of the spring.

"Cody was on hard me last year," Hampton said. "He wanted me to learn. He always said I was good enough and that I had to learn it fast. I learned it, and I'm rolling with it now. I still talk to Cody a lot now."

Former Ole Miss head coach Billy Brewer almost did not sign Chucky Mullins, whose memory has been honored with the Chucky Mullins Courage Award.

Nate Wayne, a four-year letterman for the Rebels and the 1997 recipient of the award, who was a special guest at this year's ceremony, shared a similar story of how his high school coach convinced Coach Brewer to offer him a scholarship.

Fittingly, this year's winner, senior defensive back Mike Hilton, followed a similar path to Ole Miss.

Then a 5-foot-9, 175-pound athlete from Sandy Creek High School in Fayetteville, Georgia, Hilton was not the highest-profile football prospect. 

Hilton was a 247Sports composite three-star prospect, the No. 71 ranked player in Georgia by Rivals.com and the No. 78 running back in the nation by Scout.com. But something about him grabbed the attention of one coach, which made all the difference.

"I almost did not sign him," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I almost messed it up. He had some academic issues at first and he was undersized. I had three weeks to recruit him and I was not sure that he was going to make it. Matt Luke went to one of their practices. They had five Division I players on that team, and he said there was no question who the alpha dog was on the field and that we had better take this kid."

Since stepping on campus in the fall of 2012, Hilton has been a key contributor on Ole Miss defense, playing in 36 games with 28 starts, including a start at every position in the defensive backfield. He led the Rebels with 71 tackles last season, to go along with 4.0 tackles for loss, three interceptions and seven pass break-ups.

Hilton started the spring at Rover safety, before suffering a broken thumb that ended his spring practice. But come the fall, Hilton will be one of the leaders on the Ole Miss defense, wearing Mullins' No. 38 jersey, whether it's at that Rover safety position, or one of the other starting spots in the defensive backfield.

"I have always been undersized, so I knew I had to put forth that extra effort," Hilton said. "You have to have the mentality to do what you have to do on and off the field, and I have been able to do that. I'm thankful for the coaches to give me an opportunity to come out here and do what I do and also show what I can do off the field."

Speaking about Mullins, Freeze said the one thing he keeps coming back to is something that Tea Southerland, the 1992 winner of the award, said. Southerland said it was one of the highest honors he'd ever received, which Freeze said is a great statement, but the statement that followed really grabbed him. He said, "I wonder if Chucky would say they got the right guy."

Freeze said the one thing he knows that the right kind of people have is the ability to finish. That doesn't mean you don't stub your toe or you fall down, but they finish. Hilton, Freeze said, is the one guy they kept coming back to represent the spirit of Mullins.

"We have made our kids understand that if you get award this award, it's a big deal," Freeze said. "It's the highest award that our program gives, and it comes with a lot of responsibility. This year, out staff had a difficult selecting it, not because we couldn't the one, but because we had five who were all deserving. That's a good sign for our program."

"When I put that 38 on, nothing else mattered, said Wayne, who also enjoyed an eight-year professional career in the NFL. "It wasn't just about me. It was about my wife, my daughter, my family, my Ole Miss family and Chucky. At that point, I realized that every decision I made didn't just affect me. It affected everyone involved with me. If it wasn't for that mentality, who knows where I would be today."

Three areas to watch as Ole Miss splits into two teams for the annual Regions Bank Grove Bowl on Saturday.

Can Someone Emerge in the Quarterback Battle?

By all indications, sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade and junior college transfer Chad Kelly have split reps evenly this spring. 

The coaches have charted every throw and every drill, but there does not appear to be any true separation, and head coach Hugh Freeze has said he expects the competition to continue into the middle of fall camp.

Freeze and co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner were both generally pleased with the play of all three quarterbacks in their last scrimmage, but Freeze did say that Buchanan graded out the best of the three.

What does their last opportunity to impress the coaches before summer workouts and fall camp hold? 

As with previous observations of the quarterbacks, there's a caveat: The offense is not yet at full strength, particularly along the offensive line, where the Rebels have just 10 healthy players.

Physical Play on the Outside

More than any other matchup on the field, I found myself watching the wide receivers and tight ends working against the defensive backs. The play is physical, and the players appear to take each play personally.

Perhaps the most physical on the offensive side of the ball, Laquon Treadwell, will not be participating in the Grove Bowl, but Quincy Adeboyejo, Cody Core and Markell Pack have all returned from their respective injuries. Derrick Jones has also been one of the biggest surprises of spring practice and he's another player to watch.

On the defensive side of the ball, Tony Bridges and Tee Shepard are long, athletic and physical, and they pride themselves on being able to play on an island by themselves. Kendarius Webster is another long, athletic and physical corner. Like Derrick Jones, C.J. Hampton has been another surprise of spring practice.

It should be fun to watch on Saturday.

Battle in the Trenches

The Ole Miss defensive line was one of the most talented units in the nation last year. This year, the group may be even better with a year of maturity and experience for returnees and the addition of a trio of redshirt freshmen in Victor Evans, Garrald McDowell and Breeland Speaks and junior college transfer D.J Jones.

That being said, one of the areas where Freeze has been most pleased this spring has been in the running game, a credit to an offensive line that continues to deal with injuries and a group of running backs that may have found their stride this spring. Akeem Judd is one name that has popped up a lot this spring.

Junior Jeremy Liggins, who has transitioned to offensive tackle, and redshirt freshman Jordan Sims and freshman Javon Patterson, who have both come a long way this spring, are three players to watch along the offensive line.

By splitting into two teams, with five healthy offensive linemen each, it may be hard to tell if there's any improvement in the running game on Saturday, but it's something to watch nevertheless. And it will certainly be something to watch when the Rebels will likely have a full complement of healthy players come fall camp.

Junior cornerback Tee Shepard's story has been well-documented. 

Shepard is hearing impaired, but since he has arrived at Ole Miss, he has been the beneficiary of new hearing technology that has allowed him to hear sounds, such as a coach's whistle.

"The new technology hearing aid I have is phenomenal," Shepard said. "When I got it last fall, I heard my first whistle ever. It's crazy because I'm hearing sounds I haven't heard before, and I'm starting to pick it up."

Shepard is thankful for Ole Miss and the resources they have been able to provide him, specifically someone who understands his impairment in Shannon Singletary, the senior associate athletics director for health and sports performance.

"This is the first place that finally understood how bad my hearing was," Shepard said. "Shannon has a hearing loss himself, so we have that connection, and he's helped out me out big time."

That same fall, when he heard his first whistle, he appeared on the verge of emerging as a starter, or at least a regular contributor, in the Rebels' defensive backfield.

However, his promising fall camp was cut short after tearing a tendon in his toe that required surgery and a long rehabilitation.

"It was a freak accident," Shepard said. "I had never heard of a torn ligament in your toe. Everything happens for a reason. God has made me better this year. I was disappointed, but at the same, it got me ready and prepared for this season."

His toe, Shepard said, is probably about 85 percent, but he trusts it now. He said he also added about 10 pounds that has helped him be even more physical this spring.

"I have always been a physical corner," Shepard said. "You have to be physical because these big wide receivers are physical, like Laquon Treadwell. If we're not physical with them, they're going to outwork you." 

Nearing the end of his first spring practice, Shepard has once again emerged as a likely starter at cornerback for the Rebels, perhaps opposite fellow junior Tony Bridges, a junior college transfer.

"We have to be physical, lockdown corners because we can't run our defense the way we want to without us being on an island by ourselves," Shepard said. "I have been looking forward to this moment. It's been a long journey for me. I'm excited. I'm ready to go."

Players Ready to Take on Bigger Roles in Year Two

They did not have the fanfare of the class that came in the year before them, but last year's freshmen made valuable contributions in their own way. Among those then-freshmen are sophomore defensive end Marquis Haynes and sophomore offensive guard Rod Taylor. 

Haynes, a Freshman All-America and SEC All-Freshman selection, set an Ole Miss freshman record for sacks with a team-leading 7.5 last season. Coaches and his teammates have noted how Haynes has gotten stronger to play better against the run, which has been a point of emphasis for him going into and through spring practice.

"I didn't trust my power like I should have my freshman year," Haynes said. "This year, I want to try to do better on that. I have been getting stronger. Playing the run against Alabama, I saw what I was doing. This year, I should have a big improvement."

Taylor was a regular in the offensive line rotation and started two games, including the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against TCU, getting thrown into the fire due to injuries. It has been a similar case for him this spring, running with the first-team offense and getting a lot of reps, also due to injuries.

"It's been good to get increase reps in practice," Taylor said. "I feel like with me getting a lot of reps at my position, I'm getting better at what I'm supposed to do and I feel like I'm getting better every day. I had to get better with my technique and my stance and putting my hands in the right place. Those are the things I'm getting better at."

The coaches have also raved about second-year players C.J. Hampton, who's emerged at free safety, DeMarquis Gates, who might can play both Mike or Stinger linebacker, and Kendarius Webster, who like Tee Shepard, is in the mix at the cornerback position.

The SEC Network will air every SEC spring football game with multiple viewing opportunities on both television and the network's digital platforms. All 12 spring football games will be carried live and in full on SEC Network + with additional coverage on SEC Network Alternate.

On Saturday, April 11 and Saturday April 18, SEC Network Alternate will carry whiparound coverage between the multiple games being played, including the Grove Bowl on April 11. Every spring game will also have multiple airing during the week on SEC Network.

The Grove Bowl, scheduled for April 11 at noon, will be broadcast live on SEC Network+, and it will later be broadcast on the SEC Network on Sunday, April 12 at 5:30 p.m. Chris Cotter and Greg McElroy will be on the call and Kayce Smith will be on the sidelines.

The network's coverage of spring football will also include "SEC Network: 2015 Spring Football Tour," a school-dedicated series on series on Southeastern Conference football teams, which will include coaching interviews, practice football and news of the day over multiple shows.

Ole Miss will be the location highlighted as part of the series on Tuesday, April 7 at 10 p.m. CT with hosts Kayce Smith and Booger McFarland.

For a full schedule of both the spring games and the SEC Now: 2015 Spring Football Tour, click here.

Through the first seven spring practices, or three weeks since the start of spring practice on March 3, there does not appear to be any separation between sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade and junior college transfer Chad Kelly. 

Whether you talk to head coach Hugh Freeze, or one of the quarterback competitors, they all have one overarching goal for the position: consistency.

"We're charting every single throw, and it's really close between all three," Freeze said. "It really depends on the day. Ryan has had his great days, Kincade has done well at times, and so has Chad. We're compile it all after this week and look at it again, but it's really close."

"All of them look great," sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell said. "It's still a learning process for them. They don't have a lot of experience going live against the first-team defense and doing all the things we do every day, but they all look good and they're all making plays."

Every snap and every series, Buchanan and Kincade said, it's a challenge to stay consistent and do the little things right to separate themselves in the quarterback competition.

"I feel like I have gotten progressively better each camp from fall to spring the last couple of years," Buchanan said. "The biggest thing is you have to do it life. I can sit in meetings and know exactly where everything is supposed to be, but you have to make on-the-second decisions when you're out there."

"Every day, you have to bring it, no matter where you are," Kincade said. "Anywhere you go, it's going to be a competition. You have to bring your 'A' game every time you're on the field."

Every practice, they face a defense that boasts seven returning starters from the nation's No. 1 scoring defense. 

They're also short-handed on the offensive side of the ball with only eight healthy offensive linemen as well as injuries to sophomore wide receiver Markell Pack and senior wide receiver Cody Core, joining Treadwell and senior wide receiver Collins Moore, who were already being held out.

"We can force our defense to be in some vanilla looks and we look a lot better then," Freeze said. "When they're who they want to be, it's been quite challenging to have successful plays for sure."

Injuries and Opportunities Along the Offensive Line

The Rebels were already without a trio of offensive linemen at the start of spring practice and the injury list has only grown longer three weeks into it.

"We're struggling to just stay healthy," Freeze said. "We're losing kids to some freak injuries that have certainly made reps more difficult. That's part of the game. 

"On the offensive line, we're down to about eight guys. It's a struggle. There are a lot of good looking ones standing on the sideline. At receiver, Markell (Pack) and Cody (Core) are hurt. Laquon (Treadwell) and Collins (Moore) are already out. We're facing some adversity right now offensively."

By name, according to Freeze, junior Laremy Tunsil, senior Aaron Mooris, sophomore Daronte Bouldin, junior Robert Conyers, sophomore Christian Morris, junior Talbot Buys, sophomore Davion Johnson and redshirt freshman Sean Rawling are offensive lineman that have been ruled out for spring practice.

The eight healthy offensive lineman, Freeze also said by name, are senior Justin Bell, freshman Javon Patterson, senior Ben Still, junior Jeremy Liggins, senior Fahn Cooper, redshirt freshman Jordan Sims, sophomore Rod Taylor, junior Jacob Feeley, and redshirt freshman Tyler Putman.

"We have who we have for spring," Freeze said. "Hopefully, Markell and Cody are not out significantly long. On the offensive line, it doesn't look like we will get any of them back for spring."

Freeze praised the effort of the younger and less-experienced players, stepping up and having to go a lot of reps with the first-team and second-team offenses. Of the injured offensive linemen, Freeze said he is hopeful they will be ready for summer workouts.

Those injuries along the offensive line have also presented an opportunity for younger players, such as Patterson, an early enrollee, and Liggins, who has moved to offensive tackle.

"He's getting all the reps he wants," said Freeze of Patterson. "He's having to go with the one's some and the two's some. He's getting all the reps he wants. All of them are. I'm really pleased with him. He's going to be a really good player. I'm really excited about him."

"It's going really well," said Freeze of Liggins. "He has really good feet. He's picked it up as well as I would have hoped. There are times, just like with any offensive lineman, where you get these strange looks that you really didn't work on in individual work that may be moving a little fast for him. That's not just him. That's all of them. I really think he's a talented kid there."

QUOTABLE

Freeze, on the defense: "Defensively, I'm really, really pleased. I think we have a chance to be really good on that side of the ball. Certainly, it's going to make us better going forward having to practice against the speed and length that our defense plays with."

Freeze, on Saturday's scrimmage: "It's been a very physical spring thus far. I'm hoping that Saturday, when we get there, we will have enough healthy guys to have a quality scrimmage to see if we have made some significant improvements because we have spent an enormous amount of time on technique and individual work."

Freeze, on quarterback Chad Kelly: "I'm really pleased with everything he's done to this point. It's a process. I'm very aware that any of these young men can make a decision that's wrong. He's got very little rope to do that with, but i'm really with him to this point. He studies film. He's a competitor. He's a team guy. That's been my experience with him thus far."

Freeze, on cornerback Tony Bridges: "He's a long, athletic corner and he's physical. Him and Tee Shepard, they're both playing really well at corner right now. They're a little too aggressive sometimes, particularly when they're on an island. They're very aggressive and long."

Freeze, on wide receiver Laquon Treadwell: "We're probably going to hold him out. He goes through all the one-on-ones and routes versus air, but we haven't put him in any team situation yet."

Freeze, on linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche: "Denzel is having a really good spring. Really solid. He's fine. He's 100 percent."

Treadwell, on Kelly: "Chad is competing. He's learning and he's making plays. Every day, he's competing and that's going to help the team a lot."

Buchanan on the quarterback competition: "They're tracking each throw and each decision, and I know I have to make the most out of every single snap and every single series I go in and do the best I can."

Buchanan, on Kelly: "He has a great arm. He can spin the ball really well. He's getting used to the playbook and getting used to having to make decisions against our defense, but he's good. He's a good quarterback."

Kincade, on the quarterback room: "It's fun competing. I love competing. If he makes something good happen, I tell him. If I make something good happen, he tells me, and we tell Ryan the same. We all share with each other."

The Manning Center played host to 16 former Ole Miss players, including NFL Scouting Combine participants Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson, attempting to make a lasting impact on the 27 NFL teams represented at Pro Day on Thursday.

Prewitt, a projected second-round pick by CBSSports.com, was not pleased with his performance at the combine, where he ran a 4.60 40-yard dash and recorded 11 bench-press reps of 225 pounds. He improved both marks at Pro Day, as he posted times of 4.47 and 4.46 in the 40 and recorded 12 reps on the bench. His 4.46 mark would rank third among safeties and tied for 10th among all defensive backs at the combine.

"It ate me up," Prewitt said of his combine performance. "It aggravated the crap out of me. I still think I can do better in the 40, but I think today was a lot closer to what I think I can run."

After putting on a show at the combine, Golson, a projected fourth-round pick by CBSSports.com, only participated in two testing drills at Pro Day. One those drills was the bench press, where he improved his number of 225-pound bench press reps from 15 at the combine to 16 at Pro Day. Overall, he was pleased with his performance at Pro Day.

"There are a lot of questions when you got a 5-8 corner that catches 10 interceptions, Golson said. "A lot of people want to get their eyes on me and see if everything matches up with the numbers.

"They have asked me, 'What makes you think you can play in the league?' You go back to my freshman to my senior year, every week I played against first-round, top-10 picks. I played against Odell (Beckham, Jr.). I played against Mike Evans for two or three years. I played against Amari Cooper and Sammie Coates, all the top receivers that are going to come out this year, I have film against all those guys."

Both Prewitt and Golson went through defensive back drills with New York Jets defensive backs Joe Danna. Golson said he has private workouts or visits scheduled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.

"It was fun," said Golson of working with Danna. "You get an idea of how NFL coaches think and how they want us do things. I was happy for that opportunity."

Other standouts at Pro Day were Deterrian Shackelford, who benched 225 pounds 33 times, which would have ranked second among linebackers and ninth among all players at the combine, and Carlos Thompson, who posted a 38-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-3 broad jump. He ran the 40 in 4.75 and 4.77 seconds and recorded 21 bench-press reps of 225 pounds.

Pro Day was also an opportunity for Bo Wallace to impress NFL scouts after not receiving an invitation to the combine. Wallace said he felt healthy and threw the ball well in a scripted positional workout put together by former NFL quarterback John Beck.

"I wanted to show I'm talented enough to compete with the guys that were brought into the combine," Wallace said. "I was upset I wasn't there and it pushed me and motivated me. I felt like I had as good of a day as I could have."

Here's an update with some official numbers from NFL.com's Gil Brandt:

Representatives from 27 NFL teams, including a defensive backs coach from the New York Jets, were present to see 16 players work out at Ole Miss' pro day on Thursday.

The workout was held indoors and run on FieldTurf.

Cornerback Senquez Golson (5-foot-8 3/4, 180 pounds) had 16 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and a time of 11.93 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle (staying on the rest of his numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine). Golson -- who made a pivotal interception in Ole Miss' upset of Alabama in October -- was very fluid in the positional workout and displayed great ball skills.

Free safety Cody Prewitt (6-2 3/8, 208) ran much better at his pro day than he did at the combine in the 40-yard dash, posting times of 4.47 and 4.46 seconds (he ran 4.6 in Indianapolis). He also performed 12 strength lifts. Prewitt also showed good ball skills during his positional workout.

Quarterback Bo Wallace (6-3 5/8, 211) ran the 40 in 5.1 and 5.07 seconds. He had an 8-foot-8 broad jump. He went through a scripted positional workout and did an adequate job doing so. Wallace's workout was put together by former NFL quarterback John Beck.

One relatively unknown prospect was really impressive to the scouts present at Ole Miss' pro day.

Defensive end Carlos Thompson (6-4 1/4, 252) ran the 40 in 4.75 and 4.77 seconds. He had a 38-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-3 broad jump. He did the 20-yard short shuttle in 4.54 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.51 seconds. Thompson recorded 1.5 sacks in limited playing time while at Ole Miss, but might have had so impressive of a pro-day workout that he could get drafted as a pass-rushing prospect. At worst, Thompson will be a priority free-agent pickup for an NFL team following the 2015 NFL Draft.

The scouts at hand were treated to a big breakfast and lunch.

Stay tuned to NFL.com's Gil Brandt and NFL.com's Pro Day reports for more from Ole Miss Pro Day. The NFL Draft is April 30-May 2. 

NFL Scouting Combine participants Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt are among 18 former Ole Miss players expected to go through Pro Day workouts in hopes of realizing their professional football dreams. More than 25 representatives from 22 different teams were on hand for last year's Pro Day that featured future third-rounder Donte Moncrief of the Indianapolis Colts.

Golson and Prewittt are expected to be joined by 12 other recently-departed Rebels, including Serderius Bryant and Bo Wallace, as well as four players more than a year removed from their time in the Red and Blue. Golson and Prewitt, who both impressed at the combine, may not compete in every drill at Pro Day.

A reminder that the event is closed to the public, but we will have complete coverage on the official site. Official times and results will be posted on NFL.com in the days following Pro Day.

2014 Seniors participating:

Bryon Bennett

Serderius Bryant

Cliff Coleman

Will Denny

Senquez Golson

Lavon Hooks

Lakedrick King

Keith Lewis

Carlton Martin

Nicholas Parker

Cody Prewitt

Deterrian Shackelford

Carlos Thompson

Bo Wallace

Others:

Nick Brassell

Tyriek Gracia

Uriah Grant

Jamal Mosley

Ole Miss welcomes back seven starters from the nation's No. 1 scoring defense, but two of those starters, seniors C.J. Johnson and Mike Hilton, will be starting the spring at different positions, with Johnson at Mike linebacker and Hilton at Rover safety.

"This is a different team with a different group of players with different talents," Johnson said. "The key for us is how do we build on what he had last year. We have a lot of young guys stepping in and trying to fill roles, so they have to understand what it takes to get to where we were last year."

Johnson was originally recruited as a linebacker and began his Ole Miss career at the position, before moving to defensive end, where he has played for the last three-plus years. He and coaches talked about a move to linebacker after the bowl game and then closer to National Signing Day.

"I wanted to try something different," Johnson said. "The coaches knew I knew the playbook really well and they knew me sitting in the defensive line meetings for install the first couple of days would be completely boring for me, so we decided to try the move."

The most senior member of the Ole Miss defense, Johnson said he knows pretty much know what everybody in front of him is doing, and he also draws on his high school and early college experience playing linebacker, but there's still a lot to learn.

"With the multiple things we do, you have to be able to do a lot of different things, so it's going to be a challenge for me," Johnson said. "It feels familiar and it feels good. A lot comes with the position, being the quarterback of the front of the defense and getting everybody set and lined up, knowing the checks and formations. It's going to be a big learning process for me, but I'm ready for it." 

As a defense, despite ranking among the nation's leaders in most statistical categories, Johnson said they need to give up fewer big plays to improve as a defense. In their meeting yesterday, Johnson said, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack brought up that they were two plays away from an 11-1 record with a case to play in the College Football Playoff.

Those two plays, Johnson said, were a pair of dropped interceptions, one in 35-31 loss to Auburn and another in a 10-7 loss to LSU. He also mentioned a sack that he missed on a third down against LSU, after which the Tigers drove down the field and scored.

"You look at the games we lost, and we didn't get turnovers and we gave up too many big plays," Johnson said. "If we eliminate the big plays and we get more takeaways, we'll be a better defense."

Familiar Spot for Hilton

The coaches have shown a similar type trust in Hilton, who has started a game at every defensive backfield position, including two career starts, both last season, at Rover safety. 

"I feel like it's another good move for me," Hilton said. "Once again, it show the trust the coaches have in me and my ability go out and produce on the field."

His move to Rover safety leaves a two-deep at cornerback that will likely include juniors Tony Bridges, Kailo Moore, Tee Shepard and freshman Kendarius Webster. It also shifted senior Trae Elston from Rover safety to free safety, where he will look to replace three-plus year starter Cody Prewitt.

"Free safety is more in the box and has more run support responsibility, while the Rover safety has more coverage responsibility and has to be able to tackle in the open field," Hilton said. "I feel like it's a good spot for me because open-field tackling is one of my best assets." 

Hilton is learning under first-year safeties coach Corey Batoon, a member of head coach Hugh Freeze's Ole Miss staff since the beginning, who was recently promoted to assistant coach for safeties and special teams coordinator in January.

"He's a strategist," said Hilton of Batoon. "He wants everything down perfect. He wants you making the right steps and everything. I feel like he will put us in the right position to make plays; we just have to go make them."

QUOTABLE:

Johnson on returning to linebacker: "The game has slowed down for me a lot. I pretty much know what everybody in front of me is doing, as opposed to coming in as a freshman when you know absolutely nothing. Right now, I'm getting adjusted to the drops and coverages."

Johnson on his playing weight: "I was trying to lose weight to get down to a weight where I could run and play fast, and over the weekend, I came in Monday at around 246. I have to drop a little weight, but I felt fine yesterday running."

Johnson on the move to linebacker preparing him for the NFL: "I don't really know, I don't really get involved in all that. I try to come to work every day, do my job and play to my strengths as a football player."

Johnson on leadership: "It kind of feels weird being the oldest one out there and being the person that everyone looks up to. It's something I'm ready to embrace."

Hilton on the defense's identity: "I feel the identity of the defense is the same. We still have guys like C.J., myself, Trae, Issac and all those guys on the defensive front. We feel like we have that same Landshark mentality and the mentality to be one of the top defenses."

Hilton on Tee Shepard: "He looks really good. He's holding up and playing well. He's running full speed and everything. He's looking good. He's ready."

Hilton on Tony Bridges: "He's really quiet, but he's really coachable. He's even come up to me and asked questions. He's really coachable. He works with Coach (Jason) Jones a lot. He's good be a good one for us."

Hilton on the younger players: "Breeland (Speaks) has shown dominance up front. He's put on some weight, but he's still able to move. Victor (Evans) is coming off the edge a lot better. Those two I'm really looking forward to seeing this year."

Ole Miss began spring practice Tuesday, and for the first time under head coach Hugh Freeze, the Rebels will have a starting quarterback not named Bo Wallace. With the graduation of Wallace, sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, as well as junior college transfer Chad Kelly, will split equal reps this spring.

"We're going to be very thorough in our evaluations by charting every single drill that they do," Freeze said. "We'll look at stats from those. It's going to a very competition three-man deal. They will be in a constant rotation, and everyone will get equal reps with the 1's and the 2's. The main thing you want to see is who can handle hard coaching and who can understand what we're trying to get accomplished with what we have called and then being able to execute and take care of the ball, which is always a priority."

It's the first true quarterback competition in Oxford since the 2012 season, when Wallace beat out Barry Brunetti for the starting job. In that case, Freeze did not name Wallace his starting quarterback until two days before the Rebels' season opener against Central Arkansas, and it may a similar case this season between Buchanan, Kelly and Kincade.

"It would probably have to be so clear-cut for me to do that this spring, knowing the personalities of who I'm dealing with and the time between now and fall," said Freeze of naming a starting quarterback in the spring. "A lot of dynamics play into that. It's probably not going to be a clear-cut decision at the end of spring and will continue through summer workouts. It's time for that room to be the leaders of this team. With that, comes some responsibility, and we have them to understand that throughout summer workouts."

Changes on Defense

Freeze had already announced one position change during his National Signing Day press conference. That change was moving Jeremy Liggins to offensive tackle, although he will likely continue to play some tight end and "Wildcat" quarterback. But there are also changes on the other side of the ball.

The changes on the defensive side are familiar, but they are notable. Freeze announced that senior Mike Hilton, who has started a game at every defensive backfield position, will start the spring at one of the safety positions, as they try to find the best rotation in the defensive backfield.

"We think we he have a lot options (in the secondary)," Freeze said. "We're going to start Tony (Bridges) and Tee (Shepard) at cornerback and start Mike Hilton at one of the safety positions, knowing that he's played them all and can do that. If we think there's a better rotation, we won't hesitate to move them around"

Freeze also said that senior C.J. Johnson will get a look at Mike linebacker, a position that Freeze called their biggest question mark right now. Johnson was originally recruited as a linebacker and began his Ole Miss career at the position, and he will join senior Christian Russell and junior Temario Strong in looking to replace Deterrian Shackelford and Keith Lewis.

"We are going to see this spring," said Freeze of Johnson playing Mike linebacker. "I don't know (how he will perform), it is hard to say. I know he can run and tackle. I know he is smart and really understands the defense. It is a different role, playing there. But that's where we are going to put him and see how it goes this spring. We can always move him back down to the defensive line. We are going to see how he performs this spring."

D. Nkemdiche, Treadwell Return from Injury

The Rebels will be without a trio of offensive linemen in junior Laremy Tunsil and senior Aaron Morris, two returning starters, as well as sophomore Daronte Bouldin, but the Rebels will welcome back a talented trio of players in junior wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, senior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and junior cornerback Tee Shepard.

"I expect Denzel and Quon, both, to be back," Freeze said. "Denzel, right away. Quon, after spring break. He will do some things but not a lot this week. Robert Conyers will go after spring break also. The others, Daronte (Bouldin), Aaron (Morris), and Laremy, will not participate in spring practice. Tee will be full-go. Carlos Davis, we'll see where is after spring break."

With the injuries along the offensive line, it is a great opportunity for freshman offensive lineman Javon Patterson, an early enrollee, who was rated a five-star prospect and listed as the No. 1 offensive guard in the nation by 247Sports.com.

"I told him yesterday that we he will get all the reps he wants, and then some," Freeze said. "It's going be good for him. He's going to get plenty of reps. i'm really excited about him. He's exactly the type of student-athlete you want. He's a great kid, first, and he's going to be an outstanding player. Getting him enrolled early and getting an extra spring with him will be big for him. He will get plenty of reps to get looked at this spring."

The Southeastern Conference announced today Kickoff '15, its annual football media days, will be held July 13-16, remaining at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. The event will continue to be four days in 2015.

The 2014 edition featured an additional fourth day to the event, and it will remain the same for the 2015 edition. Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss contingency will be in the Magic City on the final day, Thursday, July 16, and grouped with Georgia and LSU.

ESPN will once again bring SEC Media Days to a national audience, with the SEC Network making its debut at the event to close out a historic first year for the newly launched network. The network will have live coverage all four days.

A more detailed daily schedule with full television information, rotational breakdown and student-athletes attending will be available later this summer.

The previous four SEC Football Media Days have drawn over 1,000 attendees, including over 1,200 attendees each of the last two years.

2015 SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS SCHEDULE

MONDAY, July 13

SEC Commissioner

Auburn - Gus Malzahn

Florida - Jim McElwain

Vanderbilt - Derek Mason

TUESDAY, July 14

SEC Coordinator of Officials - Steve Shaw

South Carolina - Steve Spurrier

Texas A&M - Kevin Sumlin

Miss. State - Dan Mullen

Tennessee - Butch Jones

WEDNESDAY, July 15

Alabama - Nick Saban

Kentucky - Mark Stoops

Arkansas - Bret Bielema

Missouri - Gary Pinkel

THURSDAY, July 16

LSU - Les Miles

Georgia - Mark Richt

Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze

The defensive backs, including former Ole Miss players Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt, participated in on-field workouts at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine on Monday in Indianapolis. Looking ahead, Ole Miss will hold its annual pro day on March 5 (closed to the public), and the 2015 NFL Draft will be held from April 30-May 2.

Golson and Prewitt went through measurements, medicals and interviews, as well as the bench press portion of workouts Sunday, before going through on-field workouts Monday. Golson showed out and improved his draft stock in the on-field workouts, drawing praise for his ball skills and other tools from NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock, among others.

"This guy is so fun to watch," said Mayock on NFL Network's coverage of the combine. "Baseball player. He was drafted in the eighth round by Boston. He's a small corner who had 10 picks. He tracks a ball in the air like the center fielder he was. He's 5-foot-8 and 1/2 inches, 176 (pounds), short arms, but he tracks the ball as well as any corner I have seen in the last five years."

Golson ran an official 4.46 40-yard dash, tied for 10th among all defensive backs, and posted a 6.81 time in the three-cone drill, tied for ninth among all defensive backs. He also showed off his ball skills in the gauntlet drill, reportedly recording no drops in two attempts in the drill. His NFL.com draft profile compares him to Brent Grimes of the Miami Dolphins.

"He's a kid I really like," Mayock said. "He ran a 4.5. He might be short at 5-foot-8 and 1/2. I keep talking about his baseball skills and how they translate to tracking the ball. He had 10 interceptions this year. A lot of teams are going to knock him his size. He's a quick-footed corner with tremendous ball skills. When has vision on the quarterback, the ball is his."

Here's more on Golson:

Prewitt ran an official 4.60 40-yard dash, and he was rated a top performer in the broad jump and 60-yard shuttle workouts. His 125-inch mark in the broad jump was tied for third among safeties and tied for 10th among all defensive backs. His 11.44 time in the 60-yard shuttle was fourth among safeties and 12th among all defensive backs.

Prewitt was also among a list of 12 players who impressed in combine interviews. His NFL.com draft profile compares him to Phillip Thomas of the Washington Redskins.

"This is a hard evaluation," Mayock said. "He looks really good. He's 6-foot-2, 208 (pounds). He played a lot of good football, 41 starts in the SEC. He had 12 career interceptions and over 200 career tackles. All the numbers and production are there. Evaluating him on tape, I don't think he tackles as well as he should given his height, weight and speed."

In his latest top 10 ranking of prospects at every position, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Prewitt as his No. 6 safety on the board. Prewitt was also among the players who just missed the first-round cut in the latest NFL Draft Big Board from NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang.

In the latest prospect rankings from CBS Sports, Prewitt is the No. 1 free safety and No. 61 overall prospect, a projected second-round pick, while Golson is the No. 13 cornerback and No. 104 overall prospect, a projected third-round or fourth-round pick.

Here are the complete NFL Scouting Combine results for Golson and Prewitt:

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Ole Miss and Cal will play a home-and-home football series in 2017 and 2019, the schools and ESPN announced Thursday. It marks the Rebels' first matchup with a Pac-12 school in football and will be only the program's second visit to the Golden State, having traveled to Fresno State in 2011.

With the addition of Cal, Ole Miss now has matchups against other Power Five schools in seven of the next 11 years:

2016 vs. Florida State in Orlando

2017 at Cal

2019 vs. Cal

2022 at Georgia Tech

2023 vs. Georgia Tech

2024 at Wake Forest

2025 vs. Wake Forest

The neutral-site matchup against Florida State marks the first time the Rebels will play a power-five conference team in the regular season since a home-and-home with Texas in 2012 and 2013.

Ole Miss continues to work toward finding matchups for the 2018, 2020 and 2021 season, which would satisfy a new Southeastern Conference strength-of-schedule component that requires all schools to play an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 opponent on an annual basis, a component that goes into effect in 2016.

Here's a rundown of other scheduling news:

Ole Miss announced the dates for the Rebels' nonconference opponents for 2016:

Sept. 5 vs. Florida State in Orlando

Sept. 10 vs. Wofford

Oct. 1 vs. Memphis

Nov. 5 vs. Georgia Southern

Ole Miss also announced the movement of nonconference matchups of a road game at Memphis, from 2017 to 2019, and a home game against Tulane, from 2017 to 2019, and the addition of nonconference matchups, all home games, against Tennessee-Martin (2017), Southeastern Louisiana (2019) and Tulane (2025).

The road game at Memphis in 2019 marks the fourth game of a four-year contract to renew the football series, a series resumed with a home game in 2014 and will continue with a road game in 2015 and another home game in 2016.

For more, check out Ole Miss Future Football Schedules.

Head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff landed a top-15 class for an unprecedented third straight year Wednesday. Including mid-year enrollees, the 22-member class boasts 18 players rated a four-star prospect or higher by at least one recruiting service, the most in program history, including the seventh and eighth five-star prospects signed under Freeze.

As of Thursday morning, the major recruiting service rankings currently list Ole Miss at No. 15 (247Sports.com), No. 16 (Scout.com), No. 17 (247 Composite), No. 19 (ESPN) and No. 21 (Rivals.com).

Here are some National Signing Day links related to the signing class as a whole:

VIDEO: Hugh Freeze on Ole Miss' 2015 recruiting class via CBSSports.com

VIDEO: Mississippi Teams Capitalize on Success via SEC Network

VIDEO: Hugh Freeze on troubled QB Chad Kelly: Players deserve second, third chance via FoxSports.com

VIDEO: Ole Miss' Chris Kiffin talks D-Line, defensive backfield depth in 2015 via Courtney Cronin from the Clarion-Ledger

Rebels weather hectic final few days of recruiting, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Roller coaster day for Rebels, writes Parrish Alford from the Daily Journal

Ole Miss: 2015 Signing Class, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Ole Miss Rebels QB Chad Kelly can rewrite story, writes Greg Ostendorf from ESPN.com

Why troubled QB Chad Kelly is worth the risk to Hugh Freeze, writes Bruce Feldman from FonSports.com

Here are some related National Signing Day links to stories related to individual signees:

Doral Reagan's Shawn Curtis changes mind, signs with Ole Miss, writes Veronika Quispe from the Miami Herald

Former Pitt commit surprises by inking with Ole Miss, writes Riley Blevins from the Clarion-Ledger

South Aiken's Rasool Clemons signs with Ole Miss, writes Kyle Dawson from the Aiken Standard

Linton overcomes trials to become coveted recruit, writes Courtney Cronin from the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Sandy Creek's Eric Swinney talks about heading to Ole Miss via WSB

Can Swinney help Ole Miss at running back? writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Riverside defensive end Joe Anderson signs with Ole Miss, writes Andrew Lopez from NOLA.com

Winter Garden West Orange slot receiver Jalen Julius picks Ole Miss over Notre Dame, writes Alicia DelGallo from the Orlando Sentinel

Ole Miss lands potential return specialist in Julius, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: DaMarkus Lodge commits to the University of Mississippi via WFAA

DaMarkus Lodge reveals why he picked Ole Miss in exclusive with Bleacher Report, writes Damon Sayles from Bleacher Report

DaMarkus Lodge give Ole Miss a big win on signing day, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Rivals.com named Ole Miss and DaMarkus Lodge the best fit in their National Signing Day Award

Scout's Take: DaMarkus Lodge to Ole Miss Rebels, writes Gerry Hamilton and Tom Luginbill from ESPN Insider ($)

Ravenwood's Jefferson signs with Ole Miss, writes Sam Brown from the Tennessean


Former Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt capped an impressive week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, with a game-high five tackles in the game itself Saturday. His former teammate, cornerback Senquez Golson sat out the game with a hamstring injury.

As of the latest prospect rankings from CBS Sports on Wednesday, Prewitt is the No. 54 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 1 free safety and a projected second round pick, while Golson is the No. 68 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 8 cornerback, and a projected second-to-third round pick.

Prewitt is on the fringe on first-round status, garnering a top-50 ranking on big boards according to Rob Rang from NFLDraftScout.com and Joel Klatt from Fox Sports.

The 2015 NFL Scouting Combine will be held from Feb. 17-23, and the NFL Network will provide extensive coverage of the event. The 2015 NFL Draft will be held from April 30-May 2.

Cody Prewitt has raised his draft stock at the Senior Bowl, writes Ross Jones from Fox Sports

Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt's stock is on the rise.

Prewitt followed up his interception in Tuesday's practice by showing great instincts and closing speed on Wednesday. He blew up an oncoming reverse, and Jaguars coaches ran onto the field to congratulate him.  

Prewitt, who says he patterns his game after that of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, is the No. 45 overall player on FOX Sports 1 NFL insider Joel Klatt's big board and has the potential to creep into the first round.

"I like to think I pick up on things really well, and it allows me to play really fast," Prewitt said after practice. "I take a lot of pride in my football IQ."

To add even more intrigue, the 6-foot-2, 212-pounder is at the Senior Bowl with his Ole Miss teammate, cornerback Senquez Golson.

Golson, who once turned down a $1.35 million signing bonus from the Boston Red Sox to instead play college football, has finally dedicated himself to the gridiron despite Ole Miss spring baseball gearing up.

"I'm really proud of him. He has come a long way, and honestly we have come a long way together," Prewitt said. "And to be sharing this experience together has been a real blessing for us."

Golson, of course, led the SEC with 10 interceptions and made a major impact for Ole Miss' defense this past season.

The duo is coming off a banner year, leading the Rebels to their first season finishing ranked since 2009. 

Here's more on Prewitt from Klatt:

Prewitt displays a quality understanding of the game as he is rarely out of position against complicated route combinations. I was most impressed with his ability to adapt to the new game by avoiding big hits and penalties when he sees exposed receivers.

Here's more from on Prewitt from Tony PaulineNFL Draft Analyst for DraftInsider.net:

Prewitt came to Mobile and ended the notion that he's a run-defending safety who struggles in coverage. Today, he made several nice plays on passes including an interception in the end zone as well as a break-up in the middle of the field. Prewitt's solid play in coverage the past few days will enhance his draft stock.

Senquez Golson has met with the Cleveland Browns, writes Matt Miller, NFL Draft Lead Writer for Bleacher Report

The Cleveland Browns were very interested in Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson, and I've spoken with sources close to both sides who say they've spent a lot of time with him this week.

Cody Prewitt tackles new ideas, writes Parrish Alford from the Daily Journal

Senquez Golson is determined to measure up for NFL, writes Parrish Alford from the Daily Journal

Cody Prewitt stands out in the South secondary at the Senior Bowl, writes Patrick Magee from the Sun Herald

Senquez Golson sat out the Senior Bowl due to a hamstring injury, writes Patrick Magee from the Sun Herald



VIDEO: Home is Ole Miss

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Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson will represent Ole Miss in the Senior Bowl, which will take place Saturday at 3 p.m. CT from Mobile, Alabama, and will be televised by the NFL Network. 

The duo have already had a busy week in Mobile, starting with the national football scouting weight-in on Tuesday morning. Golson came in at 5-foot-8.4 and 174 pounds, while Prewitt came in at 6-foot-2.1 and 211 pounds.

As of Wednesday, Prewitt is the No. 54 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 1 free safety and a projected second round pick, while Golson is the No. 68 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 8 cornerback, and a projected second-to-third round pick. 

Through the first two days of practice, they have impressed coaches, scouts and media members, among others. Senior Bowl practices continue Thursday with a walk-through Friday before the game Saturday.

Senquez Golson was tabbed the standout from Day 1 of Senior Bowl practice by Matt Bowen, NFL National Lead Writer and former NFL Defensive backs. Here's more from Bowen:

Golson doesn't have top-tier size at the cornerback position (5'9", 180 lbs); however, the Ole Miss product displays quick footwork and the transition speed (plant/drive) to close on the ball. A player with the hip flexibility to open and run, Golson was physical from a press-man position and looked comfortable playing off the ball in one-on-ones and team drills.

With defensive backs, I always watch for players who want to compete in drills. Do they finish plays? Can they recover versus the deep ball? And do they attack downhill (with speed) to the upfield shoulder in the three-step game? On Monday, that was Golson. The cornerback was aggressive with his technique and challenged receivers on every rep during the South squad practice.

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker will make Golson work hard this week, with a focus on technique. I played for Coach Walker back in Washington, and he is an excellent teacher. This is a great opportunity for the Ole Miss cornerback to continue playing good football in front of NFL scouts, general managers and coaches.

Matt Bowen had this to say about Cody Prewitt after Day 1 of Senior Bowl practice:

Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt displayed the range and ball skills to make plays from the middle of the field on Monday. And he will attack the ball in the vertical passing game.

Senquez Golson was one of nine standouts from Day 1 of Senior Bowl practice, writes Bucky Brooks, NFL Media analyst for NFL.com:

Golson lacks the ideal size to be a frontline starter as a pro, but DB coaches are quickly falling in love with the possibility of him filling a role as a nickel corner. The 5-10, 176-pounder displayed impressive footwork and short-area quickness in coverage, while also exhibiting outstanding instincts and awareness in coverage. He repeatedly made bang-bang plays on the ball in one-on-one and team drills, showcasing the playmaking skills that made him one of the top cover corners in the SEC. Although his slender frame could make him a liability against big-bodied receivers in the NFL, Golson's explosiveness and natural ball skills make him a hot commodity as a sub-defender.

James Walker, ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter, had this to say about Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt after Day 1 of Senior Bowl practice:

Keep an eye on Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson. He's undersized at 5-feet-10 and 175 pounds, but Golson played bigger than his size in the first day of practice. He made plays on the ball Tuesday that caught my eye. Golson looks comfortable playing man-to-man defense, which is a valuable commodity in the NFL. I'm curious to see him practice more throughout the week.

Speaking of Ole Miss, safety Cody Prewitt recorded the only interception in either practice Tuesday. Prewitt had an easy pick off Grayson, who floated the ball in coverage after being pressured. Prewitt also had a nice return of about 20 yards.

Ryan Mink, staff writer for BaltimoreRavens.com, had this to say about Senquez Golson after Day 1 of Senior Practice:

Ole Miss' Senquez Golson is the shortest player at the Senior Bowl, measuring in Tuesday morning at 5-foot-8 Β½ inches and a mere 178 pounds. The SEC's 2014 interceptions leader showed he's not afraid to throw his body around, however, as he went high to whack a 6-foot-6, 281-pound tight end in 11-on-11 drills, causing an incompletion.

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley had this to say about Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson (via Parrish Alford from the Daily Journal):

"We're trying to get him to understand that we're teaching him our principles" said Bradley of Prewitt. "He's done a good job. He's lively and spirited and has some energy out there in meetings and some stuff. Sometimes, he's down. Sometimes, he's back. It's really like understanding two positions because there's a lot of technique involved with that, and he's handled it really well."

"Every team is looking for different traits at the corner spot," said Bradley of Golson. "... You look at these players, and he's going to have a fit for a team. That's what you're looking for. He has great quickness and great competitiveness. Some teams get caught up more in height, weight and length. For some teams, it's not an issue, and it's more about transition, coverage ability and ability to stay on top. Each team has unique traits that they're looking for."

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker had this to say about Senquez Golson (via Patrick Ochs from the Sun Herald):

"You gotta play big," Walker said. "You can't make them taller. They have to be physical, be aggressive, play with urgency," he said. "Seeing details and having a high IQ helps because it helps them get to the play faster and compensate for their lack of size. ... There's a spot for little guys, they just have to play big."

Senquez Golson, a former eighth-round selection of the Boston Red Sox who turned down more than $1 million to attend Ole Miss, has officially decided not to play college baseball this spring, writes Patrick Ochs from the Sun Herald:

"It got to the point where I just need to focus on football," Golson said. "We tried to work it out to where I could try to play baseball, but I was just going to be missing too much time."

More on Golson's decision to not play college baseball this spring, writes Parrish Alford from the Daily Journal:

"I don't think I'm going to be able to play," Golson said. "I'm just missing too much time. I'm here all week. Then within the next two or three weeks we head to the combine. I've got training in between. There's just so much going on. I've been out of baseball a year. I just felt like I wasn't going to have the time to catch up."

Here's what Senior Bowl practice onlookers are saying about Prewitt:

Here's what Senior Bowl practice onlookers are saying about Golson:

Ole Miss football finished the 2014 football season with a 9-4 record and a top-20 final national rankings in both polls. The Rebels come in at No. 17 in the Associated Press poll and No. 19 in the Amway Coach Poll, their first final national ranking since 2009 and their highest final national ranking since 2008, when they finished No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the Coaches poll.

With the 2014 college football season officially in the books, various outlets looked ahead to 2015 and released way-too-early preseason top 25 rankings for 2015. Ole Miss featured prominently in these rankings, including two top-10 rankings, one as as high as No. 7.

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com: 7th

The Rebels weren't a one-hit wonder. Hugh Freeze gets back receiver Laquon Treadwell and budding superstar Robert Nkemdiche in the defensive line. The Landshark defense returns with a snarl. If Chad Kelly can keep his nose clean, Ole Miss might be better at quarterback with the departure of Bo Wallace.

Bryan Fischer, Mike Huguenin and Chase Goodbread, NFL.com: 7th

2014 final ranking: 19

Key returnees: DL Robert Nkemdiche, WR Laquon Treadwell, OL Laremy Tunsil

The skinny: The Rebels need to find a quarterback to replace the inconsistent Bo Wallace, but the quality recruiting classes coach Hugh Freeze has brought to Oxford should be starting to pay big dividends this upcoming season. There's a ton of talent that will eventually make its way to the draft, but it still might not be enough to get out of the loaded SEC West on top.

Paul Myerberg, USA Today Sports: 9th

Why No. 9? Because the Rebels improve with each passing season under Hugh Freeze. The offense may be more consistent with a new starter under center, particularly with wide receiver Laquon Treadwell back from injury. The defense will retool in the secondary without two all-conference picks, but the talent along the defensive line is undeniable -- and it's these contributors, led by Robert Nkemdiche, who set the tone for the entire defense. If they can stay healthy, the Rebels might sneak up and take the SEC West Division.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: 11th

2014 record: 9-4, 5-3 SEC

Returning starters: 10 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

Key personnel losses: QB Bo Wallace, S Cody Prewitt, CB Senquez Golson, LB Serderius Bryant, LB Deterrian Shackelford

Why they might finish higher: If you can somehow erase the Rebels' horrid performance in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl from your mind, the rest of the 2014 campaign was pretty memorable. The Rebels started 7-0 and were ranked No. 3 in the country before injuries started piling up. They're bringing back 18 players who started the bowl game, and star receiver Laquon Treadwell, cornerback Tee Shepherd and linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche are coming back from injuries.

Why they might finish lower: There's no question Wallace had a roller-coaster career under center, but the Rebels don't have a replacement ready to go. Redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade are in line to replace him, although Clemson transfer Chad Kelly could be an option, despite his recent legal problems. There are some significant holes to fill on defense, after losing three of the top five tacklers and two stars in the secondary. Ole Miss' road schedule in 2015 isn't easy, with games at Alabama, Florida, Memphis, Auburn and Mississippi State.

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports: 11th

The Rebels' Peach Bowl debacle obscured a season in which they beat 12-2 Boise State, 12-2 Alabama and 10-3 Mississippi State. The Rebels will be breaking in a new quarterback but should be deep with playmakers, provided WR Laquon Treadwell returns healthy. And a defense that dominated over the first half of the season should only be more talented.

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports: 13th

The Rebels are coming off their first season of double-digit victories since 1999. And the arrow on coach Hugh Freeze's team is pointing up, as this team has the pieces in place to finish among the top 10-15 nationally in 2015. Bo Wallace must be replaced at quarterback, but the new starter will benefit from the return at Laquon Treadwell at receiver. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is one of the best in the nation and is part of an offensive line that returns all five starters from the Peach Bowl depth chart. With the uncertainty at quarterback, the defense will have to carry Ole Miss - at least early on - in 2015. This unit allowed only 13.8 points per game in 12 regular season contests and should have one of the nation's top defensive lines. However, there's concern in the secondary with the departure of cornerback Senquez Golson and safety Cody Prewitt.

Three areas to watch as No. 9 Ole Miss plays No. 6 TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the inaugural "New Year's Six" bowl game.

Containing Boykin, Handling TCU's Tempo

Ole Miss coaches and players have compared TCU junior quarterback Trevone Boykin to former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, two quarterbacks who were each 2-0 against the Rebels in their respective careers.

The Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and fourth-place finisher for the Heisman Trophy, Boykin ranks third nationally in total offense (363.0 ypg) and is also on pace to become just the third quarterback since 2009 to average over 300 yards passing (309.5) and 50 yards rushing (53.5).

"You just have to make sure you prepare on every play because he's always, you know, a broken tackle away or a throw away from a big play so we have to make sure that we're locked in on every snap," graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said.

The other key to the nation's statistically most improved offense in both total yards and scoring from last season has been tempo. TCU runs 79.9 plays per game, while Ole Miss opponents have averaged just 69.7 plays per game.

"As far as the layoff, I think our intensity has been good here," Freeze said. "I've been pleased with that. I have a concern about just how the conditioning will be when we hit the field against a tempo team like these guys, particularly it's just hard to simulate that over and over again, and particularly the closer you get and we've had a Christmas break and you get here. You certainly want to have fresh legs when the game starts.

"But the energy and the emotion that will be involved when it kicks off will no question have an impact early on with some fatigue issues probably. So we'll have to be smart, how we rotate our kids and I think everybody will regain that shortly into the game."

Young Receivers Called Upon

Sophomore tight end Evan Engram has drawn the most attention, and deservedly so, as Ole Miss will be without their top two receivers against No. 6 TCU, but a trio of young receivers will also have to step up to replace the production and leadership of sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and senior wide receiver Vince Sanders.

"Stepping up is a big thing for us," sophomore wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo said. "We've been instilling that in our heads since Laquon went down. And when Vince went down, we knew we had to compete even more."

An All-America second team and consensus All-SEC first team selection, Engram stepped up with a career-high 176 receiving yards in a win over Mississippi State in the regular-season finale, but against the Horned Frogs, the Rebels will likely also need contributions from some combination of Adeboyejo, junior wide receiver Cody Core, and freshman wide receiver Markell Pack.

"We know we're down some guys, but we have guys that are going to step up and fill that void," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said.

Rebels Ride Walton

Helped by a couple of long runs, Ole Miss had a breakout game on the ground, rushing for 205 yards in a win over Mississippi State in the regular-season finale. Sophomore Jaylen Walton led the way with a career-high 148 yards on 14 carries, including a highlight-reel 91-yard touchdown run.

"We made just a decision, going into the last game, that he's our best option," said Freeze of Walton. "Let's get the ball to 6 and we wanted to get him a certain number of touches and thought he ran extremely physical, made explosive plays, and we always knew he could and we believe the other can too. But we just made a decision that he's our most mature guy. He's had the most experience in our offense. He's good in the pass game. He's good in understanding protections."

Walton emerged as the leader of a crowded backfield, rushing for a career-high 583 yards and averaging a career-best 5.9 yards per carry this season. He also leads the team with seven total touchdowns. Freeze expects more of the same from Walton in the bowl game against No. 6 TCU.

"He produced really, really well," said Freeze of Walton. "We'll do the same tomorrow. I don't know that it's been so much that he's done anything different. I think he's always been that way. It's probably us just making sure he got the number of touches that he got."

Head coach Hugh Freeze has spoken often about the journey, and he called the program's appearance in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the first of the "New Year's Six" bowls, a validation of their success earlier this season and how far they have come over the last three seasons.

"To be here in year three of our journey, I think, is validation for us," Freeze said. "You guys again that follow me know that I'm a big-picture guy, and I don't make too much of one win or too much of one loss. I don't think I can afford to do that where we are. I just stay on the big picture.

"And again, for us, in three years to have gone to three consecutive bowl games, and this year being a New Year's Six Bowl, I think, is validation enough that we're on the right track and we were very, very competitive."

Freeze's counterpart, TCU head coach Gary Patterson, has been on a similar but longer journey.

Patterson has led the Horned Frogs to eight 10-win seasons during his 14-year tenure that has spanned three conference affiliations, most recently the Big 12 Conference, where they have competed since the 2012 season. 

"I have a little bit different philosophy than a lot of people, being at TCU and being outside the circle for many years," Patterson said. "For all the things that had to happen, to just get into a Rose Bowl, where it had to be written in the bylaws that the Pac-10 team had to play for the National Championship. You had to be the highest ranked team, you had to go undefeated, all the things you had to do to get yourself in that point.

"And still I was sitting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Friday night before playing the ball game, knowing if Boise State won, we were going to go undefeated, and we wouldn't play. We would be playing in the Las Vegas Bowl, which would have been fine. For us, we always take a standpoint of understanding. We're very appreciative of the way we get treated, what we're trying to get accomplished and the way our kids should play."

For Patterson and TCU, this is their third BCS-type bowl appearance, but their first as a member of the Big 12, having having appeared in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl and won the 2011 Rose Bowl as a BCS buster and member of the Mountain West Conference.

"This is where you want to be," Patterson said. "It gives you an opportunity to be greater access to get a chance to go play for a National Championship. And so to be honest with you, we probably had a couple teams back in '08 and '10 that probably were better than this team in some ways. They weren't thought of as such, and playing in this league would have probably made a difference."

Friends since they first talked in 2011, shortly after Freeze was named head coach at Arkansas State, their mutual admiration and respect was on display in the joint head coaches press conference, as they interjected and answer each other's questions, trading compliments for one another.

"Let me answer that for him, they're really good," interjected Patterson, referring to the Ole Miss defense. "He's just being nice to me. They played against a guy at Alabama who's really good. He's just being nice. They're really good."

"I should have answered his for him, that tempo offense, I don't know why I voted for tempo," replied Freeze, referring to the TCU offense. "I should have cried out against that stuff, man."

Patterson said both programs have an opportunity to use the matchup, one of only four matchups featuring two top-10 teams, as a springboard going forward to become the programs they want to become.

"I think as a university, as a program, I don't think we've touched the iceberg," Patterson said. "We've only recruited to the Big 12 for two years. So for us to be able to go forward and recruit and do things as we go forward, as we move down the road, I think, is going to be pivotal in how we do things. But I think we're going to just keep getting better players."

"I couldn't be more pleased," Freeze said. "I think I've said it this year. I think we're ahead of schedule and I think our kids will compete. But win or lose, I think validation has been made this year that we're on the right track."

The hallmark of the turnaround of the Ole Miss football program has been the Landshark defense, one that leads the nation in scoring defense and fewest touchdowns allowed, and it starts with the core group of veterans who have seen it all during their college careers.

From a 2-10 season in 2011, to the program's first nine-win regular season since 2003, the unit has steadily improved, from the league's statistically worst defense in 2011, giving up 32.1 ppg, to the ninth-best defense in 2012 (27.6 ppg), to the seventh-best defense in 2013 (23.7 ppg), to the best defense in the league and the nation (13.8 ppg) entering their matchup with No. 6 TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Wednesday.

"When I look back, at the last few years, since I was a freshman, it's almost been a little overwhelming," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "Ole Miss was a dream of mine, and to see and to feel like I was a part of Ole Miss becoming what it is now and what it's going to be in the future has been a huge blessing for me. It's going to be one of those things that sticks with me for the rest of my life.

"I think I speak for all the seniors when I say that this means so much to us because we did come from so far down. I think it was 2-10 my freshman season, but at the same time I never lost faith in Ole Miss, I never lost faith in the program. It just made me want to work that much harder and when this new coaching staff came in, it rejuvenated us."

Four-year members of this year's senior class, such as Prewitt, have helped lead Ole Miss to three straight bowl games, the program's highest national ranking since 1972 and the program's highest final regular-season ranking since 1963, defeating No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Mississippi State in the process.

"People kept talking about Ole Miss as almost being there, almost there, that they almost won this game or almost won that game, and we got to the point where we want to get there," Prewitt said. "We want to be in the national run consistently. We want to create one of those elite programs like Alabama or Auburn.

"We don't want to be one of those teams when they see us on the schedule that they write us off, and that was the main thing for the seniors. We wanted lead a team that was not going to be a pushover anymore. We wanted to be an elite program in the nation."

And then there are those players like junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, also a member of the 2011 signing class, who will be playing his final college game with many of his close friends and teammates. He knows that game is important going into the 2015 season, but he's not ready to turn the page on 2014.

"It's emotional, man," Johnson said. "It's going to be as emotional for me like it is for them. Our class has been through so much. That 2-10 year took a lot out of all of us. Being around those guys, it's going to be really emotional for me. I don't really like talking about it. I'm not ready for it to happen. I'm definitely going to miss those guys."

A win over TCU would give the Rebels their first 10-win season since 2003 and perhaps their first top-five final ranking since 1962, when they finished No. 3 in the nation, but that has not been the core focus for the core group of veterans throughout bowl preparations.

"I feel like this program, me, Cody, Senquez (Golson), a lot of the seniors, we talked to each other before the season started and we told each other that it's not only about this year, but it's about the longevity of this program," graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "We want to come back one day and say we had an instrumental part in building something that was strong."

For some of the Rebels' 21 seniors, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl will be their final football games. For others, such as Senior Bowl participants Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt, it's the end of their college careers, but it might also be a springboard for a potential professional career.

Golson and Prewitt are projected second-to-third round NFL Draft prospects by CBSSports.com, while quarterback Bo Wallace is a projected sixth-to-seventh rounder, and linebacker Serderius Bryant and defensive tackle Bryon Bennett are projected seventh-rounders to undrafted free agents.

The first consensus first team All-American and first unanimous choice since Michael Oher in 2008, Golson is ranked the No. 7 cornerback and No. 69 overall prospect, but he continues to weigh his options between playing baseball in the spring or focusing on preparing for the NFL Draft, ahead of the Senior Bowl on Jan. 24 and the NFL Scouting Combine that runs Feb. 17-Feb. 23.

"After the bowl game, I'm definitely going to be in contact with people trying to figure everything out," Golson said. "I don't know if I'm going to be in Oxford training, or anywhere else. I don't know exactly where I'm going to be, but I'm starting to narrow it down and getting everything situated. It's difficult because I have to get plans made, whether I'm going to train, or stay in Oxford and play baseball, or train, or something like that. I have been taking things slow and playing them by ear."

Prewitt became the first player to return to Ole Miss as a first team All-American since Patrick Willis in 2006, going on to earn second team All-American honors in his senior season. Despite fewer interceptions, he feels like he has improved his consistency this season. The No. 3 ranked free safety and No. 71 overall prospect, Prewitt might also see a change in position at the next level.

"I have heard outside linebacker some, but I have heard safety, too," Prewitt said. "I love playing football. Hopefully, I go to a team that would rather use me as a safety and thinks I can be used best as a safety, but if I go a team where a coach wants me to play linebacker and feels like I can be used best as a linebacker, I'm absolutely ready to do that."

Already the school's all-time leader in total offense, Wallace also has the opportunity to become the winningest quarterback in modern Ole Miss history, but he does not see Wednesday as the end of his football career. Wallace said he will move to Los Angeles after the bowl game and work with mechanics guru Tom House, with whom he worked this past offseason.

"I know scouts are interested," said Wallace, the No. 11 quarterback and No. 228 overall prospect. "Barney (Farrar) has told me about some teams. Coach Farrar deals with that, and we have talked. I know I'm going to have a shot, and that's all I can ask for."

Sixth-ranked TCU allowed 61 points in a 61-58 loss to then-No. 3 Baylor on Oct. 11, the Horned Frogs' lone blemish in an 11-1 season. 

Despite that outing, TCU ranks second in tackles for loss (8.4/game), second in interceptions (1.92/game), second in turnover margin (plus-18) and turnovers gained (36), fourth in opponents' third-down conversions (28.4 percent) and 17th in scoring defense (20.3 ppg).

"We learned to finish," said TCU senior cornerback Kevin White of what they learned from the loss to Baylor. "It's something we didn't do in that game. We had a lead, and we didn't finish the game. From that point on, we had to finish out every game, no matter what, whether we were up by 20 or down by 20. We had to finish."

The Horned Frogs see a similar challenge in No. 9 Ole Miss, despite the differences in scheme and injuries to three starters in junior offensive guard Aaron Morris, senior wide receiver Vince Sanders and sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.

"As I watch them, I would compare them to a pro team," TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas said. "They do a lot of shifts and motions and whatnot, which forces you to be on top of your game in terms of where your eyes are."

"Looking at the tape, they have a lot of weapons," TCU junior safety Chris Hackett said. "Looking at Bo Wallace, he's a great quarterback. Playing in the SEC, they have a lot of competition week in and week out. They don't just have the one superstar player on their team. They're a good team as a whole."

On average, TCU opponents have run 74.1 offensive plays per game this season, including Baylor, which racked up 782 yards of total offense on 109 offensive plays, while Ole Miss has averaged 70.0 offensive plays per game, running more than 80 plays just once this season.

"It's not like we're going to change our scheme around just because Baylor did so well," Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "That's something they do every week, and they do a good job with it. There are things they do that we do also. So obviously, that's stuff we'd put in and maybe emphasize more than we usually do. We're going to run our offense, do what we do best and go fast and let these guys play and make plays."

Rest, Treatment Beneficial to O-Line

Ole Miss used the same starting five offensive linemen for each of the first seven games, all wins, before mixing and matching combinations against LSU, Auburn and Presbyterian, and then returning to full strength against Arkansas and Mississippi State.

Even then, sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil battled a right shoulder injury, while junior center Ben Still continued to push through a knee injury.

With some time off between the regular-season finale against Mississippi State and the start of bowl practices, the duo and the entire offensive line are in much better shape entering their matchup with No. 6 TCU.

"I'm getting old, man," Tunsil said. "Everything was hurting. Mainly, it was just my right shoulder, having a torn labrum, but I feel better since I have healed up and had some treatment."

"It's been good because I injured my knee against Tennessee, and it never really got back all the way, so it was a good time for some time off to get it back," Still said.

The Rebels, however, will be without junior offensive guard Aaron Morris, who underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL. In his place, junior Justin Bell will move from right guard to left guard, and freshman Rod Taylor will make his second career start, at right guard.

"He's caught on a whole lot," said Still of Taylor. "You don't have to say much to him. From day one to now, he's improved exponentially. It's great. You used to have to tell him everything. Now, we can trust him."

"He plays with passion and helps us out tremendously," said Bell of Taylor. "It makes it a more enjoyable experience, getting a young guy in there and knowing he's going to play 60 minutes, give it everything he has."

When No. 9 Ole Miss faces No. 6 TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Wednesday, the Rebels will be without each of their top two receivers in sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (leg, ankle) and senior wide receiver Vince Sanders (ACL).

In their place, sophomore tight end Evan Engram has emerged as a favorite target for senior quarterback Bo Wallace, hauling in five passes for a career-high 176 receiving yards, the fourth-most in a game in a game in Ole Miss history, in a win over then-No. 4 Mississippi State.

"Hopefully he will play the way he did against Mississippi State and we expect that, because he's so explosive and a guy that's a mismatch," Wallace said. "So we know we're down some guys, but we have guys that are going to step up and fill the void."

An All-America second team and consensus All-SEC first team selection, Engram leads all SEC tight ends with 651 receiving yards and 17.6 yards per catch. He is also tied for the national lead with 11 plays of 20-plus yards and six plays of 30-plus yards this season.

"He's not a tight end," TCU senior linebacker Tank Carder said. "He's a receiver. Those guys moving in and out of formations, get a lot of one-on-ones, and I compare him to probably a Jimmy Graham because of the way those guys use him. Sometimes he's outside, sometimes he's inside. He's very fast to me, when I watch him. He blocks very well. So he's a tight end mixed with a receiver, but he's amazing. He's probably one of the best tight ends I've faced this year and probably last year also."

Known more as a receiver, Engram said one of the biggest things he learned from getting hurt last season was dropping his feet when called on to block, adding that he feels a lot more confident and comfortable against defensive end and linebackers this season.

"That's the thing with this offense," Engram said. "It can be either one. They can throw me in there to be physical at the line of scrimmage and throw up a block and try to open up a run and then split me out wide and run a post down the field. This offense is very versatile. There's a lot of positions a lot of people can play."

Engram has had some of his biggest games on the biggest stage and against the best competition. In addition to a career game in the win over Mississippi State, Engram caught three passes for 71 yards against then-No. 1 Alabama and eight passes for 118 yards and a touchdown against then-No. 3 Auburn.

"It's the pressure," Engram said. "It's a different atmosphere. I'm just trying to help my team win, stepping up when my name is called. In the big games, they need everybody and everything clicking, and I'm part of that, so I have to show up and do my job. In the big games, that's when it's most important."

As sophomores, Engram and the historic 2013 signing class have grown into larger roles and helped Ole Miss to its first nine-win regular season since 2003 and its highest final regular-season ranking since 1963.

"Last year, all the freshmen were quiet and didn't know what was going on," Engram said. "As we started getting our feet wet in the SEC and playing in the big games in front of big crowds, we started getting more comfortable and definitely getting more experience."

When they signed on National Signing Day 2013, the Rebels were coming off a 7-6 season, capped by a win over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. From there, they have raised the program to national relevance, and with a win over the Horned Frogs, they move that much closer to their ultimate goal.

"When we all signed here, we wanted to help try to bring a national championship here," Engram said. "Last year, we had some injuries and we had a promising season, but some of those injuries hurt. This year, maybe if one or two plays went differently, we would possible have one loss and possibly looking at a playoff berth. 

"We're gradually getting to our goal. Coming in here and being a class that's turn the program is a huge privilege, but it takes a lot of work and dedication. We're so dedicated to helping turn things around. We're getting closer and closer."

From a 2-10 season, when many players from this year's senior class were freshmen, to perhaps the program's seventh 10-win season in program history, Ole Miss has climbed the ladder to national relevance, and a matchup with No. 6 TCU in the first "New Year's Six" bowl game is the next rung on the ladder.

"We went from Birmingham, to Nashville, and now we're in the Peach Bowl," senior linebacker Serderius Bryant said. "It's rising. We're taking ladders. Instead of taking a step up, we're taking elevators and we're taking floors up."

"This is the first year of the Playoffs and we're really privileged to be here," sophomore tight end Evan Engram said. "It's going to be a fun feeling to have all eyes on us with everyone waking up to spend New Year's Eve watching us ball."

Ole Miss started the season 7-0 and rose as high as No. 3 in the polls, debuting at No.4 in the first College Football Playoff top 25 rankings, before finishing the season 9-3 and ranked No. 9 in the final College Football Playoff rankings.

After a 7-0 start, the Rebels lost three straight Southeastern Conference games, three of four games overall, before closing out the regular season with a 31-17 win over then-No. 4 Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.

"We thought we could have done better, personally, and I know a lot of the other guys feel that way too," sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "We have to take every game, one game at a time. Sometimes during this past season, we started looking ahead and we started overlooking some games, and it caught up with us."

"We looked ahead against Arkansas, worried about Mississippi State," sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil said. "That's a big lesson learned. You can't overlook any team, not even the weakest team. You can't overlook a team. You see what Arkansas did to us."

A win over TCU, players have said throughout bowl preparations, would give the program confidence and momentum heading into the 2015 season.

"It's a big game for our program, so we want to get this 'W,'" Nkemdiche said. "This game is going to help set us up for next year and give us big things to look forward to."

"For our program that is on the rise, we feel like that's a big step for our program," junior cornerback Mike Hilton said. "This New Year's Six Bowl is going to be a good one. It could take our program to the next level."

The Ole Miss football team arrived in Atlanta on Christmas Day, holding their first team meeting and enjoying Christmas dinner together ahead of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31.  

"It's been fun," sophomore tight end Evan Engram said. "There were a lot of warm welcomes. It's a great staff here. We had a great dinner last night and I got to spend some time in the game room with my teammates."

Academically, the football team posted their highest GPA in recorded history, and everyone is eligible to play in the bowl game.

"From where we were when I got here, to where we are now, I could not be more pleased with the progress that has been made there," head coach Freeze said. "A lot of credit goes to Derek Cowherd and his staff. Everyone is eligible, so that's a good thing and we're progressing nicely there."

Other than the season-ending injuries, which include junior offensive guard Aaron Morris, who underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL, Freeze said they're healthy going into the bowl practices in Atlanta.

"As far as the ones we have here, we're healthy," Freeze said. "We have a couple of issues with flu-like symptoms, which is always the case this time of year. One of my prayer requests this morning was that we would stay away from the sickness stuff."

As part of their first day in Atlanta, the players also received their bowl gifts, which included an Apple TV, a Fossil watch, a $300 Visa gift card, a Chick-fil-A gift card and a Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl football they can get signed and keep for themselves.

The team will enjoy a joint team welcome party with the TCU football team at the College Football Hall of Fame and later tour the museum. Other team activities this week include a team party at Andretti Indoor Karting and Games and a hospital visit to Scottish Rite Hospital.

"Because of the off time, it's almost like you're starting over again," Freeze said. "You're never quite sure what that means for each individual on the team. Playing an opponent of the quality of TCU in one of the "New Year's Six" bowls helps hold their attention. We'll see how practices goes."

"The hardest part is staying focused on the task at hand, which is the football game," Engram said. "We have a lot of events planned out for us this week. We get to hang out and we have a decent amount of free time. That's the main part, staying focused on on the task at hand, which is getting a 'W' in the Georgia Dome next Wednesday."

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace, like his head coach, stepped into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight games. 

Three years later, Wallace helped lead the ninth-ranked Rebels to their first nine-win regular season since 2003 and a berth in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, one of the "New Year's Six Bowls."

"I was just trying to come in and play and compete," Wallace said. "I came here because it was probably my best chance to play. For us to kind of turn it around, it's special."

Already the school's all-time leader in total offense and the first quarterback to defeat two top-five teams since Archie Manning in 1969, Wallace has a chance to make some more history with a win over No. 6 TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

With a win, which would be his 25th as the team's starting quarterback, Wallace would pass Eli Manning as the winningest quarterback in modern Ole Miss history, and he would also become the first Ole Miss quarterback in school history to start and win three bowl games.

"I'm really kind of looking forward to practice and all that just because I know I'm not going to get to do it much longer," Wallace said. "I'm just taking advantage of every day. We're excited about going to Atlanta, to be going to a New Year's Six bowl and have a chance to get 10 wins and elevate this program to another level." 

Wallace said he's planning to train and pursue a potential professional career after the bowl game. Asked about his legacy, when his Ole Miss career is over, Wallace said it's not for him to decide but getting that milestone win is important to him.

"I don't know," Wallace said. "I really don't care. I mean, I do care, but everybody's going to have a different opinion. It is what it is."

TCU's Boykin Draws Manziel Comparisons

The Ole Miss defense has faced the likes of Alabama's Blake Sims, Auburn's Nick Marshall and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, and now the nation's top scoring defense prepares for another unique challenge in TCU's Trevone Boykin, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

The Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and an AP second team All-American selection, Boykin leads the league and ranks third nationally in total offense (363.0).  He is also on pace to become just the third quarterback since 2009 to average over 300 yards passing (309.5) and 50 yards rushing (53.5), joining a pair of Heisman Trophy winners Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel. 

"You can be in the right spot and have everything covered, and there's a 20-yard gain because of the ability of Trevone Boykin," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It makes them difficult to defend. Schematically, it isn't something you are just wowed by, but they have really good players. And then they have a dual threat quarterback that's very difficult to contain, and they do it at tempo." 

Ole Miss coaches and players alike have compared Boykin to Manziel, who led Texas A&M to wins over Ole Miss in 2012 and 2013. Senior cornerback Senquez Golson, a unanimous first team All-American selection, said this will probably be the most athletes they have played on one side of the ball this season.

"He's a very good athlete, and he improved his throwing as the season progressed," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "They take a lot of shots deep, so I can see a lot of similarities. Their passing game is very similar to Texas A&M as well. All of those guys came from the same background."

"Johnny would sit in the pocket a little bit more," junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said. "Trevone Boykin, he likes to get out of the pocket a little bit. And they do a lot more with him in the run game than A&M did with Johnny. They use a lot of empty personnel, so the way they run the football is kind of the same, but the way they use him in the offense is a little bit different."

Boykin has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 3,714 yards with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he's also a threat on the ground with 642 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

"Going into this game, you have to have really good pocket awareness," Johnson said. "It all comes down to the fundamentals of football. Spread offenses, they like to get you out in space and make you tackle. We're a good tackling defense. We don't give up many yards after the catch. We don't give up many big plays. We rush the quarterback. We stop the run. It's going to be a good challenge for us with all the stuff they present on offense. If everybody stays locked in on defense and we do what we have to do, I think we'll be fine."

Johnson to Return, Golson '50-50' on Baseball

When asked about underclassmen who requested an evaluation from the NFL's College Advisory Committee, head coach Hugh Freeze said junior defensive end C.J. Johnson may have but he's confident he will return for his senior season. Johnson said the same earlier in the week.

"Not really," said Johnson, when asked if he had thought about submitting paperwork to the NFL. "I'm planning to be back."

Senior cornerback Senquez Golson, once an eight round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox, and now consensus and unanimous first team All-American, said he remains undecided on whether to play baseball for Ole Miss in the spring or focus 100 percent on preparing for the NFL Draft.

"I haven't really decided, probably going to decide more after the bowl game," Golson said. "I still don't know. It's definitely 50-50 right now."

A finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which goes to the national defensive player of the year, Golson leads the SEC and ranks second nationally with nine interceptions and has been a key cog in the nation's top-ranked scoring defense.

"With my success this season, football is definitely more attractive now," Golson said. "Three or four months ago, I was definitely going to play baseball, but it's a different situation now. I'm not sure exactly how it will play out, but I'm still thinking about it."

Good News on Injury Front

Head coach Freeze had good news to report on the status of Tee Shepard (toe), Denzel Nkemdiche (ankle) and Laqon Treadwell (leg, ankle), who all suffered season-ending injuries earlier in the season.

"Tee (Shepard) started running this week," Freeze said. "The injured area remains tender, but started his running, so when he gets back after Christmas, we will really pick up his rehab. Denzel (Nkemdiche) and Laquon (Treadwell) are off the scooters. Laquon is on one crutch, and Denzel is in just a boot. They're much more active, so things are progressing nicely. 

"We definitely expect Tee and Denzel to be back with us in the spring. Laquon is going to be right at that time, so we expect him to be in some of spring practice."

Ole Miss officially announced the signing of Chad Kelly, a NCJCAA first team All-American selection and rated the No. 1 quarterback in the nation by the all the major recruiting services. 

Kelly, the nephew of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, looks to step in and battle rising sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade for the opportunity to replace record-setting senior quarterback Bo Wallace, another former EMCC standout. 

"Bringing in a JUCO quarterback is something we gave a lot of thought to as far as creating the depth and competition we needed to," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We followed Chad throughout the year and we were very, very impressed with the job he did running the offense for East. Probably toward end of year, once I had some face-to-face conversations with him, he came to a couple games and then the official visit, and I did my home visit with he and his family after their championship game, and I was convinced he was the guy we wanted to go on. It was something that happened over time."

"When Ryan is confident and going through his reads, he's really smart with the football," Wallace said. "DeVante is a great athlete, great player, and he has a great arm. And I have watched Chad play. He's going to be a good player, too. He's a talented kid. He signed with Clemson out of high school, and then you watch him at East. He really ran that offense well. He threw a lot of touchdowns and not a lot of picks, so he should come in and definitely compete."

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Kelly completed 66.9 percent of his passes and threw for 3,906 yards with 47 touchdowns and eight interceptions, as he led East Mississippi Community College to a 12-0 record and the national championship. His 47 touchdowns was tied for the nation's lead and his 3,906 yards ranked second in the nation.

In limited action this season, Buchanan is 12-of-22 for 75 yards with an interception, while Kincade is 15-of-17 for 116 yards with a touchdown and has rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore tight end Evan Engram has seen a difference in them with the anticipated addition of Kelly.

"Our coaching staff, we recruit the best in the country," Engram said. "That's no shock to us. It's just going to better us and better this team, add more depth. We got to have depth in the SEC. That definitely starts a fire under them. I know Chad's a good quarterback, definitely, because he's coming here. We wouldn't be bringing anybody who's not good enough. That sets a fire under Ryan and DeVante. It's going to be an interesting battle."

Buchanan and Kincade have received a lot of reps with the number-one offense in bowl practices this week due in part to the coaches taking it easy with Wallace, who suffered a sprained ankle against Arkansas on Nov. 22.

"They have responded wonderfully," Freeze said. "They have had great practices the last few weeks, and I think both of those guys have bright futures. At this level, if you want to be great, you have to create competition. Both have responded really well. They're not concerned about the competition, and I don't think Chad is either. We'll get them all here in the spring and figure out what's best for the team."


Ole Miss Details Stadium Expansion Plans

Ole Miss unveiled the master plan for Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, which includes two phases of renovation and expansion. Scheduled for completion by the start of the 2016 season, the expansion will bring the seating capacity to 64,038, which will make Vaught-Hemingway Stadium the largest stadium in the state of Mississippi.

The first phase will be a renovation and expansion of the south end zone, with the addition of 30 luxury suites and 770 club level seats, for the start of the 2015 season. 

This phase will see a slight reduction in capacity, to around 59,000, which will be accommodated by reducing the visiting teams' allotments from 7,000 to 5,000.

The second phase will be a renovation and expansion of the north end zone that will include the completion of the stadium seating bowl, the installation of a new video board (104 feet wide by 49 feet tall) in the north end zone and the addition of 30-by-50 video boards in the north end zone.

Between the two phases, Ole Miss will be able to accommodate 5,500 more Rebels, once the stadium reaches full capacity. Bjork also announced the student section will increase from 8,200 seats to just over 10,000 seats and will move to the north end zone.

The master plan also includes flexibility for future expansion, whether that is a north end zone that mirrors the south end zone, or even a new press box box and upper deck on the west side. Speaking to that flexibility, Bjork said a possible future expansion on the west side could bring capacity to more than 70,000.

Two beneficial links from the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation: Changes (with seating charts for 2015 and 2016) and How does this affect me?

More on the Overall Master Plan

Including the renovation and expansion of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss all have invested $175.75 million in total projects related to the Forward Together campaign, which has now reached $125 million in total cash and pledges.

As far as other notable projects, Athletics Director Ross Bjork the parking garage (not included in the $175.75 million) is scheduled to open in January, and the Pavilion at Ole Miss remains on schedule to open in December 2016.

Here's a breakdown with costs and timeline outlining the renovations included in the $175.75 million:

- Olivia & Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center

- Cost: $11.25 million

- Start date: March 2013

- Completion date: April 2014

- Pavilion at Ole Miss

- Cost: $95 million

- Start date: June 2014

- Completion date: December 2015

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium West Skyboxes

- Cost: $4.8 million

- Start date: January 2015

- Completion date: August 2015

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium South Endzone

- Cost: $15 million

- Start date: January 2015

- Completion date: August 2015

- Football Practice Field

- Cost: $2.5 million

- Start date: February 2015

- Completion date: September 2015

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium North Endzone

- Cost: $33 million

- Start date: December 2015

- Completion date: August 2016

- FedEx Academic Support Center & Starnes Athletic Training Center

- Cost: $3 million

- Start date: December 2015

- Completion date: August 2016

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Lighting and Audio System

- Cost: $2.2 million

- Start date: December 2015

- Completion date: August 2016

- Track & Field Complex

- Cost: $4 million

- Start date: Summer 2015

- Completion date: Fall 2016

- Gillom Sports Center

- Cost: $5 million

- Start date: February 2016

- Completion date: December 2016

Morris to Miss Peach Bowl

Ole Miss junior offensive guard Aaron Morris re-tore his ACL and will not play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, head coach Hugh Freeze announced Monday.

Morris suffered the same injury in the 2013 season opener against Vanderbilt and missed the remainder of the season. Freeze said Morris re-injured the ligament before the Mississippi State game, and he will have surgery Tuesday.

"He just wanted to finish and see how it went," Freeze said. "It wasn't a complete tear. There was just a little looseness in it and there was a partial tear. We made the decision with he and his mom to go ahead and get it fixed again."

Freeze said the anticipated recovery time is a bit longer with a second tear, but he's hopeful Morris will be back for the 2015 season.

"These things tend to be iffy," Freeze said. "It's kind of hard to say, but I sure hope so for his sake and for our team."

Without Morris, junior Justin Bell will move from right guard to left guard, and freshman Rod Taylor will get his second career start, at right guard.

"He improves every week," said Freeze of Taylor. "He loves to practice and loves to play. I'm really pleased with his practice. He's going to be a good one.

Allen to Take USF Defensive Coordinator Job

Linebackers coach Tom Allen has been hired as the defensive coordinator at South Florida, head coach Hugh Freeze confirmed Monday. Allen has been with Freeze since they were together at Lambuth in 2008. 

This is only the second coaching staff change under Freeze and the first since co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Wesley McGriff left for the New Orleans Saints after the 2012 season.

"You hate to lose people, but we rejoice with him that he's getting an opportunity to advance his career," Freeze said. "We're thrilled for him. (South Florida head coach) Willie (Taggart) is a friend of mine, and I'm happy those two will be joining together."

Freeze said he doesn't anticipate any other staff movements. As part of the new contract for Freeze, the salary pool for the Ole Miss football will increase by at least 25 percent, which will make Ole Miss in competitive in filling the position.

"That was the only thing I asked for," Freeze said. "Let's up that so we will remain competitive in this conference in that regard because I really like continuity. Unless a guy gets an opportunity, like a Tom Allen, where you get to run your own defense or offense. 

"You have to understand those moves. I took those chances, and I want others to get the same opportunity. I don't want to lose someone just because it's a lateral move and we're not competitive."

As far as timeline, Freeze said they will probably wait until after the first of the year, sometime leading up to the start of the next recruiting period on Jan. 15.

"There are great people out there," Freeze said. "There are great people in this building who have worked for me before. There will be no shortage of people wanting this job, so we'll have great candidates."

Strong Early Ticket Sales for Ole Miss

The Peach Bowl has sold out in 17 consecutive season, second only to the Rose Bowl in terms of consecutive sellouts, and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl President and CEO Gary Stokan expects an 18th straight sellout for this year's game between Ole Miss and TCU.

Athletics Director Ross Bjork said the school has sold around 17,000 tickets for the game, and he expects to have many more Ole Miss fans in attendance. The school sold its initial allotment and addition tickets for each of the last two bowl games in the BBVA Compass Bowl in 2012 and the Music City Bowl in 2013.

Athletics Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze reached an agreement on a new contract, they both announced on Twitter early Tuesday morning. Terms will be released as they are finalized and are expected in the coming days.

Freeze has led Ole Miss to a 24-14 record, including an 11-13 mark in the Southeastern Conference, over three seasons. The 13th-ranked Rebels finished the regular season with a 9-3 record, their most regular season wins since 2003, defeating No. 4 Mississippi State 31-17 on Saturday in the Egg Bowl.

Ole Miss started the season 7-0 and rose as high as No. 3 in the polls, its highest ranking since being preseason No. 1 in 1964, and defeated two top-five teams (No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Mississippi State) for the first time since 1969. Ole Miss also set a new single-season attendance record with 430,829 fans, which surpassed last year's record by more than 15,000.

AUDIO: Ole Miss-Mississippi State highlights from the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Mississippi State highlights from CBS Sports

VIDEO: Ole Miss bounces back, wins Egg Bowl from ESPN

VIDEO: Bo Wallace fights through injury for win from ESPN

VIDEO: On-field Celebration from Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

VIDEO: Hugh Freeze: 'It's a great night for the University of Mississippi' from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Bo Wallace discusses his legacy, Egg Bowl win from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Jordan Wilkins breaks down trick touchdown pass from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Evan Engram on Ole Miss' Egg Bowl win from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Senquez Golson on containing De'Runnya Wilson from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

Mississippi State's fairy tale run ends in thud as rival Ole Miss plays spoiler role, writes Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports

State of Mississippi's spotlight not leaving after Ole Miss Egg Bowl win, writes Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated

Mississippi State Bulldogs' playoff hopes dashed in Oxford, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Freeze's game plan pays off for Ole Miss, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Wallace delivers golden performance in Egg Bowl, writes Rick Cleveland for the Clarion-Ledger

Leaving a Legacy, writes Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

Rebs use line play to reclaim Egg, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com

If his legacy remained in doubt, senior quarterback Bo Wallace cemented it Saturday night in his final home game.

Playing with a sprained ankle he suffered last week against Arkansas, Wallace helped lead his team to a 31-17 win over No. 4 Mississippi State, his second win over a top-five opponent this season, becoming the first quarterback to accomplish the feat since Archie Manning in 1969.

"He couldn't practice any this week," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I told everyone you would have to chain him down to not play in this game. You would have to really chain him down. 

"For all the stuff he gets talked about, I hope this would cement his place in Ole Miss history as a quarterback who came and helped restore pride and returned us to relevancy. He won two Egg Bowls and at least two bowl wins, taking us to a third. I hope this cements his memory here by everyone in a positive light because he deserves that."

The school's all-time leader in total offense, Wallace completed 13-of-30 passes for 296 yards and added a touchdown run, rebounding from a four-turnover game in a 17-10 overtime loss to Mississippi State in Starkville last season.

"I have been thinking about this game since last year," Wallace said. "Every single day, I have thought about this game. It pushed me this offseason to work harder than I ever had. The crazy thing is, looking back, I'm kind of thankful for that game because it made me have a better season this season. That game drove me every single day."

Tightly taped up and given pain medicine to deal with the ankle injury, Freeze said Wallace never complained as he prepared this week and then played Saturday night.

"There was a little more motivation there," Freeze said. "He has wanted a shot at them again for a long time, 365 or whatever number of days it's been, and he prepared like it. Even though he was unhealthy, he spent a lot of time in the film room and made sure he felt good about the things we were going to call. He was locked in."

Despite the injury, Wallace was sacked only once, a credit to his much-maligned offensive line that helped pave the way for a 532 yards of total offense. He was also helped by career efforts from sophomore tight end Evan Engram and junior running back Jaylen Walton.

"Hats off to the O-line because I couldn't move back there and they kept guys off of me," Wallace said. "I told them the whole game, 'Keep doing what you're doing. You guys are playing great.' If it weren't for them playing as well as they did, I don't think I would have had a shot."

"It was unbelievable," said Engram of Wallace. "He's definitely one of the toughest players I have played with in my whole career. A lot of guys could have easily just milked the injury and sat on the sideline and not do anything, but that wasn't going to happen with him."

Stepping into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games, Wallace has helped lead Ole Miss to national relevance, capped by his second Egg Bowl win and the program's first nine-win regular season since Eli Manning in 2003.

"I had to win this game," Wallace said. "I knew it. I talked to Quon (Laquon Treadwell) about it. I talked to a lot of guys about it. I had to win this game for what I want to be remembered for."

Three areas to watch as No. 18 Ole Miss hosts No. 4 Mississippi State in the regular season finale both teams Saturday.

Stopping State's One-Two Punch

Mississippi State boast the SEC's third-best rushing attack and two of the league's top six rushers in junior running back Josh Robinson (98.6 ypg) and junior quarterback Dak Prescott (81.0 ypg). The duo have also combined for 23 rushing touchdowns.

The SEC's leader in total offense, Prescott leads SEC quarterbacks and ranks fourth nationally among all quarterbacks in rushing yards, averaging 81.0 yards per game, and ranks second nationally with 12 rushing touchdowns.

Nicknamed "Bowling Ball" for his 5-foot-9, 215-pound stature and running style, Robinson ranks second in the SEC, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, including an SEC-best 6.8 yards per carry in league games.

In their lone blemish on the season, a 25-20 loss at No. 1 Alabama, the Bulldogs were held to 138 yards on 40 carries, a season-low 3.45 yards per carry. Forced to throw, Prescott attempted a season-high 48 passes, completing just 56.3 percent of his passes and throwing a season-high three interceptions.

"Whether he had a bad day or Alabama had a good day or maybe a little of both, that was a real big thing," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of Prescott. "They didn't let him be effective running for the most part. Every once in a while he got a play in that game. I thought they rattled him a little bit. He threw three interceptions and had a lot of pressure just with their basic stuff, what they do at Alabama."

Red Zone, Turnover Battles

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have combined for 18 wins, the most at the time of the matchup in series history, and one of the keys for both teams has been red-zone defense.

The Rebels rank third nationally, allowing opponents to score touchdowns only 38 percent of the time once they enter the red zone, while the Bulldogs rank lead the nation, allowing opponents to score touchdowns only 35 percent of the time.

This area made a clear difference in Mississippi State's wins over Auburn and Arkansas and its loss to Alabama. Mississippi State allowed a combined three touchdowns in 11 red-zone opportunities in the two wins compared to three touchdowns in five opportunities in the loss to Alabama.

Another key has been turnover margin, where Ole Miss ranks third in the SEC and Mississippi State ranks ninth, but the difference in the wins and losses is where the stat is key.

Ole Miss has a plus-11 turnover margin in their eight wins compared to a minus-3 turnover margin in their three losses, with a minus-5 turnover margin against Arkansas and the timeliness of the turnovers against LSU and Auburn proving to be a difference.

An opportunistic defense, Mississippi State was unable to force a turnover against Alabama on the way to a minus-3 turnover margin, compared to a plus-3 turnover margin in its 10 wins.

"The one thing that really stands out if you look at the three games is turnovers," said head coach Freeze, referring to the Rebels' losses to LSU, Auburn and Arkansas. "That's probably a direct correlation to us not having success. That'll be a big, big key."

Legacy on the Line for Wallace?

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace has led Ole Miss to some big wins in his career, defeating Mississippi State in 2012, LSU in 2013 and Alabama earlier this season, and Saturday's rivalry game with No. 4 Mississippi State presents another opportunity to cement his legacy.

The school's all-time leader in career total yards, Wallace has helped lead Ole Miss to national relevance, having stepped into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games.

Wallace has had his ups and downs, notably in his two previous Egg Bowls, completing 15-of-22 passes for 294 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-24 win in Oxford two years ago and then completing 26-of-40 passes with three interception and a lost fumble in a 17-10 overtime loss in Starkville last year.

With two games remaining in his career, it's premature to label his legacy, but his performance Saturday will likely play a role in how he will remembered, for better or worse.

"You hope people focus on all the good," said Freeze, when asked about Wallace's legacy. "He's led us to three consecutive bowl games. He's been very, very relevant in returning relevancy to this program in the conference and nationally. He's now become the all-time total offense owner of that record, passing the great Eli Manning. 

"Those are some great things. I think in time people will recognize that and he'll be remembered for those things. Hopefully he can add another two to it, win another bowl to it and get the Egg home."

Battling injury, junior quarterback Dak Prescott came off the bench and helped rally Mississippi State to a come-from-behind 17-10 win in last year's Egg Bowl. He led a drive that ended with the game-tying field goal at 10-10 and then he ran for what proved to the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

This season, he has helped Mississippi State to a 10-1 record and a No. 4 ranking in the latest College Football Playoff poll. He leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally in points responsible for, accounting for 36 total touchdowns and 216 points.

"They're a very good football team," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Dak Prescott makes them better than very good."

The SEC's leader in total offense averaging 327.7 yards per game, Prescott ranks third in passing (246.7 ypg) and sixth in rushing (81.0 ypg). His 23 passing touchdowns and 12 rushing touchdowns also lead the league.

With more experience and better health, Prescott has improved as a passer, upping his completion percentage (58.4 to 61.4) and his yards per attempt (7.3 to 8.8) from last year.

"I think the injury (last season) and the experience," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "That's the two biggest things. He got beat up in that Texas A&M game last year. You can tell he's an extremely tough kid. He fought through an ankle injury in that Arkansas game. He just keeps pushing through it. And he's throwing the ball much better. He knows where he's going with it."

"He is a major part of their program," graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "It starts with him. It starts with the way he gets his guys to play. He can throw well, and he can also run the ball. That's always a big thing when you're faced with a quarterback that has a run threat also."

Prescott also combines with junior running back Josh Robinson for a powerful one-two bunch in the Mississippi State backfield. Robinson ranks third in the SEC in rushing yards (98.6 ypgs) in rushing touchdowns (11).

"I watched our game last year and some games from last year when he was playing," said Wommack of Robinson. "He has a low center of gravity. I thought we tackled him last year, but you better gang tackle him. There is one play that comes to mind against Kentucky where he broke eight tackles, spun this way and that way. It's a mindset with him. You can tell that he's determined to make positive yardage every time he touches the ball."

Alabama has had the most success defending Prescott this season, holding him to 56.3 percent passing for 290 yards with two touchdowns and a season-worst three interceptions in a 25-20 win for the Crimson Tide. Alabama also contained him on the ground, limited him to just 82 yards on 22 carries, a 3.73 yards per carry average.

"Whether he had a bad day or Alabama had a good day or maybe a little of both, that was a real big thing," Wommack said. "They didn't let him be effective running for the most part - every once in a while he got a play in that game. I thought they rattled him a little bit. He threw three interceptions and had a lot of pressure just with their basic stuff, what they do at Alabama."

Wallace 'Ready to Go'

As head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday, senior quarterback Bo Wallace is expected to play Saturday at home against Mississippi State.

 "He's been limited some, but you would have to chain him down to keep him from going in this game," said Freeze on the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference Wednesday. "He's getting better every do, so I anticipate him being ready to go."

Head coach Hugh Freeze called the Egg Bowl the most prized possession of this university's football program, and getting the Egg Bowl back should be enough motivation for his team entering Saturday's game against Mississippi State. 

An Independence, Mississippi, native, Freeze said he and his team have a clear understanding of how much this rivalry means to so many.

"I know this one is pretty intense and sometimes in my opinion it crosses the line to what is good and all of that," Freeze said. "I want to beat them as bad as they want to beat us, particularly two days out of the year -- this Saturday and then National Signing Day. Those are the two days I feel that way."

The rivalry means a lot of graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford, the most senior member of the team, who will be a part of his sixth Egg Bowl, playing in his third after missing the others due to injuries.

"Although it's a rivalry, you don't want to make it such a big deal that the players can't play," Shackelford said. "You want everybody even-keeled and ready to prepare throughout the week. Saturday is just a result of what you've done throughout the week."

It also means a lot to senior wide receiver Vince Sanders, not only because it's Senior Day for him and his fellow seniors, but also because he's one of 53 Mississippi natives on the team.

"It's the most important game of the year, especially with them being 10-1," Sanders said. "They're going to come in, after seeing our performance last week, and feel like it's going to be an easy win. All of our guys know the importance of this game. All the hard work we put in during the spring and summer, we work toward this game."

The Rebels met as a team on Sunday, the day after the 30-0 loss to Arkansas, and they about the game in Fayetteville and then put in the trash and moved on Mississippi State. 

The team watched a video with some clips from last year's game, a 17-10 overtime loss, and several players spoke up about the upcoming game, including junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, senior safety Cody Prewitt and injured sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.

"We've had time to meet and talk and discuss," Shackelford said. "I like the way this team is feeling going into this game. Of course, this is a game that doesn't take a lot of motivation to get up for."

Finishing Strong in Year Three

After starting the season 7-0 and rising as high as No. 3 in the polls, Ole Miss now sits at 8-3, losers of three straight Southeastern Conference games and relegated to a spoiler role against rival Mississippi State, which remains in SEC West and College Football Playoff contention.

"We worked hard all year to be in the playoff, so it's disappointing to us that we're not there," Sanders said. "Teams in front of us had the same opportunities we had and they made the best of them. We came up short a couple of games. You have to take your hats off to them because they did what they had to do. Overall, we're disappointed, but we're not going to let not being in the playoff affect how we're going to perform on Saturday."

Speaking to the media after the loss to Arkansas, Freeze said he told his team that he didn't like the way they finished year two -- losing its last two regular season games to Missouri and Mississippi State -- and he didn't like the way they played Saturday. 

On Monday, Freeze said they have to evaluate why the disappointments down the stretch have happened, whether it's depth or the energy you have to expend to compete in the SEC, but he's confident not only in the big picture, but also in getting his team ready to play Saturday.

"The big picture is I still think we're ahead of schedule," Freeze said. "We're disappointed but ahead of schedule. We have a lot to play for with pride on the line and eight or nine wins in the regular season." 

Wallace, Tunsil Expected to Play

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace suffered a sprained ankle against Arkansas, which caused him to miss two series, but he came back to play through the third quarter but sat for much of the fourth quarter.

Wallace has missed not a start during his three-year career, and he is not expected to miss his final regular season game, Saturday at home against Mississippi State.

"It would take a lot more than that to keep him out of this game," Freeze said. "He's hungry and wants to play in this game in a bad way. He's going to try to go no matter what. He's gotten better each day. Hopefully he'll be close to 100 percent."

Redshirt freshman quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, Freeze said, are getting more reps in practice in case they have to play. 

Speaking generally about injuries, Freeze said all of the players who made the trip to Fayetteville are expected give it a go against Mississippi State, including sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

"He looked really good for the first half but didn't play much after the shoulder popped out again," Freeze said. "He looked really solid in the first half. We'll give him a lot of treatment this week. We'll get him ready to go Saturday." 

Senior cornerback Senquez Golson, one of five finalists for the Bronco Nagurski Award, which honors the national defensive player of the year, will represent Ole Miss as one of 10 finalists for the C Spire Conerly Trophy, which honors the most outstanding college football player in Mississippi. 

For more on the finalists and the Conerly Trophy, click here.

"It's well documented with his turnaround and buy-in percentage and doing the little things right," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It's really pleasing when you see a kid do that and have success on the field. He's getting a lot of notoriety nationally with different types of awards that he might be up for. We're excited for him."

The Pascagoula, Mississippi, native leads the SEC and ranks second nationally with nine interceptions, one shy of tying the school single-season record. His 15 career interceptions is the most among active Division I FBS players and is tied for the fourth-most in school history.

Golson has helped Ole Miss lead the nation in scoring defense (13.5 ppg) and the fewest touchdowns allowed (16). Led by Golson, Ole Miss leads the SEC with 19 interceptions and 28 turnover forced.

His interception in the end zone with 37 seconds left sealed the win over No. 1 Alabama, and he returned one of his two interceptions against Louisiana-Lafayette for a 59-yard touchdown.

"We're ranked high in defensive categories and he's been one of the keys," Freeze said. "We've been able to feel like he could play on an island at times. He's made great plays for us, in particular the turnovers he's created. Obviously there are people up front that help us with that in the pass rush and things. He's made a lot of key plays for us through the course of our senior year."

The trophy will be awarded Dec. 2 at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. As was the case last year, fans can vote. Fan voting by C Spire will account for a weighted 10 percent of the voting with a statewide panel of media accounting for the other 90 percent.

Just as the media voters do, fans will vote for a first place, second place and third place winner. For more information, entry rules and qualification on fan voting, go to www.cspire.com/conerly beginning Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Named after former Ole Miss great Charlie Conerly, the trophy has been given every season since 1996. Past Ole Miss winners include quarterback Stewart Patridge (1997), running back Deuce McAllister (1999), quarterback Eli Manning (2001, 2003), linebacker Patrick Willis (2006) and quarterback Bo Wallace (2012).

Here are a couple of stories from earlier this season on Golson:

Buy-In paying off for Golson, writes Austin Miller of OleMissSports.com (Oct. 8)

Golson makes most of potential in final season, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/Rivals.com (Nov. 7)

Rebels' cornerback Golson blossom as senior after difficult journey, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal (Nov. 16)

Here an infographic from last week highlighting some of Golson's accomplishments:

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas jumped out to a 17-0 in the first quarter and took advantage of six Ole Miss turnovers on the way to a 30-0 shutout win Saturday in Fayetteville.

"I was concerned all week, for whatever reason, that we weren't totally locked in," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "That showed at the beginning of the game. That's my fault. I have to make sure our kids are ready. It was a weird week for whatever reason. It's disappointing that we didn't start better."

Two of the Ole Miss turnovers came inside Arkansas' 20-yard line, as the Rebels were looking to get back in the game. Down 17-0 late in the first half, quarterback Bo Wallace had Ole Miss driving to the Arkansas 13-yard line before being intercepted in the end zone. 

Arkansas dealt a final decisive blow to the Rebels, as safety Rohan Gaines intercepted Wallace in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown, extending the Razorbacks' lead to 27-0 with 3:38 left in the third quarter.

"You can't turn it over the number of times we did and expect to win for sure," Freeze said. "I kept hoping we could get something good to happen and cut it to a score or two. Our defense would have played well enough to give us a chance, but we never did."

Playing with an ankle injury for much of the game, Wallace was 16-of-31 for 235 yards, accounting for 218 of the team's 316 total yards and breaking Eli Manning's school record for career total yards, but he turned the ball over four times with two interceptions and two lost fumbles. 

"He was hurting, but he was adamant he wanted to play," Freeze said. "He's had such a good career for us, and I felt like he was our best chance to get back in the game. He took us down the field a couple of times, and then we had the turnovers, which resulted in zero points, so we couldn't make a game of it."

The Rebels entered Saturday in contention for the SEC Western Division title, needing to win out and an Auburn win over Alabama, which made the loss, their third straight in league play, all the more disappointing.

"Our kids played hard until the end," Freeze said. "We didn't come out sharp for sure. We did some things that you can't do being an elite team. We have been a good team this year, but we haven't been elite at times. That's where we want to get to."

"It's tough, knowing what was in our grasp," tight end Evan Engram said. "That's what we thought about all week. That was our fuel. That was what we were working toward. For this to happen, it's tough. We had everything in our grasp. We were going to try to win out, play our best football, and see where it put us in the West and the Playoff. That's all pretty much out of the window."

After a 7-0 start and rising as high as No. 3 in the polls, Ole Miss now sits at 8-3, looking to finish the regular season on a high note, improving its bowl standing and playing spoiler to rival Mississippi State in the process.

"If you can't get up for that one, you probably don't need to be playing," linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "It's everything, it's the Egg Bowl. And for the seniors, it's Senior Day. If I have to motivate people for next week, they probably shouldn't be playing."

Three areas to watch as No. 8 Ole Miss travels to Arkansas in its final road game of the regular season Saturday.

Slowing the Hogs' Ground Attack

The extra week of preparation, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said, should prove beneficial to prepare for the scheme and personnel of Arkansas' run-heavy offense.

"They use unbalanced formations and shifts and motions," Wommack said. "They're not like an LSU where it's just pound you, but they have really good backs and a good line and they do some deception with it, too, and we have a great advantage to work on that stuff."

Looking at the numbers, it's no secret the Razorbacks' effectiveness in running the football and the Rebels' effectiveness in stopping the run will go a long way in determining the outcome of Saturday's game.

Arkansas averages 302.6 yards per game and 6.38 yards per carry in its five wins compared to 163.2 yards per game and 3.29 yards per carry in its five losses. 

Ole Miss has allowed just 96.1 yards per game and 2.82 yards per carry in its eight wins compared to 256.0 yards per game and 5.07 yards per carry in its two losses.

"Just looking at what has occurred, this may not be our best matchup," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "You have to play it. You have to find a plan and get your kids in the right spot. Hopefully we learn something from seeing that (kind of offense against LSU)."

Starting O-Line Back at Full Strength

With the return of left tackle Laremy Tunsil and left guard Aaron Morris from injury, Ole Miss will have the same five starting offensive linemen that helped the Rebels to a 7-0 start.

The Rebels generated a season-high 640 total yards, including a season-high 402 rushing yards, in a 48-0 win over Presbyterian, and they look to build off the performance with their full complement of offensive linemen for Saturday.

"It was better last week against Presbyterian, but that's probably not comparing apples to apples," Freeze said. "It's hard to say. In the off week and Presbyterian week, we worked quite a bit on the inside run. It's been tough to run it on these guys for other teams."

Arkansas ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing defense (126.7 yards per game) and sixth in yards per carry allowed (3.76 yards per carry). In a 17-0 win over then-No. 20 LSU, the Razorbacks held LSU to 36 yards on 32 carries.

It starts up front with defensive linemen Trey Flowers and Darius Philon. Flowers is the active SEC leader with 41.5 career tackles for loss and is tied for third with 15.0 career sacks, while Philon leads all SEC defensive tackles with 9.5 tackles for loss this season.

"They have two of the better in the conference in 86 and 91, in Trey Flowers and Darius Philon," Freeze said. "Those guys are really special. Like I said, you look at their stats and they just held LSU, one of the best rushing teams in the conference, to 36 yards."

Passing Game Sans Treadwell

Playing without wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who suffered a season-ending leg injury against Auburn, Vince Sanders stepped up as the team's No. 1 receiver and responded with four catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-0 win over Presbyterian.

Derrick Jones, who moved back to wide receiver from cornerback, hauled in his first five career receptions for 55 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown.

"It went well," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "Obviously, we hate losing Laquon, but we always talk about next man up and wide receiver is one of our deepest positions, so the guys did step up, and Vince (Sanders) had a great game."

Saturday's game against Arkansas marks the first SEC game and the first road game for Ole Miss without Treadwell, and the Rebels will face a Razorback defense that allows just 22.2 points per game, including a shutout of then-No. 20 LSU this past Saturday.

In addition to the wide receivers, tight end Evan Engram also steps into a bigger role. Engram leads all SEC tight ends with 15.2 yards per catch and ranks third with 27 catches, 410 yards and two touchdowns.

"Evan (Engram) will be a critical, critical cog in the wheel for us, particularly with Laquon (Treadwell) going down," Freeze said. "We have to find ways to get him the football. He'll win one-on-ones, so he's been extremely valuable to us."

It's sometimes easy to forget where the Ole Miss football program was just three short years ago, when Hugh Freeze was interviewing for the head coaching position.

The Rebels had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games. 

Three years later, No. 8 Ole Miss is 8-2 (4-2 SEC) and remains alive in the SEC Western Division race and the College Football Playoff discussion, but that was not the original plan, and Freeze is glad the Rebels have gone off-script.

"My original plan that I had, that I actually presented in my interview, was that we would be going to a bowl game this year," Freeze said. "The goal was to be very competitive and find a way to get enough wins to go to a bowl game. That was the original plan, but we're excited it didn't work out. I'm glad I was wrong."

Many of the seniors endured that 2-10 season in 2011, and their buy-in, doing the little things and holding the team accountable, Freeze said, has been a reason the turnaround has happened as fast as it has.

With two games remaining in the regular season, Freeze said they have talked about the possibilities at their fingertips and what they can go earn by finishing strong.

"It's kind of bittersweet that it's coming to an end," senior cornerback Senquez Golson said. "But we have a chance to finish as one of the best team in Ole Miss history. I'm ready to see what happens. I came in at 2-10, and for me to maybe leave 10-2, that would say a lot about where we came from over these few years and where the program is headed."

"Let's get No. 9," Freeze said. "Senquez is a little bit ahead of his coach there. I'm thrilled in year three for us to be were we are. It's way ahead of schedule. Of course, we want to finish strong. Anything above this now certainly expedites our journey a little faster, but you have to go earn it. The only thing I can think about is playing at Arkansas on Saturday and hopefully competing at a level that gives us a chance to win it in the fourth quarter."

Starting Five Back Together

Ole Miss had its starting offensive line back for practice this week, a group that helped the Rebels to a 7-0 start with left tackle Laremy Tunsil, left guard Aaron Morris, center Ben Still, right guard Justin Bell and right tackle Fahn Cooper.

Still missed the LSU game and played through injury against Auburn, while Tunsil missed the Auburn and Presbyterian games and Morris missed the Presbyterian game.

"It will be interesting to see him go back out and play after three weeks off," said offensive line coach Matt Luke of Tunsil. "He's anxious to get back out there, but he's practiced and tested out well. He's done everything. I look for him to be 100 percent, or close to it."

"He can't play receiver," said Bell, when asked if Tunsil had any limitations in practice. "If anything, that's probably his only limitation."

Behind the starting five, Robert Conyers gives Ole Miss options at center and tackle, having started the last three games at both spots, while Rod Taylor has gained valuable experience and earned his first career start against Presbyterian.

Luke said Morris and Bell will start, as they did through the first seven games, but he looks for Taylor to play as many snaps as both of them, giving Ole Miss a three-man rotation at the two guard positions.

"He's really come on, said Luke of Taylor. "Getting in there and playing, sometimes a light bulb goes off. The more you play, the better off you are. He's played really well the last two weeks against Auburn and Presbyterian. He graded out the highest of all the linemen, so I'm really proud of him and the development he has showed."

Landsharks Brace for Hogs Ground Attack

Arkansas is one of just two teams in the nation with two running backs to rush for 800-plus yards, boasting two of the Southeastern Conference's top five rushers. Junior Jonathan Williams ranks fourth averaging 93.2 yards per game, while sophomore Alex Collins ranks fifth averaging 88.6 yards per game.

Williams and Collins have benefited from running behind a massive offensive line averaging 328.4 pounds per player, larger than any NFL starting offensive line.

"We don't really look at size," sophomore defensive end Fadol Brown said. "I mean, you can look at guys like Issac Gross, who's been holding his own since his freshman year, and C.J. Johnson. I guess athleticism and movement makes up for some of the size."

Arkansas ranks fourth in the SEC averaging 232.9 yards per game and ranks third averaging 5.45 yards per carry, but they have had significantly more success in non-conference play than conference play. 

The Razorbacks average 151.8 yards per game and 4.00 yards per carry through five conference games compared to 354.5 yards per game and 7.13 yards per carry in non-conference game.

"It's the best run game we've seen all year long," Brown said. "Every game, they come with it. They just try to power you off the hole, pound you constantly and run the same plays over and over to try to get you out of the gap."

In its eight wins, Ole Miss allowed just 96.1 rushing yards per game and a 2.82 yards per carry average. In its two losses to LSU and Auburn, Ole Miss allowed 256.0 rushing yards per game and 5.07 yards per carry average.

Arkansas, like LSU and Auburn, emphasizes the run, so Brown and the Ole Miss defense expects their success to go a long way in determining the outcome of Saturday's game.

"This game is going to be on us and nobody else, just like the LSU game was on us," Brown said. "We have to be physical up front and dominate the line of scrimmage. If we don't do that, then we don't have a chance."

No. 10 Ole Miss was without several starters and regular contributors against Presbyterian, and many others were limited. 

But given an extra week of rest, head coach Hugh Freeze said he expects everyone, with the exception of the players out with season-ending injuries, to be ready to go when Ole Miss travels to Arkansas on Nov. 22.

"The plan this week was same as last week," Freeze said. "We had in our mind a two-week plan to hopefully have everyone. Those who were held out of things last week are being held out this week, but they're doing more stuff. They're running and getting lifts in. I'm going to hold them out of practice this week and be back Sunday, hopefully."

Junior running back I'Tavius Mathers and junior safety Trae Elston, who both missed the Presbyterian game while dealing with concussions, returned to practice this week. Senior linebacker Keith Lewis is going through the concussion protocol this week after suffering one against Presbyterian.

The starting left side of the offensive line, sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and junior offensive guard Aaron Morris, were held out of the Presbyterian game and the portions of practice open to the media Tuesday and Wednesday, but they are also expected back against Arkansas.

Focus on Fundamentals

In addition to getting healthy, one of the focuses this week was working on the fundamentals, as Ole Miss focused on individual work more than in previous weeks.

On the offensive side of the ball, co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said, they worked on inside run, the passing game, blocking by receivers and different things they felt like they needed to improve.

"Especially late in the season, you sort of subconsciously feel like if we don't know it by now we're not going to know it, but you need to hit it every day," Werner said. "When you get an open week and you don't have to worry about a game plan, you can work it hard.

On the defensive side of the ball, it was much the same, in addition to getting ahead on preparation for a road game at Arkansas. 

The extra week, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said, should be a big benefit because of the Razorbacks' shifts and unbalanced formations, to go along with its talented players in the backfield and along the offensive line.

"The goal is to get everybody healthy from all the nicks and everything that's happened with colds and all that stuff," Wommack said. "Cody (Prewitt) missed a day with the flu and whatever you've got with viruses and so forth. Just get them back healthy, and we want to improve fundamentally, which we have done the last couple of days. Obviously, we are also getting ahead on the game plan versus Arkansas."

Young Players in Review

The coordinators on both sides of the ball were pleased with what they saw from some of their younger players in extended action against Presbyterian.

Sophomore running back Mark Dodson and redshirt freshman Jordan Wilkins may have played their way into more significant roles going forward this season, but they were not alone in making an impression on Werner and the offensive staff.

"Derrick Jones caught five balls and that was huge with him moving over from the defensive side," Werner said. "He's gone back and forth, but he caught some nice balls, including for a touchdown. 

"The quarterbacks graded out very well. They didn't make many mistakes. The balls were placed where they were supposed to be, and they made good decisions. I was really pleased with them. "

On the other side of the ball, Wommack has been pleased with the corner's mentality freshman cornerback Kendarius Webster has showed, noting his confidence and maturity in addition to his talent.

"He's a freshman and he still makes mistakes at times," Wommack said. "The game experience is so valuable. He's a very talented young man and he continues to get better and better. He's going to make some mistakes as a freshman, but I'm really pleased with them."

Wommack also mentioned freshman safeties C.J. Moore and C.J. Hampton as players who grew from game experience against Presbyterian. Among the freshmen who are redshirting this season, Wommack said defensive linemen Breeland Speaks and Victor Evans have stood out to the offensive coaches in practice.

"They've sat in the meetings and gone through practice and getting as many reps as the ones do, that's valuable stuff right there," said Wommack of the younger players. "I really like that class and I am excited about the future."

Games of Interest for Ole Miss This Weekend

No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 5 Alabama, 2:30 p.m. CT, CBS

No. 9 Auburn at No. 15 Georgia, 6:15 p.m. CT, ESPN

To win the SEC West and advance to the Southeastern Conference Championship, Ole Miss has to win on the road at Arkansas and at home against Mississippi State and get help. Alabama and Georgia have to defeat Mississippi State and Auburn, respectively, and then Auburn has to defeat Alabama on Nov. 29. 

That would create a three-way tie among Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, and Ole Miss would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over each team. Both games also hold importance in the College Football Playoff rankings.

No. 8 Ohio State at No. 25 Minnesota, 11 a.m. CT, ABC

No. 4 TCU at Kansas, 2 p.m. CT, Fox Sports 1

No. 3 Florida State at Miami (FL), 7 p.m. CT, ABC

No. 6 Arizona State at Oregon State, 9:45 p.m. CT, ESPN

Other than No. 5 Alabama, which hosts No. 1 Mississippi State, the other five teams ranked ahead of No. 10 Ole Miss are all on the road this week. For Ohio State and Florida State, Minnesota and Miami (FL) likely pose their toughest challenges before their respective conference championship games.

No. 2 Oregon and No. 7 Baylor, like No. 10 Ole Miss, are off this week.

Quotable

"I'm not going to sit there and watch every play and be worried about it because at the end of the day, all we can control is our team. I'm excited to get some rest." - Senior quarterback Bo Wallace, on the open date Saturday

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Nov. 3-9, 2014)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Nov. 3-9, 2014

Football
- Ole Miss took a break from the rugged Southeastern Conference and earned a 48-0 shutout win over Presbyterian on Saturday.
- It was the Rebels' first shutout since beating Tulane 39-0 in 2012.
- The Rebels matched last year's win total of eight. They are 8-2 for the first time since 2003.
- Ole Miss dominated every facet of the game, out-gaining the Blue Hose in total yards (640-156), rushing yards (402-89), passing yards (238-67) and first downs (22-10).
- He only played the first half, but senior quarterback Bo Wallace accounted for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and inched closer to Eli Manning's school record for career total yards. Wallace now needs only 111 yards to eclipse Manning and move into the top 10 in the all-time SEC record book.
- Backup running backs Jordan Wilkins (171 yards, one touchdown) and Mark Dodson (128 yards, two touchdowns) both had career-best days. Combined, they had four runs of 50+ yards.
- The Rebel defense did not allow Presbyterian to reach the red zone all day and racked up a season high-tying 12 tackles for loss.

Men's Basketball
- Ole Miss went on a 30-4 run over a 9:57 stretch in the first half, turning a 14-11 deficit into a 41-18 lead on the way to a resounding 97-58 win in its lone exhibition game of the 2014-15 season.
- Senior Jarvis Summers lead the team in scoring with 16 points, while a trio of newcomers in Stefan Moody (14 points), Roderick Lawrence (14 points) and Terence Smith (10 points) all posted double figures. Sophomore forward Sebastian Saiz led all players with 14 rebounds.

Women's Basketball
- The Ole Miss women's basketball team cruised to a 111-43 exhibition win over Christian Brothers University on Friday.
- Freshman Toree Thompson led the way with 25 points and nine assists while Kelsey Briggs, Tia Faleru and Bretta Hart combined for 22 rebounds in the win.
- Each of Ole Miss' six freshmen scored in the contest and each of the 13 players who played earned a spot on the stat sheet.

Volleyball
- Ole Miss went 1-1 last week, defeating Mississippi State 3-1 and losing to Texas A&M 3-1, both on the road.
- With the win at Mississippi State, the Rebels have reached 20 wins for the first time since the 2007 season, when they finished 25-8. The Rebels swept the season series with MSU and have now won four straight and six of the last seven meetings.
- Head coach Steven McRoberts now has 16 20-win seasons in 18 years as a head coach.
- Junior Nakeyta Clair hit .492 on the week, averaging 4.38 kills per set. She has now hit above .300 in 21 of 26 matches, including 14 above .400. With five blocks on the week, Clair became the second player in school history in the rally scoring era to reach 300 career blocks.
- Sophomore setter Aubrey Edie recorded a career-high 62 assists against Mississippi State to set the single match record in the rally scoring era and then set the single season record Sunday at Texas A&M with 53 assists. She now has 1,037 assists to date this year and needs 14 to notch 2,000 for her career.
- Freshman Lexi Thompson posted back-to-back double-doubles and now has seven for the season. She averaged 3.38 kills and 4.38 digs per set for the week.

Women's Tennis
- Senior Julia Jones competed in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships and went 2-2 , including defeating the No. 50 ranked player in the nation and the No. 1 ranked player in Division II.
- Jones finished the fall with a 10-3 record including the USTA/ITA Southern Regional Singles title.

Men's Tennis
- Men's Tennis wrapped up the fall last week at the USTA Futures in Birmingham and at the Commodore Classic in Nashville.
- Four players reached the final round of qualifying at the USTA Futures, while Stefan Lindmark and Gustav Hansson qualified for the main draw, with Lindmark advancing to the second round.
- At the Commodore Classic, the Rebels earned 16 wins in singles and doubles.

Men's Golf
- Senior Blake Morris fired an impressive, career-low, single round 7-under 65 to lead the Ole Miss men's golf team on the final day of the Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational.
- Morris carded seven birdies, including four in a six-hole stretch, en route to a season-high seventh-place finish, posting a three-round score of 13-under, 203.
- As a team, the Rebels finished in fourth with a three-round score of 31-under, 833, tying their season-best finish as a team.
- After posting a career-low single round score in the second round, sophomore Noah West carded a career-low tournament score of 8-under, 208, and tied for 15th-place.

Women's Golf
- Ole Miss women's golf concluded its fall slate at the Jim West Challenge.
- The Rebels placed 10th with a score of 928. Alison Hovatter and Stani Schiavone led the Ole Miss contingent, finishing 22nd with 54-hole scores of 230.
- Ole Miss played one of its better rounds this fall in the final round with a 305, which is the sixth best round for the Rebels during the fall.

Observations from the Best Seat in the House - Nov. 9

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Austin Miller handled all of this week's edition of the Observations from the Best Seat in the House. Check out what he had to say below:

- The nation's best scoring defense finally got its first shutout of the season, as Ole Miss cruised to a 48-0 win over Presbyterian. The Rebels not only lead the nation in scoring (11.9 ppg), giving up a nation-low 13 touchdowns, but they extended the nation's longed forced turnover streak to 33 games.

- It was great to see Laquon Treadwell and Denzel Nkemdiche, both out with season-ending injuries, on the Ole Miss sideline with their No. 1 and No. 4 jersey adorning their respective scooters.

- With Treadwell out, Vince Sanders has been asked to step up as the team's No. 1 receiver, and he responded with a 100-yard receiving game and two touchdown receptions. One of the more underrated players, he ranks among the Southeastern Conference's leaders in most receiving categories and moved into  the top 10 in school history with 11 career touchdown receptions.

- Ole Miss coaches and fans got an extended look at redshirt-freshmen quarterbacks DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan in the second half. Kincade play three series and Buchanan played two series with each leading the Rebels on a touchdown drive. Kincade was 7-of-8 for 70 yards and carried the ball 10 times for 45 yards, while Buchanan went 6-of-7 for 28 yards.

- After losses by Auburn and LSU on Saturday, a possible path to the SEC Western Division title and the SEC Championship became much clearer for Ole Miss. The Rebels have to win on the road at Arkansas and at home against Mississippi State and then get help. Ole Miss fans need to cheer for Alabama to defeat Mississippi State, Georgia to defeat Auburn and Auburn to defeat Alabama. If the Rebels somehow win the SEC West and advance to the SEC Championship, they should send a Christmas card to head coach Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M for their thrilling win on the road at Auburn.

- Ole Miss returned to the top 10 in the Associated Press and coaches polls, re-entering at No. 10 in both. In last week's College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings, the Rebels were the highest-ranked two-loss team in the nation and ranked ahead of four one-loss teams. It will be interesting to see how this week's CFB Top 25 compares to the Associated Press and Coaches polls.

- I was asked if a path to the four-team playoff was easier than a scenario where Ole Miss needed to win out and get help to advance to the SEC Championship game. Yes and no. Yes, it might be beneficial for Ole Miss if Alabama was to finish 12-1 or if Mississippi State was to enter the Egg Bowl 11-0 from a rΓ©sumΓ© standpoint. On the other hand, the CFB Playoff committee has been instructed to place an emphasis on conference championships, so if Ole Miss was to advance to the SEC Championship Game then it might also be beneficial. Simply put, win out and let the chips fall where they may.

- It was an exhibition game against Delta State, so take it for what it's worth, but the Ole Miss men's basketball team had four backcourt players finish in double figures, including a trio of newcomers in Stefan Moody, Roderick Lawrence and Terence Smith. Aside from the visible experience on the floor, two things stood out: perimeter shooting and perimeter defense. The Rebels shot 40.9 percent from 3-point range and forced 29 turnovers, turning them into 53 points.

- Some individual observations from Friday's exhibition: Moody is going to become a fan favorite with his high-energy play on both ends of the floor. Head coach Andy Kennedy said he's as explosive as they have had in the program. Lawrence and Smith are steady, efficient players who can help spread the floor and knock down perimeter shots. Dwight Coleby, known more for his shot-blocking and rebounding ability, appeared more comfortable on the offensive end.

- It might not be fair to compare the two games, but the first thing that stands out from the Ole Miss women's basketball team's exhibition game was the final score. Ole Miss defeated Christian Brothers 111-43, having defeated the same team 74-59 in last year's exhibition. There's a lot of youth on the roster, but it is clear head coach Matt Insell has raised the talent level in Oxford.

- One of the areas where the Rebels are young is in the backcourt, where Insell started a freshman point guard in Toree Thompson and a sophomore shooting guard in Erika Sisk. They combined for 38 points on 12-of-16 shooting, including 9-of-11 from 3-point range. Thompson appears to be the heir apparent to four-year starter Valencia McFarland, having scored 25 points to go along with nine assists and just three turnovers in her college debut.


Ole Miss racked up the second-most yards in school history, totaling 640 yards, including 402 yards on the ground, in a 48-0 rout of Presbyterian.

The Rebels were able to limit the reps for several players in the contest, with younger players and backups picking up the slack. Among them, two players stood out for head coach Hugh Freeze, as the Rebels more than doubled their highest rushing total of the season.

"The two that jumped out to everyone were Jordan Wilkins and Mark Dodson," Freeze said. "Their physical, downhill running they did was very impressive today. How does that equate to some of the defenses we'll play in weeks to come? I'm not sure. I'm impressed with what we saw, for sure."

Wilkins and Dodson notched their first career 100-yard rushing games, and it was the first time Ole Miss had a pair of 100-yard rushers since the Louisiana-Lafayette game in 2010. The Rebels' 402 rushing yards were their most since totaling 443 yards against Vanderbilt in 1979.

Wilkins led the way on the ground with 10 carries for 171 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown run, while Dodson rushed three times for 128 yards, including touchdown runs of 62 and 65 yards.

"They were making big runs," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "On a couple of his runs, Mark made a nice cut that set up the run. It looked like there was a huge hole, but on one of them there was a guy in the hole. He made a nice cut that messed him up and took it to the house. Jordan was getting hit 20 yards down the field and carrying guys for 10-15 yards, which is what we want. He's that type of back."

Wilkins, Dodson and the rest of the ball-carriers ran behind an offensive line that was without sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and junior offensive guard Aaron Morris. In their place, freshman Rod Taylor made his first career start at right guard, while junior Craig Frigo played significant snaps at the other guard position.

Some of it was their FCS opponent, some of it was their own execution, Werner said, but the 400-plus-yard rushing game was a significant improvement over its 149.1 yards per game average entering the game, which ranked 12th among Southeastern Conference teams.

"The young guys, when they came in, we were moving the ball," Werner said. "Those backs weren't running with no holes, so they obviously did a good job. That was not an SEC defense over there, but we have really told ourselves we have to get better in the run game, and we did today."


 

Three areas to watch as No. 11 Ole Miss hosts FCS opponent Presbyterian in its final non-conference matchup of the regular season.

Execute, Stay Heathy

Saturday's game with Presbyterian is more about Ole Miss than its opponent, as the team's two primary focuses are executing and staying healthy.

To expect his team to be all hyped up and excited coming off the last two weeks, head coach Hugh Freeze said, is probably not a reasonable expectation, but they have to execute and find a way to win. 

The Rebels are also battling a number of injuries, so they look to hold out or limit some players, while keeping others healthy ahead of a bye week and their final two games at Arkansas on Nov. 22 and at home against No. 1 Mississippi State on Nov. 29.

"It's important to our program that we bounce back and we play well with the ones who are healthy," Freeze said. "I've been in these games before where if you don't play well you don't feel great. We need to feel great going into our open week. We need to feel great about the way we're progressing. We have to work hard this week to get our kids ready for that. Hopefully our fans understand the importance of being here to support these guys." 

Another Look at the Backup Quarterback Battle

Depending on the flow of the game, Saturday should present an opportunity for Freeze and his staff to get a longer look at backup quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.

Listed as co-backups on the Ole Miss depth chart, neither Buchanan nor Kincade have attempted a pass since the Louisiana-Lafayette game Sept. 13.

Buchanan is 5-of-9 for 42 yards with two carries for 18 yards, while Kincade is 7-of-8 for 33 yards with 12 carries for 44 yards, and they both look to position themselves as the backup quarterback going forward this season and the starting quarterback in spring drills.

"I would hope we can work Ryan and DeVante some Saturday," Freeze said. "I would be disappointed if we don't get them some look They deserve it, and we need it."

Young Players on Display

Two freshmen, defensive end Marquis Haynes and cornerback Kendarius Webster, have already made their first career starts for Ole Miss this season.

Webster is expected to make his second career start against Presbyterian, while offensive guard Rod Taylor is expected to join the list and make his first career start at right guard.

With players being held out and limited on both sides of the ball, Saturday presents an opportunity for Haynes, Webster and Taylor, among others to make an impression on the coaching staff going forward this season and in the future.

"Hopefully the case will be a lot of kids will get some reps," Freeze said. "That will be determined Saturday by the way we perform."

With injuries mounting on both sides of the ball, Saturday's game against Presbyterian presents an opportunity for young players and backups to gain experience and make an impression on the coaching staff.

Among those injured players, head coach Hugh Freeze said, are sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and junior offensive guard Aaron Morris, who will both be held out Saturday. 

Junior running back I'Tavius Mathers and junior safety Trae Elston, Freeze said, have not been cleared for practice and are doubtful to play, while they will try to limit the reps for senior safety Cody Prewitt and junior center Ben Still, among other players.

As part of the shuffle, freshman Rod Taylor is expected to make his first career start at right guard, while freshman Kendarius Webster is expected to make his second career start at cornerback opposite senior Senquez Golson.

"I hope to execute whatever we do and get everyone some time," Freeze said. "I'm concerned about winning the game and executing. I'm not concerned about how much you win a game by. At this point in the season, getting a win and getting your team ready for whatever lies next is very important. That's what my focus will be."

Moving on without Treadwell

Sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, Freeze said, is back around the team and ready to help coach the other receivers up after suffering a season-ending leg injury against Auburn.

With his absence, junior Cody Core moves to outside receiver opposite senior Vince Sanders, with sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo and freshman Markell Pack working at slot receiver. Sophomore Derrick Jones also moved back to wide receiver from cornerback , giving the Rebels another option at outside receiver.

"We had to move some people around, but it's not as drastic as people think," wide receivers coach Grant Heard said. "Putting Cody outside, he was there for the first two years of his career. They're all interchangeable, so it's not a big deal for us. Next man up. We have to keep rolling."

"Laquon is going to rooting for us as much as he can," Adeboyejo said. "He's been shooting me texts. With him out, it makes you want to go out there and do it for him, do it for this team, and do anything we can to help this thing keep going."

The Rebels' second-leading receiver in receptions (33), receiving yards (536) and receiving touchdowns (4), Sanders is being asked to step up in terms of production and leadership as the team's No. 1 receiver.

"My guys, they respect him and look up to him," Heard said. "He's been through more wars than anybody in that room. He's the grandfather in my room. He's going to do a good job and make sure those guys are ready to go Saturday."

"I'm excited for this opportunity to be in this position," Sanders said. "I hate I got it the way I got it. Now that I got it, I have to take it in stride and make the best of it. That's what I plan on doing."

Shuffling the Deck at Other Spots

Along the offensive line, without Tunsil and Morris, junior Justin Bell will move to left guard from right guard, while junior Fahn Cooper and sophomore Robert Conyers will start at left tackle and right tackle, respectively, for the second straight week.

Senior Chase Hughes and Craig Frigo will be the backup centers behind Still, with Frigo also playing some backup guard. A trio of redshirt freshmen in Christian Morris, Davion Johnson and Daronte Bouldin will also figure in the mix Saturday.

"We're going to rotate them in and out and hopefully can find a way to score a few points with them," Freeze said.

In the secondary, junior Mike Hilton will move from cornerback to Rover safety, where he started in the Music City Bowl against Georgia Tech last season and played some against Auburn last week. 

Junior Chief Brown, who made his season debut against Auburn, will provide depth at safety, and senior Cliff Coleman and sophomore Kailo Moore will be the primary backups at cornerback.

"Kendarius had a great camp and he's played in every game," cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said. "He's done well. He started the first half of the Texas A&M game. He's been tested, and I think he'll do well."

Rebels Fall to No. 11 in CFB Playoff Poll

After debuting at No. 4 in the first College Football Playoff poll, Ole Miss fell seven spots to No. 11 in the latest top 25, revealed Tuesday by the CFB Playoff selection committee.

At No. 11, the Rebels are the highest-ranked two-loss team and are ranked ahead of four one-loss teams from power-five conferences in Baylor (No. 12), Nebraska (No. 13), Ohio State (No. 14) and Duke (No. 22).

"We don't feel like we're out of it," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "Obviously we don't control our destiny anymore, but crazy things can happen in the SEC. A lot of people still have to play each other, so we're hopeful good things can happen for us, but we can win all our games down the stretch. We have to come in and prepare and come out and have good showings in every game."

This weekend features six matchups of ranked teams, including five involving teams ranked ahead of Ole Miss.

No. 4 Oregon travels to No. 17 Utah, No. 5 Alabama travels to No. 16 LSU, No. 6 TCU hosts No. 7 Kansas State, No. 8 Michigan State hosts No. 14 Ohio State, and No. 9 Arizona State hosts No. 10 Notre Dame.

A question we keep hearing is what needs to happen in order for the Rebels to get to the SEC Championship game. It's pretty simple, just cheer for the home team. The lone exception to that notion is Ole Miss' game at Arkansas on Nov. 22. If the Rebels pull off the road win and the rest of the league games are won by the home team, Ole Miss will finish the regular season in a three-way deadlock atop the SEC Western Division standings with Mississippi State and Alabama, each at 6-2. The Rebels would win the tie-breaker on head-to-head competition and be Atlanta bound.

Here are some notable games that impact the fortunes of the Red and Blue:
Nov. 8 - Alabama at LSU
Nov. 15 - Mississippi State at Alabama, LSU at Arkansas, Auburn at Georgia
Nov. 29 - Auburn at Alabama, Mississippi State at Ole Miss.

If the home teams take care of business and Ole Miss is victorious in Fayetteville, here is how the SEC West standings would finish:
Ole Miss - 6-2 (losses to LSU, Auburn)
Alabama - 6-2 (losses to Ole Miss, LSU)
Mississippi State - 6-2 (losses to Alabama, Ole Miss)
Auburn - 5-3 (losses to MSU, Georgia, Alabama)
LSU - 4-4
Texas A&M - 4-4
Arkansas - 1-7


Follow me on twitter @CampbellKyle.

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2014

Football
- No. 4 Ole Miss lost a heartbreaker to No. 3 Auburn on Saturday night, 35-31.
- In addition to losing the game, the Rebels lost star receiver Laquon Treadwell on what looked to be the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes left, but ended up being a fumble, turnover and season-ending broken leg for Treadwell.
- Bo Wallace continued his strong play in SEC games with three more total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) for nearly 400 total yards, and no interceptions.
- Senquez Golson had an interception for the fifth straight game and is up to nine picks on the year, which leads the SEC and ranks second nationally.
- Three Rebels had 100+ receiving yards (Evan Engram 123, Vince Sanders 105, Laquon Treadwell 103) for the first time in the Hugh Freeze era.

Volleyball
- In their only match of the week, Ole Miss shut out South Carolina 3-0 Sunday at the Gillom Sports Center to improve to 19-5 overall and 5-5 in the SEC. With the win, the Rebels snapped a two-match losing streak and improved to 10-1 at home.
- The win avenged an earlier loss this season to the Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina.
- The Rebels have posted the most wins since the 2010 season, when they finished 19-11.
- Ole Miss earned its first win of the season when hitting below .200 thanks to a strong defensive effort of 52 digs, including three players in double digits.
- Junior Nakeyta Clair recorded three blocks to bring her career total to 299. She needs just one more to become the second player in school history to record 300 in a career in the rally scoring era.

Cross Country
- The Ole Miss men's cross country team raced to a runner-up finish at the SEC Championships on Friday, tying the 1968 second-place result as the best in program history. The Rebels finished just six points behind SEC Champion Arkansas.
- Junior Wesley Gallagher finished third overall in the 8K (24:21.28) to lead the Rebels.
- Gallagher is the third Rebel in program history to earn a top-three finish at an SEC Championship and the first since Barnabas Kirui won the SEC title in 2010.
- Freshman Sean Tobin (24:37.91) and sophomore Robert Domanic (24:38.50) clocked in at sixth and seventh, respectively, to propel Ole Miss to the historic finish.
- The Rebels placed six runners in the top 29. Freshman Taylor Caldwell (25:02.17) finished 19th, freshman Mark Robertson (25:11.41) placed 25th and sophomore Trevor Gilley (25:20.63) was 29th.
- Gallagher, Tobin and Domanic earned All-SEC first team honors by placing among the top seven finishers. Three All-SEC selections are the most in program history. Tobin's time was the fastest for any freshman on Friday, earning him All-Freshman team honors. Caldwell and Robertson joined him on the All-Freshman team, marking the most Rebels on the All-Freshman team in program history, as well.
- The women's cross country team battled injuries and finished 12th at the SEC Championship. Senior Margaret Harkness led the way at 54th overall with a time of 21:32.18. Freshman Shelby Brown finished right behind her at 55th with a time of 21:32.95. The Rebels raced a young team consisting of six freshmen, two sophomores and a senior.

Soccer
- Ole Miss closed out the 2014 soccer season Thursday night with an overall record of 8-6-5. The Rebels finished the year with a 3-2, double overtime loss against the Tennessee Volunteers.
- Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick finished her career atop the all-time records list at Ole Miss in wins (42), saves (297), shutouts (22) and minutes in goal (6,839).
- Head coach Matt Mott passed the 50-win mark this season, as he has averaged 10 wins a season in his first five years at Ole Miss.

Women's Tennis
- The Rebels competed in the Roberta Allison Fall Classic this past weekend and picked up some more big wins, with two players advancing to the final of their respective draws and two doubles teams reaching the semifinals.
- Senior Erin Stephens knocked off the No. 21 ranked player in the nation, Ronit Yurovsky of Michigan, in straight sets, and freshman Arianne Hartono defeated 42nd-ranked Georgina Petrasc of Mississippi State in straight sets.

Men's Tennis
- Five members of the men's tennis team were in Birmingham, Alabama, competing in the Players' Choice Open at the Highland Tennis Center. Four players advanced to the final round of qualifying, while junior Stefan Lindmark and freshman Gustav Hansson advanced to the main draw with straight set wins Monday. They will begin play in the main draw Tuesday.

Women's Golf
- Ole Miss women's golf opened its final tournament of the season Sunday at the Jim West Challenge in Bourne, Texas.
- After the opening round, Ole Miss was sitting in ninth with a score of 314, and three players tied for 30th with a score of 6-over-par, 78.

Dragging an Auburn defender on what initially looked to be a go-ahead touchdown, Laquon Treadwell fought his way toward the end zone, but had his ankle rolled over and fumbled into the end zone.

In the moments that followed, the initial touchdown call was overturned in favor of Auburn, and Treadwell was carted off the field with an air cast and tears in his eyes.

"It's definitely a fracture," said head coach Hugh Freeze of the injury. "It was obvious, even to me. If I can see it, I know they can see it. I don't know anything other than that. I can't tell you all the details of it. It's definitely a fracture."

"He was phenomenal," said senior quarterback Bo Wallace, tearing up talking about the injury. "He was really upset. It was tough to see."

Before the injury, Treadwell was having perhaps the best game of his Ole Miss career. He had a career-high 10 catches, tied for the fourth-most in school history, for 103 yards and a touchdown. Treadwell also made two key downfield blocks to spring Wallace for a 59-yard run, scoring on a 10-yard touchdown the next play.

"He sort of took the game over," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "That's why we were calling those types of plays knowing that he is hard to tackle. That one he could have been tackled about three times and just got rolled up on. Those things happen in football. It's a shame, but they happen."

Ole Miss matched Auburn score for score, as the offense rolled up 492 yards of total offense, but down four late in the fourth quarter, the Rebels fumbled at the Auburn 1-yard line on back-to-back drives, which ultimately proved to be the difference in a 35-31 loss to the Tigers.

"When you watch the game, if they're really watching games, we can't drop far," said Wallace, who was 28-of-40 for 341 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. "We lost a game by that much. I just watched the replay of Laquon (Treadwell). 

"We lost it by that much. I don't see how far they can drop us. Our season is still alive, we feel like. We'll find out Tuesday (with the College Football Playoff rankings) how far we fall, but we're going to keep fighting, and crazy things can happen."

Visiting with Treadwell after the game, Werner said Treadwell is emotionally down obviously, but he told him he's a warrior and he played probably his best game yet.

"These things happen, and he'll bounce back," Werner said. "That's what we do here. It's going to be tough, but somebody else has to step up and that's what Coach Freeze talks about all the time. We lost guys before, and it seems like somebody will step up and the team responds."

In Treadwell's absence, a quartet of receivers in senior Vince Sanders, junior Cody Core, sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo and freshman Markell Pack will be asked to step up in terms of production and leadership. 

More will also be asked of sophomore tight end Evan Engram, who came in with Treadwell and was behind him on the play where he suffered his injury and fumbled into the end zone.

"It's really tough to be just a foot away from national championship implications," said Engram, who caught eight passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. "That's tough to grasp, but we still have three games left. We can't just turn the switch off. We have to come back in tomorrow and prepare for Presbyterian. 

"This one stings really bad. We're going to learn from it and we're going to get better from it. We're going to bounce back and be stronger from it."

UPDATE, 12:41 A.M. CT:

Three areas to watch as No. 4 Ole Miss hosts No. 3 Auburn in a Southeastern Conference Western Division showdown featuring half of the top four teams in the initial College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings.

Bounce-Back Bo

Ole Miss senior quarterback Bo Wallace has had his two statistically-worst games the last two weeks, completing 13-of-28 passes for 199 yards against Tennessee and 13-of-33 passes for 176 yards against LSU. 

Wallace had attempted 140 passes and carried the ball 61 times before turning the ball over on a game-ending interception against LSU. The Rebels were also held to season lows in points (7) and total yards (313) in the 10-7 loss to the Tigers last week.

"A lot of times when we're throwing right now it's third down," Wallace said. "We're staying in third and long so much. People get in their defenses and it's hard in this league to convert third downs as well as people play third-down defense. We have to get back to throwing the ball on first and second down and making plays like we did earlier in the season."

"I would say this for our entire team, not just Bo, our demeanor was a bit different in that environment," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We let things get to us that have not bothered us earlier in the season. It seemed to rattle us a little bit. He missed some open guys. He also made some really good throws. It just seemed that our demeanor was a little bit different as a team. I haven't noticed any mechanical things that are any different."

Freeze has been pleased with Wallace's demeanor in practice, describing it as typical for him.

"He bounces back," he said. "He's resilient and he's hungry to get back out and play again."

Finding Traction on the Ground

The strength of the Auburn defense has been against the run, while the weakness of the Ole Miss offense has been its rushing attack.

Auburn has allowed just 3.37 yards per carry, tied for fifth-best in the SEC, and has allowed an opponent to average 4.0 yards or more per carry just twice this season, giving up 153 yards on 29 carries against Arkansas and 223 yards on 44 carries against Mississippi State.

Ole Miss ranks fourth in the SEC in passing offense (268.8 ypg) but just 12th in the SEC in rushing offense (149.5 ypg). The Rebels also rank 12th in the SEC in yards per carry (3.87), and have been held under 4.0 yards per carry four times this season.

Ole Miss eclipsed 4.0 yards per carry against LSU, averaging 4.03 yards per carry, but the offense struggled to find consistency, particularly in the second half. The Rebels ran the ball on first down nine times in the second half, and none of those rushes went for more than two yards.

The key in the run game, as it has been all season, more than any statistic, is keeping the offense on schedule and out of obvious passion situations.

"It's difficult to run in this league," Freeze said. "We have some challenges that we have to continue to work on and try to find what the best way is to attack defenses to  stay somewhat balanced so we're not having to throw it every down and they know we're going to throw it. That's a bad feeling and a difficult way to go about being successful."

Gleeson, Bray Headline Special Teams Battle

Field position can be gained and games can be won by special teams, and Saturday's showdown features two of the nation's best in the Ole Miss punt unit and the Auburn punt return unit.

Ole Miss redshirt-freshman punter Will Gleeson was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week after his game against LSU, having landed four of his six punts inside the 10-yard line. 

For the season, he has landed 20 of his 38 punts inside the 20, as he has helped the Rebels rank second in the SEC and fourth nationally in net punting with a 42.8 average. 

Auburn senior wide receiver Quan Bray earned SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors earlier this season, returning a punt 76 yards for a touchdown against Louisiana Tech, one of three total touchdowns for him in the game.

Bray leads the nation in punt return average (25.2 ypg) and has two punt return touchdowns this season, as he has helped the Tigers lead the nation in punt returning with a 23.45 average.

Not only will Saturday's matchup between No. 4 Auburn and No. 7 Ole Miss feature the first-ever meeting of top-10 team in Oxford, but it will feature half of the top four of the College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings with Auburn at No. 3 and Ole Miss at No. 4.

Auburn and Ole Miss are the top two one-loss teams in the rankings, followed by Oregon at No. 5 and Alabama at No. 6, giving the Southeastern Conference Western Division four of the top six teams. There are still four games remaining among the four teams, starting with Saturday's matchup.

"My first reaction was that we will always be the answer to one of those AFLAC trivia questions," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We'll be answer for one of them when the duck comes across the TV screen. That was really what I thought.

"I have great respect for the selection committee, and we are honored to be in the discussions at this point, but it's way too early. It's good for our fans. It gave them a little boost and hopefully will get them to bring some more energy into the stadium Saturday. There's a lot of ball left and the only one (ranking) that really matters is on Dec. 7 when that final one comes out."

Rebels Ready for Balanced Auburn Attack

Ole Miss leads the nation in scoring defense (10.5 ppg allowed) and has given up a nation-low eight touchdowns. Ole Miss also leads the SEC and ranks fourth nationally, giving up just 4.35 yards per play. 

Auburn ranks third in the SEC and 15th nationally in scoring offense (39.3 ppg) and ranks second in the SEC and 10th nationally, averaging 6.91 yards per play.

Something has to give.

For Auburn, it starts with the league's top rushing attack 281.0 ypg), led by league's second-leading rusher in running back Cameron Artis Payne (118.7 ypg) and seventh-leading rusher in quarterback Nick Marshall (83.0 ypg).

Marshall's improvement as a passer and a talented group of receivers, led by JUCO transfer D'haquille Williams (34 catches, 527 yards, five TDs), have made the Tigers more balanced this season.

"The minute you commit too many to controlling him, they have guys who make you pay and pay with explosive plays," said Freeze of Marshall. "Gus (Malzahn) has always done a great job of disguising his looks, motions and shifts. 

"He does a great job with a lot of eye candy and things that can get your eyes in bad positions and cause you to make mistakes that give them explosive plays. Our goal will remain to be steady and discipline and hopefully not give up too many explosive plays."

Optimism on Injury Front

The injury situation continues to improve, as it appears offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, safety Cody Prewitt and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche will all return to action against Auburn, having practiced Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Every one them is going to give it a go," Freeze said. "With the stretch of games we have gone through without a break, it takes a toll on you both physically and mentally, some more than others. They did get some dings the other night (against LSU) that will probably keep them for being 100 percent, but they are going to give it a go for sure."

Center Ben Still was also listed day-to-day by Freeze on Monday, and his status remains uncertain, having worked individually Tuesday and Wednesday. The plan, Freeze said, is for him to practice with the team Thursday and see how he handles it.

"One day will tell us if he's ready to handle what we're going to face Saturday," Freeze said. "It will be nice to have him for sure because we had three possession the other night where it really hurt us in that game because of the injuries. It would be nice to have him thrown in there and let Robert move around and help us. We'll see how he does tomorrow."

Safety Chief Brown, who was thought to be out for the year, dressed out but did not play against LSU. With Prewitt dinged up, Brown has received significant practice reps at free safety.

"I expect to see him play some Saturday," Freeze said. "We'll see how he responds. It's a long season, but my guess would be we're going to need him before it's over."

AUDIO: Week 10 SEC football coaches teleconference (Freeze starts at 1:03:00 mark, Malzahn starts at 1:47:25 mark)

How the playoff committee to its first ranking decision, writes George Schroeder of USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Oct. 20-26, 2014)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Oct. 20-26, 2014

Football
- Ole Miss took its first loss of the season with a 10-7 defeat to No. 23 LSU in Baton Rouge.
- The Rebels held LSU to 10 points and created four turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions).
- The Rebels have forced multiple turnovers in seven of eight games this year and have forced at least one turnover in 31 straight games, which leads the nation.
- Cornerbacks Senquez Golson and Mike Hilton both had interceptions, increasing Ole Miss' national lead to 17.
- This was the latest in the year that Ole Miss suffered its first loss since the 1963 season.
- The LSU crowd of 102,321 marked the second straight Rebel road game in which the opponent set a school record for attendance. At Texas A&M, it was even a Southeastern Conference record and state of Texas football record.

Soccer
- Ole Miss picked up four crucial points in the SEC standings over the weekend with a draw against No. 21 Missouri and a 2-1 win at Vanderbilt.
- Junior midfielder Jessica Hiskey scored a pair of goals on the week, including the game-winner at Vanderbilt on Sunday. She has two game winners in three matches against the Commodores and also added an assist on the Rebels' other goal Sunday.
- The Rebels seek to clinch a berth in the SEC Tournament for the third straight season and make a push for the NCAA Tournament against Tennessee on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
- Ole Miss will honor its lone senior Thursday night when it recognizes goalkeeper Kelly McCormick prior to the start of the match against the Lady Vols.

Volleyball
- Ole Miss lost a pair of matches last week, suffering its first home loss of the season, 3-0 to LSU on Wednesday and then falling to Tennessee on the road Sunday.
- It's the team's first two-match losing streak since the opening weekend of SEC play.
- Ole Miss is 16-0 overall and 4-0 in the SEC when hitting above .200, but just 2-5 and 0-5 in league play when hitting under .200.
- Despite hitting well under her average last week, junior middle blocker Nakyeta Clair still ranks second in the SEC in hitting percentage at .411.
- With 82 total blocks so far this year, Clair has moved into second all-time on the Ole Miss charts in the rally scoring era with 296.

Women's Tennis
- The Rebels hosted the Ole Miss Invitational this past weekend, welcoming in Georgia, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt.
- The Rebels posted 13 total wins in singles and doubles on the weekend.
- Senior Julia Jones went 2-1 in singles, including knocking off the No. 6 ranked player in the nation from Georgia. With two more wins, Jones improved to 8-1 and earned her fourth win over a ranked opponent this year.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Ole Miss had its chances. 

The Ole Miss defense made seven points stand up for the better part of four quarters, forcing four turnovers and limiting LSU to just three points on its first three trips to the red zone. 

But LSU finally broke through, going ahead 10-7 on a 3-yard touchdown pass with 5:07 left in the game. It capped a 13-play, 95-yard drive that included 12 runs before the scoring play.

"Our kids fought," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Our defense gave us a chance to win the game, to be in the game, but we could not manage any points."

On the ensuing drive, Ole Miss moved into LSU territory before the Rebels were stopped short on  3rd-and-2 and 4th-and-1, giving the ball back to the Tigers.

With LSU likely needing just one first down to run out the clock, the Ole Miss defense forced a three-and-out to give the offense one last chance, as the offense took over at their own 25-yard line with 1:09 left on the clock.

Ole Miss had its second chance, driving to the LSU 30-yard line with nine seconds left on the clock, converting a key fourth down and drawing a defensive pass interference penalty, before quarterback Bo Wallace was intercepted at the 1-yard line, his first interception in SEC play.

"There were nine seconds on the clock and thought we could sprint out," Freeze said. "(Bo) needed to take the flat throw or throw it out of bounds. Worst case, we were at the same spot. We were trying to get it to the left hash or left middle, and we didn't get it done there."

"Bo would tell you, we were pretty clear that we were going to take the flat throw or throw it bounds, and then try a field goal. He must have felt like he had a touchdown play there with the clear-out. I wish we could have done that over for sure."

Ole Miss was outgained 406-313, converting just 15 first downs and going 5-of-17 on third down. The Rebels were limited to 137 yards on 34 carries, while Wallace finished the game 14-of-33 for 176 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Between the scoring drive late in the first quarter and the last two drives of the game, the Rebels punted on seven straight possessions, including five three-and-outs. 

On of the key plays of this stretch included a 34-yard touchdown run for running back I'Tavius Mathers called back on a holding penalty.

"They're pretty good, number one," said Freeze of LSU's defense. "They were able to stay in 2-high on first and second down and stop our running game for the most post. We struggled there. Laremy (Tunsil) was out for most of the second half. We had to move some people around and that caused us some issues where we played some younger kids.

"We had a couple of chances. We just didn't seem to win many of the one-on-ones. They tackled extremely well and put us in a lot of third down, and we converted hardly any."

With the loss, Ole Miss moves to 7-1 overall, 4-1 in Southeastern Conference play, but by virtue of its win over Alabama and remaining games against Auburn (Nov. 1) and Mississippi State (Nov. 29), both at home, the Rebels remain in control of their destiny in the SEC Western Division and likely the College Football Playoff.

"They're hurt," said Freeze of the team's demeanor after the game. "They have to figure out how they want to handle it. We're not the only team in America that's going to go through this. If you had told me this team was going to be where we are right now, all of us would have been pleased. We're obviously not pleased leaving here after the season we have had. 

"This stretch is tough. I knew going through this stretch was going to wear on you physically and mentally. The thing is, we still can control everything we want with the schedule that lies ahead. They're down, they're disappointed, and hopefully we'll respond the correct way."

The Rebels' next game with No. 5 Auburn serves as a defacto playoff game, as both teams enter with one loss on the season.

"We're ready for the next one," Wallace said. "We're thinking everyone is going to have one loss now. We have Auburn coming to our place next week. That's what we have our mind on."

Three areas to watch as No. 3 Ole Miss travels to No. 23 LSU for an SEC West Showdown on Saturday.

Stopping The Run

Not just this year, but throughout head coach Les Miles' tenure, LSU's running game has been a key to success.

LSU, which ranks sixth in the SEC in rushing offense (220.9 ypg), was held to a season-low 89 rushing yards in a 34-29 loss to Mississippi State and 138 rushing yards in a 41-7 loss to Auburn.

The Ole Miss defense leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in yards per play allowed, giving up just 4.15 yards per play, and they have been equally dominant against the run and pass.

Stopping the run, as Ole Miss did last week against Tennessee, limiting the Volunteers to zero rushing yards on 28 attempts, would also force the game into the hands of quarterback Anthony Jennings.

The sophomore will make his seventh start of the season, the eight of his career, and has completed 64-of-128 passes for 1,048 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions this season.

"It's run, run, run, and you want to stick your nose up in there," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of preparation for LSU's offense. "We have to do a good job of that in practice, shocking them every once in a while with a pass."

Managing The Game

In addition to the dominant defense, quarterback Bo Wallace and punter Will Gleeson have been two keys actors in the different management of games this season.

Wallace attempted just 19 passes and 28 passes against Texas A&M and Tennessee, two of his three lowest totals this season, leaning on a rushing attack that eclipsed 150 yards in both games.

Asked to manage the game more this season, particularly in recent games, Wallace has not turned the ball over in SEC play, attempting 108 passes and carrying the ball 49 times over four games.

"The big thing for me is I'm not trying to mess it up," Wallace said. "I'm going in and trying to not have any turnovers. The defense is playing well. If we punt it past the 50-yard line, they're probably not going to get points. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable." 

Gleeson has been named National Punter of the Week twice this season, as he ranks third in the SEC and 11th nationally with a punting average of 45.5 yards, landing 16 of his 32 punts inside the 20. 

Behind the left leg of Gleeson, Ole Miss also ranks second in the SEC and third nationally with a net punting average of 43.3 yards.

"He's been a huge factor," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We have won field position with his punting. With the way our defense has played, the way our coverage units have played and the way he's placing his punts, it has allowed us to be very patient at times offensively."

'Saturday Night in Death Valley'

It has been said that Death Valley is where opponents' dreams come to die.

Through seven games, Ole Miss has ignored such history, instead making its own. The Rebels are 7-0 for the first time since 1962, when they went 10-0 and earned a share of the national title. 

A win over LSU would give Ole Miss its second 8-0 start in program history, but to leave Tiger Stadium with a win, they must continue to ignore history and make their own.

LSU is 45-4 in night games in Tiger Stadium under head coach Les Miles, including 45-3 in Saturday night home games. 

All three losses came to teams that were either No. 1 at the time (Florida in 2008 and Alabama in 2012) or reached No. 1 at some point during the year (Mississippi State in 2014).

"We have to play a very difficult team in a difficult environment in a difficult rivalry series," Freeze said. "Who knows what the outcome will be, but I do think they will have to beat us. I don't think it would be because our kids aren't ready."

Ahead of a rivalry renewed on a national stage, complete with a visit of ESPN's "College GameDay" and the mystique of a Saturday night game in Death Valley, here's link roundup of videos and stories from local and national media regarding the SEC West showdown between No. 3 Ole Miss and No. 23 LSU:

VIDEO: Ole Miss Film Room, breaking down the Rebels' defense, from ESPN.com

VIDEO: Can LSU establish the run against Ole Miss? from ESPN.com

VIDEO: LSU's chances of scoring on Ole Miss from ESPN.com

Freeze at home with Ole Miss, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

'Grandpa' D.T. Shackelford plays key role on Ole Miss defense, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com

Wallace's experience an asset for Ole Miss, writes Jungkyu Lee of ESPN.com

Ole Miss-LSU: Why Rebels can run table and win national title, writes Coy Wire of Fox Sports

Weekend Watch List: Ole Miss-LSU a precursor to brutal SEC West stretch, writes Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports

SEC teams not done knocking each other off, writes John Zenor of the Associated Press

No. 3 Ole Miss relies on tough defense for wins, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

Ole Miss much different since last visit to LSU, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Australian punters are on both sides of LSU-Ole Miss, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Ole Miss carries defensive streak into LSU game, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Five things to know about the LSU vs. Ole Miss game, writes Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com

The LSU-Ole Miss rivalry is back with a vengeance, writes Ron Higgins of NOLA.com

Numbers that Matter: Ole Miss vs. LSU, writes Bill Bender of Sporting News

Here's two videos from Ole Miss and one video from LSU to get you ready for Saturday:

 

 


LesMiles.Net - OleMiss Trailer from LSU Football on Vimeo.


Extra Emphasis on Special Teams Play

Through the years, special teams play has provided a winning edge in the Ole Miss-LSU rivalry, and and you don't have to go all the way back to Billy Cannon's 1959 Halloween run.

In a run that reminded fans of Cannon, Odell Beckham Jr. sparked a 41-35 comeback win for LSU with a game-tying 89-yard punt return for a touchdown in the teams' last meeting in Baton Rouge.

Andrew Ritter split the uprights on a 41-yard field goal with two seconds left on the clock to lift Ole Miss to a 27-24 win in last year's meeting in Oxford.

"When you watch all the highlights of the games of the past, there always seems to be a special teams play in there," special teams coordinator Tom Allen said. "We all know about the famous punt returns that have occurred down there. I was pretty emotional and passionate when I addressed our guys on Tuesday in our special teams meeting. I believe it's going to be the difference.

"Our 'it' that Coach Freeze challenges us with is to provide the winning edge, and that's what we need to do. We have done that in several games this year, and we need to do it again in this kind of environment."

The Rebels have a trio of freshmen in key spots on special teams, with Will Gleeson handling the punting duties, Gary Wunderlich handling placekicking and kickoff duties and Markell Pack returning punts. 

Gleeson ranks among the nation's leaders in punting (45.5 ypg) and net punting (44.0), while Wunderlich is 3-of-4 on field goals with a long of 46 against Alabama. Pack has had some shaky moments and continues to learn through game experience, but Allen remains confident in him.

"As I have said before, returning punts is the most difficult thing we ask anybody on our team to do," Allen said. "Being a young guy doing that is hard, but he's smooth catching the ball. He's the most natural one we have. Now, it's a matter of making good decisions under fire."


Defense Preps for Powerful Ground Game

The LSU offense is led by a three-headed powerful rushing attack that ranks sixth in the SEC (220.9 ypg). Freshman Leonard Fournette leads the way with 544 yards and seven touchdowns, followed by seniors Kenny Hilliard (353 yards, 6 TDs) and Terrence Magee (344 yards, 3 TDs).

Over their last two games, the Tigers have rushed for 195 yards on 50 carries in a 30-27 win at Florida and rushed for 303 yards on 51 carries in a 41-3 win over Kentucky, but they face their stiffest test of the season in Ole Miss, which boats the nation's sixth-best rush defense (97.1 ypg).

"The last two weeks they turned back into what they want to be, which is running the ball downhill," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "They have the big backs who are always falling forward, very good football players, with play-action off of it. The quarterbacks, especially (Anthony) Jennings, have gotten more comfortable in their offense."

Wommack said they faced a similar test earlier this season in Alabama. The Rebels held the Crimson Tide to 17 points and 396 yards of total offense (168 rushing, 228 passing), both well below their season averages of 39.6 points per game and 514.6 yards per game.

"Alabama, to me, is very similar," Wommack said. "Their lines are similar, and their backs are similar. Their receivers, in some ways, are similar. The one outstanding receiver at Alabama (Amari Cooper) is probably better than any one person at LSU, but as a group LSU's receivers are younger. The quarterbacks are very similar."

The more traditional, smash mouth offense, Allen said, plays to the strengths of their physical, downhill players, such as linebackers Serderius Bryant and Deterrian Shackelford.

"We're not a big linebacker corps, by any means, but we're tough kids," linebackers coach Tom Allen said. "That's what you've got to have against these guys. We're big enough and we tackle well enough that we feel comfortable against their scheme.

"I don't feel like we have a group of guys that can't adjust. We're probably better suited for this than we are some of the wide-open spread looks that we see."


Still Remains Questionable for LSU

Center Ben Still (sprained MCL) did not practice Wednesday remains questionable for Saturday's game against LSU.

"He is coming, just don't know exactly how he'll be Saturday," Freeze said. "The good thing is he knows everything. He doesn't have to get reps. If he can go, he certainly will."

If Still is unable to play, Robert Conyers will take over at center, having played almost all of the second half against Tennessee. He would be backed up Craig Frigo at center, with Daronte Bouldin and Davion Johnson also figuring in the tackle rotation.

"It lessens our depth at other places, but he had a really good game against Tennessee," said Freeze of Conyers. "He's very athletic. He's maybe not as strong or has as much mass as Ben for certain blocks, but he did really well and his snaps have been good."


Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and LSU head coach Les Miles on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in Baton Rouge.

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:06:12 mark)

Opening statement...

"We're excited to go down to Baton Rouge and play in one of college football's best environments. It's a traditional rivalry game for us and those guys. We have the utmost respect for Coach Miles, his staff and the job they have done throughout the years. It also provides a great test for us, which is something we continue to need to get to where we want to go, and we're looking forward to it."

On the players' understanding of the Ole Miss-LSU series over the years...

"It's always important to educate the new guys on the history of this game. We started doing that Sunday, and we'll continue throughout the week, just like we have done each year I have been here. The guys who have been here have an understanding of it. Everyone in your program needs to understand it, so we'll try to take step to make sure we do."

On LSU's improvement over the last four games...

"The young kids are maturing. They're playing quite a few talented, young kids, and the more they get on the field in these environments, the better of they're going to be. They have figured what their strengths are and are leaning on them more.

"They have changed defensively some. And that's not something they typically have had to do. It's been very successful for them the last couple of weeks. They have done some different things and leaned more on some of their strengths."

On games from the Ole Miss-LSU series that stand out over the years...

"There are two that really jump out in my mind. The first one is Eli's year here when it was for the West Championship. I remember the excitement around Oxford at that time. And up until us playing Alabama here a couple of weeks ago, I would say that was the most festive, energetic, passionate atmosphere we have had on campus.

"You always remember the Billy Cannon run, of course, but I didn't actually witness that. Our last year going there with Ed Orgeron, we went down there with 48 players and took the game to overtime. I remember that one vividly, too. My first year here going there, to lose a game, and it's probably the one loss that I have been ever been a part of as a coach where I actually still say I had fun.

"They beat us with a punt return right at the end of the game. We were such a young team and no one expected us to compete. Our kids did, and we had a chance to win it at the end. I actually had a lot of joy, I had lot of fun that game, which is rare for us coaches to say that in a loss. That game went a long way to building our morale and toward where we were going."

On the rivalry with LSU, relative to Mississippi State, as far as the fans...

"It depends on who you ask. My take on it is this: If you were to poll the more mature Ole Miss fan, the one who's been around longer, you may get LSU at No. 1 with them. With the younger generation, you're going to get State at No. 1 and LSU at No. 2. That's my take on it."

LSU head coach Les Miles (starts at 2:05 mark)

Opening statement...

"We're a team that's continuing to improve and showed improvement against Kentucky in all three phases. It's certainly going to be a great test for us against a very capable Ole Miss team. We look forward to that competition."

On the history of the Ole Miss-LSU series over the years...

"I have been made aware of it in my 10 years here. I recognize the great competition and the personal nature of the game."

On Ole Miss...

"They're very good in all three phases. That's the key. They have done a good job offensively, they have done a very job good job defensively, and their special teams are playing big. They are very, very talented."

On quarterback Anthony Jennings being benched at Auburn, a game in which Brandon Harris started...

"Benched is not necessarily the word. More or less, it's the evolution of the position, if you will. Him understanding competition and understanding what all needed to be done at the quarterback spot certainly has improved not only his abilities, but Brandon Harris as well."

On last year's meeting with Ole Miss...

"Certainly the most recent past is something we have reviewed in our cut-ups. Our guys recognize that game."

On Ole Miss defensively...

"It's a well-conceived defense. It has speed and a nice zone package that can change to man in the secondary. There's a lot to that defense, not just the physically. Conceptually, they do a really good job. They're a defense that continues to improve."

On the win at Florida...

"Our football team was ready to go to The Swamp and win. There's some maturity here that provides some quality leadership. Some of those young guys had never been to The Swamp. They listened and understood what was expected and then played extremely. 

"That's an example of how we can play. Kentucky then was an example of how we can play at home. We're hopefully improving and looking forward to the challenges that lay just ahead in front of us this Saturday with Ole Miss."

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Oct. 13-19)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Oct. 13-19, 2014

Football
- Ole Miss rode its dominant defense to a 34-3 homecoming win over Tennessee on Saturday to improve to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in Southeastern Conference play.
- The Rebels are 7-0 for just the second time in school history. The other time was in 1962 when the team went 10-0 and earned a share of the national title.
- The Rebel defense held Tennessee without a touchdown and limited the Vols to zero rushing yards in yet another impressive showing. The "Landshark" defense now leads the nation allowing just 10.6 points per outing.
- Senquez Golson intercepted two more passes to increase his SEC lead to seven interceptions, which ranks second nationally.
- Freshman DE Marquis Haynes had 2.5 sacks (of the team's seven total) and now ranks third in the conference and tied for 10th in the nation with 6.5 sacks this year.
- The Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd of 62,081 was third-largest in school history.

Volleyball
- Ole Miss went 2-0 last week, earning a 3-1 win at Auburn followed by a 3-2 win at Alabama to improve to 18-3 overall and 4-3 in the SEC.  
- The win at Auburn marked the Rebels' first SEC road win of the season and snapped a three-match losing streak to the Tigers.
- Ole Miss rallied from a 2-1 deficit to hand Alabama its first home loss of the season on Sunday. The Rebels have now won five of the last eight meetings against the Crimson Tide, which had an RPI of 29 coming into the match.
- Freshman Lexi Thompson notched a career-high 23 kills in the win against Auburn and then posted a double-double of 15 kills and 14 digs in the win at Alabama.
- Aubrey Edie tallied 48 assists at Auburn and then recorded 56 assists at Alabama, paving the way for four Ole Miss players to record double-digit kills, including Thompson, Nakeyta Clair, Melanie Crow and Ty Laporte.
- Clair tallied 13 kills and four blocks while hitting .333 at Auburn.  Against Alabama, she posted a team-high 17 kills, including the match clincher, and hit .560. She now has 13 matches with at least 10 kills and 17 matches with at least a .300 hitting percentage.
- The Rebels, winners of three in a row, are now the only conference team undefeated at home (9-0).  The Rebels currently own the best overall record in the league at 18-3 and moved up in the standings to fifth after the weekend wins.
- Aubrey Edie was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week. That makes five of the first eight weeks for the Rebels to earn one of the league's weekly honors.  The Rebels lead the league with five different players recognized to date.

Men's Tennis
- The Rebels participated in the USTA/ITA Southern Regionals last weekend in Auburn, Alabama.  Junior Stefan Lindmark reached the semifinals in singles and senior William Kallberg and freshman Gustav Hansson reached the semifinals in doubles.
- It marked the third year in a row and the fourth year in the last five for the Rebels to have a singles semifinalist.  It also marked the fourth year in the last five for the Rebels to have a doubles semifinalist as well.
- Junior Joe Rogers and freshman Zvonimir Babic teamed up for the first time to reach the quarterfinals in doubles.

Cross Country - Men
- Against a field consisting of nine of the top 30 teams in the nation, the Ole Miss men's cross country team grabbed an eighth-place finish in the Pre-Nationals Invitational on Saturday.
- Freshman Sean Tobin led Ole Miss in his second meet by clocking a time of 25:03.4 in the 8K, good for 48th overall.
- Junior Wes Gallagher (25:12.7) and sophomore Robert Domanic (24:36.88) finished 55th and 61st, respectively, to round out the top three Rebels at the meet.

Cross Country - Women
- The Ole Miss women raced a young team in the 6K, consisting of four freshmen, two sophomores and a senior.
- Freshman Shelby Brown (22:46.4) recorded the best time for the Rebels for the second consecutive meet.

Soccer
- Ole Miss had an 0-2 weekend, dropping a pair of road matches at Kentucky and South Carolina.
- Ole Miss returns home to host Missouri on Friday night after an extended road swing that has seen the Rebels go almost a month without playing a home match.
- Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick will set the school record for shutout victories (23) with her next shutout this season, currently she is tied with Brittany Gillespie who set the mark in 2003.
- Two of the final three regular-season matches will be at home for the Rebels, which also host Tennessee on Oct. 30 to close out the regular season on Senior Day, honoring McCormick.

Women's Golf
- The Ole Miss women's golf team sent Alison Hovatter, Maria Toennessen and Sofia Idoyaga as individuals to the Mercedes Benz Championship over the weekend.
- Hovatter led the Rebels, finishing in a tie for 22nd-place with a three-day score of 224.
- Hovatter's 224 is a season-low 54-hole score and her second round score of 70 was a season-low for 18 holes.

The winning formula revealed itself as it has throughout the season: a dominant defense and a mistake-free offense. The Ole Miss defense forced four turnovers, while the Ole Miss offense did not commit a single turnover in a workmanlike 34-3 win over Tennessee on Saturday night.

In addition to four turnovers, the Rebels held the Volunteers to 191 yards of total offense, including zero rushing yards, due in large part to a season-high seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss. 

"If you look at the stats, which everyone does, you have to figure, if we can score 17 to 20, to the mid 20's, we have a chance to win a lot of games with the way they're playing," head coach Hugh Freeze said.

Stat-wise, head coach Hugh Freeze called it the best performance from the defensive line in his two-plus years at Ole Miss.

"We got consistent pressure with just the front four," Freeze said. "We blitzed very few times. And we held a team to zero rushing yards. When you make somebody one-dimensional, you have a good chance to be successful."

More than any other stat, and there are a lot of good stats on the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack points to Tennessee finishing with zero rushing yards on 28 attempts.

"That's the number one thing on your sheet when you talk to them on Sunday about what you have to do to beat the next team," Wommack said. "If you can do that, you're going to win pretty consistently. You're going to get off the field because we're good enough in pass rush and in coverage. If we get you in second- and third-and-long situations, it's difficult to score and move the ball on us."

Freshman Marquis Haynes, the reigning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, led the way up front with 2.5 sacks, giving him 4.5 sacks over the last two games and 6.5 sacks for the season.

"I have been saying it since August, he's probably going to break the sack record here," junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said. "He's that good. He's going to be a really good player for us the rest of the season. He's been what everybody on our defense expected."

On the back end of the defense, the Rebels' extended their streak to 30 games where they forced at least one turnover. In the process, senior cornerback Senquez Golson picked off two passes, giving him seven interceptions for the season. 

"He's been in the right place at the right time," Wommack said. "He's played technique so well. It's good for our team. It depends on how they want to attack us. He's done a great job for us."

Offensively, Ole Miss was balanced, rushing for 180 yards and passing for 203 yards, exploding for 14 points in the span of four minutes late in the first half and extending the lead in the second half. 

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace was efficient, completing 13-of-28 passes for 199 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. More importantly, he made it four SEC games without a turnover.

"That is music to my ears," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "We obviously didn't play great. I know our stats weren't very good, but we did not turn the ball over. That's the thing I have been harping on with those guys. 

"With the way our defense is playing, if we protect the football, we have a really good chance to win games."

The Rebels are 7-0 for just the second time in school history, and it's no secret what the winning formula has been.

"We try to set the tempo for the whole football team," Johnson said. "We know our offense is capable of scoring points and they have a lot of playmakers."


Three areas to watch as No. 3 Ole Miss faces Tennessee for Homecoming on Saturday.

'Third Down for What'

Tennessee is very dangerous, Ole Miss football head coach Hugh Freeze said, because its talented, particularly if it gets momentum and confidence during the course of the game.

The talents starts on defense, led by senior middle linebacker A.J. Johnson, a preseason All-American who leads the Southeastern Conference in tackles per game (11.3). Tennessee ranks top-20 nationally in scoring defense (19.2 ppg allowed), total defense (316.3 ypg allowed) and passing defense (160.2 ypg allowed).

One of the more interesting situational matchups will be third downs, where Tennessee leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally in defensive third-down conversion (26.4 percent), and Ole Miss ranks fifth in the SEC and 22nd nationally in offensive third-down conversion (46.8 percent).

"They have good cover guys and they have good athletes and can play some man coverage to get after you with the pass rush," Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator Matt Luke said. "They have a nice third-down package where they bring in some more speed and take out a D-lineman. They're flying around and playing really hard, playing with an edge."

Landsharks Not Satisfied

The Ole Miss defense has been regarded as one of the best in the nation, if not the best in the nation, giving up just 11.8 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks second nationally. 

The Rebels are also tied for the SEC lead and eighth nationally with 16 turnovers forced, as they have scored almost as many touchdowns (4) as they have allowed this season (6).

Ole Miss shut out Texas A&M in the first half but allowed three second-half touchdowns, including two touchdowns on the last three drives of the game, which has not sit well with members of the defense.

"That was aggravating for us," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "We want to be the No. 1 defense in the nation. For them to score 20 points on us is aggravating for all of us. That's one thing we have taken upon ourselves. We have a couple more games to prove we are the defense that people think we are."

"We gave up way too many points," senior cornerback Senquez Golson said. "It was a great thing we won, but after the game as a defense, we talked and said that it was not acceptable if you want the big games."

Big Games for Wallace, Nkemdiche?

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace is coming off his lowest passing total, having completed 13-of-19 passes for 178 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions, but it didn't matter because the running game topped 150 yards and the defense accounted for two touchdowns in a 35-20 win over Texas A&M.

Depending on the flow of the game, Saturday might present an opportunity for Wallace to air it out and help his campaign for individual awards and honors.

"One thing he's done for us, when our defense is playing well, we're really trying to manage the game," said Freeze of Wallace. "His numbers the other night could have been a lot better because we had some things in the passing game. In that environment, when you're playing in front of 110,000 who are itching to be a factor in the game, the last thing I want to do is give them anything to be excited about."

Like Wallace, sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche finds himself in the conversation for individual awards and honors, having been named to various outlets' midseason All-America team and added to the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List.

Nkemdiche has put up modest numbers, totaling 14 tackles with a tackle for loss and one sack, and now faces a Tennessee offensive line that ranks last in the SEC and 121st nationally, giving up 3.83 sacks per game.

"He does so many good things in there, but his production's just not up as far as stats and numbers," Ole Miss defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "But as far as technique and all that, he's constantly getting better like I've always said about him."

Highlights from today's media opportunity with SEC Nation host Joe Tessitore and analysts Tim Tebow and Marcus Spears discussing the show's visit to Oxford for the SEC matchup between No. 3 Ole Miss and Tennessee. 

Tessitore recalls calling the first college game for the Rebels' star-studded sophomore class, Tebow talks about Bo Wallace's improvement as a quarterback, and Spears sees similarities between this year's Ole Miss team and his 2003 LSU team that won the national championship.

SEC Nation Host Joe Tessitore

On the backdrop of The Grove for SEC Nation...

"When I have done Ole Miss games before, I always get to the stadium early, so I can walk through The Grove and take that all in. It should be pretty special to have the SEC Nation set fired up. 

"When you look at our set, it should scream Ole Miss to you. When you look at it, you know what you're watching. That's one of the things I like about our set. You look at it and you know you're watching grand Southern football. It fits in beautifully here. It looks like it could be part of your campus. 

"I like how open it is, and it allows us to play to the crowd. You will see us tomorrow, when we're live on the air, stand up, turn to the crowd and interact with them during commercial breaks. This is a magic ride kind of season here, so it's going to be a celebratory kind of morning."

On the sophomore class, having called their first college game...

"That group, you knew. I could remember that afternoon, sitting there and hyping up (Robert) Nkemdiche in his debut, and you just knew it was going to happen. And to be able to say a year later that they have even over-delivered on all the hype, it's true. 

"It was an incredible recruiting class that, in a span of 18 months, has Ole Miss competing for a national title. That's as good as a group you're going to see. But it takes that kind of a group. It takes guys who buy in and all believe. Laquon Treadwell was a huge part of that. 

"I'm one of those geeks who follow recruiting, so I know the role he played in corralling everyone and buying into the vision early, a vision that's pretty easy to buy when Hugh Freeze is selling it."

SEC Nation Analyst Tim Tebow

On Ole Miss...

"What stands out is the heart they play with offensively and defensively. Everybody talks about the Landshark defense flying around, but you look at guys like Jaylen Walton fighting through tackles. That's just heart. They play together and they play as a family.

"Spending the day with Coach Freeze and the team yesterday, you could really see that and the environment they set. It seems like it's a fun time for all these players right now."

On Bo Wallace...

"He's improved a lot. In SEC play, he doesn't have a turnover. He's making big plays, but he's also not making big errors in the biggest of games. That's been huge, especially when you have a big-time defense. 

"What I like most about Bo is that courage and leadership and that 'it' factor he has, like on that 3rd-and-9 last week versus Texas A&M. 

"He knows where the sticks are, he fights through the line of scrimmage and he dives and goes over a defender to get the first down. That ultimately led to a touchdown, and they went up 28-7 and that was a huge play in the game. He has that 'it' that you can't necessarily teach."

SEC Nation Analyst Marcus Spears

On the backdrop of The Grove for SEC Nation...

"It's awesome. We should have a pretty good crowd. This is their network. That's how we resonate on campus. People understand we're more personable and we know the history of each school. It will resonate with people, and hopefully it's hyped up out here. It's a pretty big game. 

"Tennessee is not whatever they think they are. Tennessee has played everybody down to the wire. They have lost some close games. They're one of those teams on the cusp. The energy in the crowd should be good tomorrow."

On Robert Nkemdiche...

"He's a man's man. He's a beast. He plays with a high intensity level. He can knock guys back and he has great bend. I know I sound like a pro scout, but he can win with leverage and he wins with tenacity. He has it all, all of the tools. He can be a D-end or a D-tackle in the NFL. That poses a lot of problems for offensive lines. 

"First of all, you can move him, and he can be as effective from different positions. That's what I like about him. More than anything, I like his attitude and I like the way he plays."

On the transformation of Ole Miss under head coach Hugh Freeze...

"Coach Freeze has done a tremendous job. He's implemented a philosophy with this football team. He's put guys in place and he's recruited well. In order to stay atop this league, you have to have players. That's what it really boils down to. 

"All these coaches, we call them great, and we say they won so many games. It's about these players. The coaches, structurally, put them in the right position and put them in successful spots to make plays, but it comes down to the talent and the talent level. 

"We talk about Alabama, LSU, Auburn, all these schools that have been at the top. It's about talent, and now Hugh Freeze has a team that's as talented as anybody in the country. 

"You have a great quarterback who's playing really consistent right now, not turning the football over, offensive line, (Laquon) Treadwell out on the corner making plays.

"And this defense. It reminds me of the '03 LSU Tigers. It's a good mix, and it's a great group of talent, and it's coming together. Everybody is believing in what they're doing. That's to Coach Freeze's credit. It's about those guys he's putting out there on the football field, and I'm sure he would tell you the same thing."

On comparisons between the 2003 LSU team and this year's Ole Miss team...

"It starts with winning games. It starts with a belief system that you can compete against anybody in the country, that you have the talented and the play-makers to win every football game. That was our train of thought. We thought we were stacked in enough positions that there was no team you could roll out in college football and say LSU was not physically better or LSU did not have level of talent. 

"Ole Miss is in that same boat right now. Alabama has a tremendous amount of talent like they have always had, but if you go man for man in the whole country, I stack this Ole Miss team up against anybody, especially on defense."

On the Ole Miss running game...

"What Ole Miss is doing as well as anybody right now, is they're winning games defensively, and you can do it. That has been proven in the NFL and that has been proven in college, but I think Bo Wallace gives them the extra oomph that they need to win big games and put themselves in position to be in the College Football Playoff.

"The run game is a little different. Sometimes your team ins't built that way, but throwing these quick bubble screens is the same as a handoff. Getting these guys in space to make plays in the open fields is the equivalent of a handoff. Everything is not deep down the field.

"We look at turning around and handing the ball off to the running back as the run game. A lot of these teams are revolutionizing that by throwing quick hitches to receivers, then they beat a corner and they might go to the house. They have implemented stuff like that to help them out a lot. 

"Eventually, it will come town to a game or this year, where they will have to figure out to establish the run game. If they can, they will have success. They are just as good as anybody, if they show they can do that."

On the Ole Miss defense...

"You have to overcome to so much as a football team playing against this defense. The way they play, not only the way they play, but they creative turnovers. And that's huge. 

"A team can only give up 305 yards per game, which they consider pretty good, and they only gave 70-80 rushing yards, and they consider that pretty good, but when you have a defense like this that does that and creates turnovers and scores, it's tough to beat. 

"We led the league in scoring touchdowns on defense when we won the national championship. It's a formula that you can win with, and they have the guys to do it."

At the halfway point of the regular season, Ole Miss is 6-0 for the first time since 1962, when it went 10-0 and earned a share of the national title. It's No. 3 ranking in the national polls is its highest since being No. 1 in the 1964 preseason poll. 

With its success through the first six games, Ole Miss featured prominently in outlets' midseason honors and predictions for the rest of the season.

From CBS Sports: Dennis Dodd names Cody Prewitt the defensive player of the year, and Jerry Hinnen names Senquez Golson the most surprising player. Dodd, Hinnen and Jerry Palm all predict Ole Miss will win the national title, among other mentions.

From CBS Sports: Robert Nkemdiche, Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt were all named to the outlet's midseason All-America team.

From ESPN.com: Gene Wojciechowski ranks Ole Miss No. 2 in his top 10 and seeds Ole Miss No. 2 in his four-team playoff, among other mentions in his awards for the first half of the season.

From ESPN.com: Chris Low forecasts the winner of the Egg Bowl will play for the SEC Championship, and Ole Miss will be included in the four-team playoff.

From ESPN.com: Laremy Tunsil and Senquez Golson were named to the outlet's midseason All-America team. 

From ESPN.com: Evan Engram, Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche, Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt were named to the outlet's midseason All-SEC team

From ESPN.com: Todd McShay names Hugh Freeze coach of the year and Cody Prewitt a prospect on the rise in midseason awards handed out by himself and Mel Kiper Jr. (Insider)

I'll go with Freeze, but I couldn't argue with Mullen, either. Freeze and his staff have done a great job of developing a lot of young key contributors, and they've also worked with QB  Bo Wallace to get him to play within the scheme and limit mistakes, which has been critical to the team's success so far. The Rebels are 6-0 for the first time since 1962, including consecutive wins over Alabama and at Texas A&M.

The entire Ole Miss defense (aka the "Landsharks") has been sensational. But Prewitt is the senior captain who shows up every week. He's not exceptional in any area, with just average straight-line speed at 6-1 and 220 pounds, and he's likely a midround NFL draft pick. But he's a very good all-around football player whose best quality is his football smarts. He came up big Saturday with a 75-yard pick-six. 

From ESPN.com: Brock Huard ranks Bo Wallace No. 6 among his top 10 quarterbacks in the nation. On a scale from 1-10, he rates him as a 9 on college production and rates him a 7 on NFL skills. (Insider)

The state of Mississippi is the belle of the ball at the midway point, and it's no surprise that QB play and defense are the signature staples of both teams' success. Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen place a premium on QB run, decision-making and controlling tempo from the QB spot, and while Bo is not the physically imposing athlete of his in-state counterpart Dak, his ability to limit mistakes and play his best in the second half and fourth quarter in particular (six TDs/six INTs in first halves, nine TDs/0 INTs in second halves) is why the Rebels are unblemished.

In fact, Wallace's fourth-quarter efficiency (269.2) is tops in the country. Freeze told me in Week 2 that his defense was title-worthy, and if Bo and the Ole Miss offense could stay healthy up front, they could compete for the ultimate prize. So far, so good in Oxford.

From NFL.com: Daniel Jeremiah names Laremy Tunsil the best offensive line in the nation, and Gil Brands predicts head coach Hugh Freeze will win coach of they year and Ole Miss will will the national title.

From NFL.com: Bryan Fischer predicts Ole Miss will win the SEC West.

From Sports Illustrated: Brian Hamilton predicts Hugh Freeze will win coach of the year, and Andy Staples predicts both Ole Miss and Mississippi State will make the four-team playoff.

From Sports Illustrated: Robert Nkemdiche and Cody Prewitt were named to the outlet's first team All-America team, and Senquez Golson was named to the outlet's second team.

From Sporting News: Matt Hayes ranks Senquez Golson No. 10 in his re-ranking of the top 25 players in the nation.

From Sporting News: Laremy Tunsil and Senquez Golson were named to the outlet's midseason All-America team.

Phil Steele also released his All-America and All-SEC teams, with Ole Miss featuring prominently on both team. Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche and Senquez Golson were named to the first team All-America team, and Cody Prewitt was named to the second team. Tunsil, Nkemdiche, Golson and Prewitt were joined by Evan Engram on the first team All-SEC team, while Bo Wallace, Laquon Treadwell and Tony Conner were named to the second team.

With a dominant defense that ranks among the nation's leaders in most statistical categories, head coach Hugh Freeze acknowledged he has changed his offensive philosophy and play-calling to limit negative plays and quick possessions.

Ole Miss averaged the second-most offensive plays (74.0) in the SEC in 2012 and averaged the most offensive plays (78.3) in the SEC in 2013. Through six games this season, the Rebels average a more modest 70.8 plays per game, which ranks ninth in the SEC. 

"You're more concerned now with not putting yourself in the hole because of negative plays, whether they are turnovers or plays of minus-two yards or minus-three yards," Freeze said. "When you go fast, the possibilities increase as defenses catch up to it."

The more deliberate tempo has also helped quarterback Bo Wallace manage the game more and allowed the team to play to its strength on defense.

"When the defense has played like it's playing, you just want to make sure you manage the game from an offensive perspective, where it gives you the best advantage to win," Freeze said.

O-Line Continues to Progress

Fahn Cooper has started every game at right tackle, but he's made great strides of late, as he graded out well and helped Ole Miss play a clean game with only two penalties, two sacks allowed and zero turnovers against Texas A&M.

"He played more, and then we tried to work (Robert) Conyers in at center," said offensive line coach Matt Luke of Cooper. "That plays a factor, too. I have a lot of confidence in Robert, but Fahn has obviously been getting better each and every week."

Another offensive lineman who has made great strides is freshman offensive guard Rod Taylor, who continues to play more snaps as the season progresses, and Luke will look to play him more this week against Tennessee.

"Rod had probably his best week of practice last week and this week," Luke said. "He's just a very, very talented young man. He has got a bright, bright future ahead, and you're going to see him play a little bit more this week. I wrote that down in my notes when he got in there. He was very productive. He needs to be playing more, and he will."

Webster Impresses in First Career Start

With the suspension of Rover safety Trae Elston for the first half against Texas A&M, Mike Hilton slid over from cornerback to Elston's spot, and Kendarius Webster made his first career start at cornerback.

Cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said Webster did well, noting his maturity for his age, as helped Ole Miss pitch a first-half shutout against Texas A&M.

"In fall camp and practice, we put him up against Laquon to see how he would hold up, and at times, he held his own," Jones said. "If he continues to work, like I think he will, he's going to end up being a really good player."

Coaches continue to rave about Hilton, who's now started at four positions in the Ole Miss secondary in three seasons. The do-it-all player ranks second on the team with 34 tackles and leads the teams and ranks second in the SEC with six pass breakups.

"Mike is a sharp football player," Jones said. "He understands it. He's played every position in the secondary, almost every position on the dense except for defensive line. He's a coachable young man. 

"Whatever you ask him to do, it's always, 'Yes, sir.' We came in and had to move him to Rover, and he said, 'OK, coach, whatever I need to do to help the team.' That's the attitude he has. He's smart and he can get out there and execute and play fast."


Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in Oxford.

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:04:00 mark)

Opening statement

"We're looking forward to another great SEC football game here in Oxford. I know our fans are enjoying the year we're having, and it's always good to play in front of them and the excitement we have here in town. It's an extremely talented Tennessee team. 

"The job that Coach Jones has done there in a short amount of time is impressive. They're scary on tape because they're hungry and they're playing very passionate football with great young talent. We're going to have to play another solid game for us to have a chance on Saturday."

On the development of cornerback Senquez Golson...

"The first thing I probably need to point out is how much he has changed as a person, which is the key to why he's playing better. He's always been a talented kid. When I first got here, I definitely questioned whether he had the heart, drive and discipline to be quality enough to play in a program like this. I think he would tell you the same.

"Now that he has made the decision to be dedicated and be a team player who buys into our core values and the way we want do things, his talent on the field has really taken off. He dedicated himself this year in the offseason to be the best he can be. And I'm thrilled he's getting the results on the field."

On avoiding a letdown game against Tennessee...

"I don't know that you can. You depend on the leadership of the team. I know our coaches are peaching the right things to them. If our team vales their standing right now, they will certainly come out and play. I don't know if you are always going to have your team emotionally charged, but it's very possible to play with passion. It shows in the way you pursue the football on defense and the way you execute on offense.

"I don't really worry too much about that. I know it's a popular question, but if we're ready to take the next step and value our standing, then you will be accountable to doing that, and that's the message they hear from us consistently."

On quarterback's Bo Wallace lack of turnovers in SEC play, whether it's maturation or better decision-making by him...

"I think it's both, and we have changed some that has helped him. With our defense playing so well this year, I have really been trying to manage the game differently. 

"Bo has understood and accepted that, and he's had to make to make plays when he's made them. He's definitely much more mature and understands now we don't have to score every possession. He can make better decision when things aren't there."

On whether he expected this type of defensive success before the season...

"I did. I began to question that when we lost two starters and one backup in Tee Shepard, Chief Brown and Carlos Davis. Tee was going to be a really vital part to give us a long, rangy corner that could win a lot of 1-on-1 battles. Chief is an experienced kid that has played a lot of snaps for us.

"You begin to doubt what would happen if we have more injuries like we did last year. Fortunately, we have not. I did feel like we were going to pretty good up front, which I know is the starting point. And I knew we were longer and faster."

On adjusting offensive tempo and play-calling in two-plus years at Ole Miss...

"I have definitely changed this year. We're not as concerned about tempo in a consistent manner. We still do it, and we'll have spurts of it. I kind of did a study last year, and we had too many negative plays in tempo. 

"Some of the change has to do with our defense. We have recruited well and built this team around the defense. The last thing you need is a lot of quick possessions and creating negative plays, where you don't convert first downs. I have changed this year, and we have tried to manage the game quite a bit differently."

On similarities between Ole Miss and Tennessee...

"The first thing I see is they have recruited extremely well. None of us are great coaches without players who can make plays. Coach Jones and his staff have certainly done that. They have tremendous young talent. That's how we were after our first full recruiting class. We played a ton of freshmen just like they're doing. 

"Those freshmen are scary. They're obviously young and make mistakes sometimes, just like ours did and still do. They are so talented. It's a scary talent because not only have they recruited well, but they're playing with hunger and passion, which I think we did in our first couple of years also. 

"We were in a lot of games where maybe we didn't stack up as well. We were in a lot of games with those teams. That's what they're proving this year, and it's only a matter of time before they break through."

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones (starts at 40:50 mark)

Opening statement

"It's a great, great challenge going up against a very, very solid football team. They're very complete in all areas -- offense, defense and special teams. They're very well-coached and play with an entire mentality. They're the No. 2 in scoring defense in the country. They returned nine of their 11 starters from last year, and their backups have had significant playing time as well. They take the ball away.

"Offensively, it starts with their quarterback Bo Wallace. He's been very competitive, gritty, andy e's playing winning football. It's going to be a tremendous, tremendous challenge for this football team."

On the Ole Miss defense...

"They have been very dominant. And it starts up front. They have been able to win the line-of-scrimmage game. Their linebackers are very, very active, downhill players, very physical, and they have a tremendous, tremendous secondary. 

"They're playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger right now, and again, they're very, very physical. It's a very, very complete defense, when you look at all levels of their defense, starting up front, then the linebacker position and then in the backend as well. They feed off of each other, and you can see where they have played a lot of football together as well."

On points at a premium against the Ole Miss defense...

"You do (expect points to be at a premium). You look at how many touchdown they have given up, and a lot of those touchdowns were in end-of-game situations. When you go into a game like this, every point is critical. And field position becomes critical as well."

On the status of running backs Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd...

"I do expect them. Jalen is progressing exceptionally well. He has not missed a rep in practice. Marlin is a little bit slower than Jalen right now in terms of getting back, but he did practice. Again, there's time yet. They're getting extra treatments. I fully anticipate Jalen will play, and we're hoping Marlin will be available as well."

Game-Manager Bo

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Head coach Hugh Freeze admitted the offense played well enough to manage the game and let the defense win it. 

Ole Miss leaned on its running game, rushing for 160 yards on 35 carries, while Bo Wallace completed 13-of-19 passes for 178 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions. 

Most importantly, the Rebels won the turnover battle and protected the football, which proved to be a winning formula, as the Rebels cruised to a 35-20 win at Texas A&M.

"One thing he's done for us, when our defense is playing well, we're really trying to manage the game," said Freeze of Wallace. "His numbers the other night could have been a lot better because we had some things in the passing game. In that environment, when you're playing in front of 110,000 that are itching to be a factor in the game, the last thing I want to do is give them anything to be excited about."

Wallace is the only SEC quarterback to rank top-four in the SEC in total offense, passing yards and pass efficiency. He also ranks second in the SEC, completing 68.5 percent of his passes, and ranks third in the SEC, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt.

Most impressively, since the second half of the season opener, Wallace has thrown 14 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He has also not turned the ball over through three games in SEC play.

"I feel so much more relaxed going into games," Wallace said. "I know if we punt the defense is going to go out and make a stop. I'm going into games confident and feeling good. I'm definitely not trying to force any balls."

Defense Limits Explosive Plays

The Ole Miss defense leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally, giving up just 4.31 yards per play. A large part of that success is due to limiting explosive plays. 

Opponents have run 428 plays this season. Among them, Ole Miss has allowed 64 plays of 10-plus yards, 19 plays of 20-plus yards and six plays of 30-plus yards, all of which rank among the top-20 nationally.

"I've always been a believer from being an offensive coach, if you make an offense have to drive a consistent drive, over and over again for 60-70 yards, we make mistakes on offense," Freeze said. "You're going to block a look wrong or something. It's very difficult if you don't get explosive plays. 

"When you get explosive plays, those drives get easier. If you really have to grind out first down after first down and then convert in the red zone, it's difficult. Our team has given up very few explosive plays and then we've been stingy when it does get in the red zone and made people settle for field goals."

This emphasis showed against Texas A&M, an explosive offense that ranks among the nation's leaders in yards per play and long plays from scrimmage. Ole Miss limited Texas A&M to 5.2 yards per play and just three plays of 20-plus yards, both of which were well below its season averages.

"We were playing a pretty good offense the other night at their place," Freeze said. "Over the last three years, they've probably been the No. 1 offense in the nation in yards and points, top three for sure. I would have to say we've improved. You're only judged by your last game, as we all know."

Prewitt Wants More on Defense

The Ole Miss defense ranks among the nation's leaders in most categories and has drawn praise from opponents and pundits alike, but safety Cody Prewitt, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week, is his own harshest critic.

"I would give us a 'B' right now," Prewitt said. "I'm sure people from the outside would look in and say A-plus. Knowing the defense and knowing everything that goes into it, I would give us a B, maybe a B-plus, because I know about the small things that most people don't recognize -- small fits here or there, or missed assignments here or there. I would give us a B-plus, but on effort, I would give us an A-plus."

Ole Miss held the explosive Texas A&M offense to 20 points and shut out the Aggies in the first half for the first time in the Kevin Sumlin era. The three touchdowns allowed were just the fifth, sixth and seventh touchdowns allowed this season and only the second and third allowed by the first-string defense.

"That was aggravating for us," Prewitt said. "We want to be the No. 1 defense in the nation. For them to score 20 points on us is aggravating for all of us. That's one thing we have taken upon ourselves. We have a couple of more games to prove we are the defense that people think we are."

Related Links: 

Big Picture: Ole Miss' nasty D could have next Ndamukong Suh & more, writes Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports 

AP voters who put Ole Miss No. 1 really like Rebels' defense, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Ole Miss' defense is college football's most impressive unit, writes Matt Brown of Sports on Earth

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Oct. 6-12)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Oct. 6-12, 2014

Football
- The No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels showed they belong among the nation's upper crust with a dominating 35-20 win at No. 14 Texas A&M on Saturday.
- Ole Miss jumped out to a 21-0 first-half lead and led 35-7 in the fourth quarter before a pair of late Aggie touchdown strikes.
- The Rebels improved to 6-0 for the first time since 1962 and only the sixth time in school history.
- The Rebel defense held Texas A&M scoreless in the first half for the first time in the Kevin Sumlin era, and limited the Aggies to a season-low 20 total points.
- Cody Prewitt returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown and Keith Lewis added a 21-yard fumble return for a score, marking the first time Ole Miss had two defensive touchdowns in a game since 1996 vs. Georgia.
- Bo Wallace accounted for three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) and has yet to turn the ball over in a Southeastern Conference game this year.

Volleyball
- Ole Miss went 1-1 last week, falling to Arkansas on the road 3-0 before downing Mississippi State 3-0 at home Sunday. The Rebels improved to 16-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC.
- With Sunday's win, the Rebels set the school record for most consecutive home wins (9), and are off to their best start since the 1989 season when they started 17-2.
- Ole Miss improved to 68-23 against Mississippi State and has won seven of the last eight meetings.
- The Rebels hit .402 in the win over Mississippi State, which is their best hitting percentage in an SEC match this year and the second best overall.
- The Rebels rank among the top five in the SEC in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, kills per set, assists per set, service aces per set and blocks per set.
- Junior Nakeyta Clair continues to rank second in the league in hitting percentage at .425. She also ranks seventh in kills per set at 3.45.  Aubrey Edie ranks fourth in assists per set at 11.15.

Women's Tennis
- Ole Miss participated in the USTA/ITA Southern Regionals and senior Julia Jones captured the singles title with an impressive run. In the final, she rallied to defeat the top seed, Pleun Burgmans of Auburn, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(4) to punch her ticket to the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships, which will be held in November at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center.
β€’ Competing in her first tournament of the fall, Jones defeated the Nos. 36, 42 and 61 ranked players to begin the year 6-0.
β€’ Jones was the fourth singles finalist in the last five years for the Rebels, and the fourth player in school history to win it.
β€’ Overall, the Rebels had a great tournament at the USTA/ITA Southern Regionals, with freshman Arianne Hartono reaching the quarterfinals, and the doubles team of Erin Stephens and Iris Verboven advancing to the semifinals before losing to the No. 1 ranked team in the nation in the third set.

Rifle
β€’ Ole Miss dropped both its matches this past weekend, falling to No. 5 Murray State and No. 9 Nebraska.
β€’ Against Nebraska, freshman Jessica Haig equaled her career-best with a 588 in air rifle.

Men's Golf
- Sophomore Ben Wolcott notched his third top-20 finish of the young season, placing 11th at the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
- Wolcott fired a three-day total of 211 to just miss the top 10.
- The Rebels finished in a tie for 10th with Georgia State and UT-San Antonio after a team total of 293 in the final round gave them a three-round total of 873.

Women's Golf
- The Ole Miss women's golf team traveled to the UNC Tar Heel Invitational in North Carolina, the home state of senior Taelor Rubin (Raleigh, N.C.)
- The Rebels placed 18th and saw sophomore Maria Toennessen card a career-low round of 72 in the second round.

Behind an efficient offense and dominant defense, No. 3 Ole Miss defeated No. 14 Texas A&M, 35-20, on the road in front of a record-breaking crowd of 110,633 at Kyle Field. Here are some Ole Miss-Texas A&M related links and Tweets:

AUDIO: Ole Miss-Alabama Highlights from David Kellum of Ole Miss IMG

Where will Ole Miss rank after Texas A&M takedown, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Hostile crowd has no effect on Ole Miss, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Rebels had no hangover, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Bo Wallace's place key to Rebels' recent, and possible future, success, writes Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com

Instant Analysis: No. 3 Ole Miss 35, No. 14 Texas A&M 20, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com

Ole Miss rolls past Texas A&M, stakes claim to No. 1 ranking, writes Craig Stephenson of AL.com

What we learned from Ole Miss 35, Texas A&M 20, writes Mike Herndon of AL.com

There is no doubting Ole Miss' Landshark defense after win over Texas A&M, writes Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report

Ole Miss dominates Texas A&M, moves to top of playoff projection, writes Jerry Palm of CBS Sports

College Football Rewind: When the SEC turns, it turns fasts, writes Jon Solomon of CBS Sports

Either Mississippi State or Ole Miss deserve No. 1 ranking, writes Laken Litman of USA Today

Three and Out: Bo Wallace, Ole Miss continue hot start with win over Texas A&M, writes Martin Rickman of Sports Illustrated

And in case you missed it, "Gigged: Ole Miss Cruises at Texas A&M" and "Landshark Defense Silences Record Crowd" on Ole Miss Blog. Speaking of the Ole Miss defense, here's the story of the Ole Miss Landshark from ESPN's Tom Rinaldi.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- What could Ole Miss do for an encore?

After a thrilling win over No. 1 Alabama, Ole Miss put its No. 3 national ranking on the line on the road at No. 14 Texas A&M. 

Playing in front of a state of Texas and SEC record 110,633 fans, Ole Miss went wire to wire with a 35-20 win that never felt as close as the final score indicated.

"We knew it wasn't a fluke," defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "We knew we were ready for Texas A&M. Both games, we knew we were supposed to win. We don't really care what the media says. We're going to keep playing and keeping getting better as a team."

Outside of a few moments in the third quarter, the Rebels took the crowd out of the game, taking a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and going into halftime with the same 21-0 lead. 

By the end of the game, most of the 110,000-plus had cleared out of Kyle Field, and the small but vocal pockets of Ole Miss fans drowned out their Texas A&M counterparts.

"It was important to come out with a great intensity in a hostile environment," Nkemdiche said. "The defense was great. We came out and didn't let them get anything. We went into halftime 21-0 and that was really big for us."

That intensity started with a defense that's one of, if not the best defenses in the nation.

Ole Miss held Texas A&M to 455 yards of total offense, a 5.2 yards per play average, with a significant amount of the yardage coming in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. 

The Aggies entered the game ranked third nationally in total offense (583.2 ypg) and scoring offense (47.8 ppg) and fifth nationally in yards per play (7.5).

"I couldn't be more proud of the staff and the kids on defense and the way they're playing," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We stressed tonight in the second half because the offense didn't stay on the field enough. Those last couple of drives showed. The offense takes the blame for that. But any time you get defensive scores, it's big for you."

The Ole Miss defense, behind two touchdowns, equaled Texas A&M's scoring output, if not for the Aggies' last touchdown as time expired. 

Safety Cody Prewitt put Ole Miss ahead 21-0 with a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown, and linebacker Keith Lewis, making his second start of the season, pushed the lead out to 35-7 with a 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

"We executed the game plan," Prewitt said. "We play how we're coached. We have great coaches and they have harped on all season to take the ball away and score."

The three touchdowns allowed were just the fifth, sixth and seventh touchdowns allowed this season and only the second and third allowed by the first-string defense.

"We're probably going to get ripped for letting them score 21 (sic) points because that's the level of expectation we set for ourselves," Nkemdiche said. "We have to do a job next week of cleaning things up and come out and play a better game.

"If somebody scores on us, someone wasn't doing their job because of the talent level and the people we have on defense. Nobody should score on us, no matter what."

With No. 3 Mississippi State's win over No. 2 Auburn, poll talk and playoff talk will only intensify going forward, particularly in the Magnolia State that took center stage in the college football world for the second straight week. Freeze was very candid in regard to the subject after the win over Texas A&M.

"We beat the number one team in the country last week, by some polls, and then we beat a top-15 opponents in their house in front of 110,000 tonight," Freeze said. 'I'll tell our team tomorrow, 'No one, no poll and no media gets to decide for us how we define ourselves,' and I'll tell them that again tomorrow. 

"It's good for our fans. They like that stuff. We could lose every game left on our schedule with the league we play in, so we better just focus on us. It would be great to be voted wherever they vote us. We would consider that an honor and we'll try to represent and be worthy of that voting. I'll tell our team, 'We don't give credence to it until the end of the year. That's when it really matters.'

"I do think the SEC West deserves two in the playoffs, though."

Three areas to watch as No. 3 Ole Miss travels to No. 14 Texas A&M on Saturday.

Battles in the Trenches

The Ole Miss D-line against the Texas A&M O-line, headlined by defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche for the Rebels and left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi for the Aggies, will get the most attention, and deservedly so.

"They are a good offensive line," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "No doubt about it. "They have recruited well for a while at that position. It seems like they lose first-round picks and then replace them the next year."

But the other matchup in the trenches, the Ole Miss offensive line against the Texas A&M defensive line, is equally intriguing. The Ole Miss O-line, by all accounts, had their best performance of the season in the win over Alabama, while the Texas A&M D-line leads the SEC and is tied for eighth nationally with 19 sacks.

"Our offensive line has gotten better," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It's very hard to move the ball consistently on (Alabama's) defense. We made plays when we had to. Our offensive line played pretty solid for most of the game."

"They definitely gave me time to throw," quarterback Bo Wallace added. "It's one of the best jobs they've done since I've been here."

Leading the way for the Aggies is defensive end Myles Garrett, who already owns the freshman school record with 6.5 sacks, which ranks second in the SEC and sixth nationally. He is also 1.5 sacks shy of Jadaveon Clowney's SEC freshman record for sacks.

"They're physical and fast," running backs coach Derrick Nix said. "Starting with their D-line up front, those guys are athletic. One of their defensive ends, No. 15 (Myles Garrett), is sort of like our C.J. Johnson and going against him."

Making Special Teams Special

Ole Miss knocked off Alabama due in no small part to some big plays on special teams.

There was the forced fumble by Channing Ward and recovery by Kailo Moore that set up the game-winning touchdown. 

But there was also the brilliant punting of redshirt freshman Will Gleeson and a pair of long kickoff returns by Mark Dodson and Jaylen Walton that helped flip field position in favor of the Rebels.

Gleeson particularly has been a weapon for Ole Miss in that regard, averaging 45.1 yards per punt, which is third-best in the SEC and 14th-best nationally. He has also landed nine of his 16 punts inside the 20, including five inside the 10 and two inside 5.

On the other side of the coin, there was some shakiness on field goals and extra points, with a missed field and a pair of missed extra points. After Freeze re-opened the placekicking competition, freshman Gary Wunderlich beat out senior Andrew Fletcher and redshirt-freshman Andy Pappanastos. 

Wunderlich has been the primary handler of kickoffs and connected on his first and only career field-goal attempt, a 46-yarder, against Alabama.

"He has always been very steady on the long ones," said Freeze of Wunderlich. "It's on the shorter ones that he gets a little quick and has been a little bit inaccurate. But I think he deserves a chance to get into a game and let's see. He hasn't missed one in a game other than an extra point that he got a little quick on. I'm going to give it to him and see what he does."

Preparing for the '12th Man'

The capacity of Kyle Field is 106,000, and Texas A&M is projecting 109,000-plus fans for the game Saturday, which would set a state of Texas football attendance record. 

Ole Miss has been piping in noise to practice this week to prepare for the crowd noise, but it will be the first true road experience for the first-year starters, such as junior center Ben Still and freshman guard Rod Taylor.

"I have a headache right now from the noise," Freeze said. "We have been blaring the speakers about as loud as we can. I can't hear anything that's going on with them, so that's probably pretty accurate with what we will get. We have seemed to handle it fairly well.

"Bo has been in those places before so that helps. We have a few new linemen who haven't, so that's always something that you have to adjust to a little bit, and hopefully we helped them get accustomed to it this week."

Through five games, sophomore Robert Nkemdiche has put up modest statistics, totaling 12 tackles with a tackle for loss, sack and quarterback hurry, but his impact has gone beyond the numbers.

Nkemdiche has been an integral part of an Ole Miss defense that ranks second nationally in scoring (10.2 ppg allowed) and leads the nation in fewest touchdowns allowed (three). The Rebels have also allowed just 4.1 yards per play, best in the SEC and fifth-best nationally.

"He does so many good things in there, but his production's just not up as far as stats and numbers," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "But as far as technique and all that, he's constantly getting better like I've always said about him. 

"He has a desire to get better. He just absolutely loves defensive tackle now where before, he didn't know if he wanted to play that. He's playing very well for us. You don't really notice it until all of a sudden you realize you're in the top five in total defense. Something is happening up front where he is."

Watching the film Wednesday, Kiffin also noted the improvement freshman Marquis Haynes has made through five games this season. Haynes started the season opener against Boise State and recorded his first career sack against Memphis.

"I was telling my guys how good Marquis Haynes is becoming for being a true freshman and really playing with zero game experience," Kiffin said. "He's constantly getting better, and the sky is the limit for him. He's so athletic. I see him getting better and better every week."


Wunderlich Wins Placekicking Job

After some shakiness in the kicking game in the win over Alabama, head coach Hugh Freeze re-opened the placekicking competition, and freshman Gary Wunderlich beat out senior Andrew Fletcher and redshirt Andy Pappanastos.  

"Gary is going to get the start," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We'll go from there, but it's his to win or lose."

Wunderlich, an Under Armour All-American and rated the No. 1 kicker in the nation by Rivals.com, has been the primary handler of kickoffs and connected on his first and only career field-goal attempt, a 46-yarder, against Alabama.

"He has always been very steady on the long ones," said Freeze of Wunderlich. "It's on the shorter ones that he gets a little quick and has been a little bit inaccurate. But I think he deserves a chance to get into a game and let's see. He hasn't missed one in a game other than an extra point that he got a little quick on. I'm going to give it to him and see what he does."

Prepping for Garrett

Texas A&M boasts one of the nation's best pass rushes, recording 19.0 sacks, which leads the SEC and is tied for eighth nationally. And it started with freshman Myles Garrett, who was rated the top defensive end prospect in the nation. 

Garrett has started only two games, but he already owns the freshman school record with 6.5 sacks, which ranks second in the SEC and sixth nationally. He is also 1.5 sacks shy of Jadeveon Clowney's SEC freshman record for sacks.

"He is a phenomenal talent," Freeze said. "He's really quick-twitched. He has some good pass-rush moves that shows he's worked on in his craft. He's a guy who you better know where he is."

Similar to piping in noise to prepare for what is expected to be 106,000-plus fans at Kyle Field, which would be a state of Texas football attendance record, Ole Miss is trying to simulate Garrett in scout team work this week.

"Victor Evans is the best we have," said Freeze of simulating Garrett. "He's a special athlete for sure. It's hard to prepare for him."


Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in College Station.

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:23:16 mark)

Opening statement

"We're looking forward to going to College Station. It's one of the great venues in college football. It's certainly going to be a great challenge because of the atmosphere and the wonderful team that Kevin (Sumlin) has put together. 

"It's going to be a tremendous challenge stopping those guys and playing in that environment. It's going to be very tough, and we're looking forward to it, and I'm sure they are too. They're hungry to get back out and play after the loss they suffered last weekend. It will be a great SEC West game."

On refocusing his team after a big weekend and a big win...

"Every week, either you're going to be on the bitterness of a difficult loss or you're on the the high of an emotional win. Either one, we try to treat the same, and that is we have our normal Sunday meeting where we talk about the recent game and physically put it in the trash and then get back out and get going for the next one.

"It's worked for us on the bitter end. We have had some difficult losses in our two-plus years here and we have bounced back the next week from those and played really well. I don't know if we've had a lot of experience yet on this side of it. We had just the one last year when we beat LSU, which was ranked sixth at the time. I do like what I see right now in our preparation, and they follow the coaches' lead and move on very quickly."

On the difference with this year's Texas A&M team compared to the two previous years...

"They are more athletic on defense. Offensively, they don't have the threat of a guy extending plays quite like (Johnny) Manziel, but they are deeper at receiver and they really stretch you from sideline to sideline, and their quarterback plays extremely well. Their offensive line is one of the better ones I've seen in a long, long time. They're really good and athletic, and they do a good job.

"The only real difference you see is they may be a bit more athletic at every spot, but they don't extend plays quite like we have experienced the past couple of years."

On earlier players laying the ground work for the current success...

"I think of Donte Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan and Gilbert Pena, and I'm sure I will forget somebody that is very key to us. Evan Swindall, Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray are others. They were solid kids that were 100 percent bought-in to our core values and doing things the right way. Mike Marry is another. 

"Those kids that I knew were bought-in really helped us overcome the negativity that may have existed when we got here within the team. They helped hold others accountable to the little things that I think is the reason you can bring a team together and start winning."

On Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett...

"He is a phenomenal talent. He's really quick-twitched. He has some good pass-rush moves that shows he's worked on in his craft. He's a guy who you better know where he is."

On Kevin Sumlin and the progressions of Ole Miss and Texas A&M over the last three years...

"We're old friends and we go way back and we did come in to the league at the same time. We've kind of made sure we knew what was going on in all those meetings and didn't embarrass ourselves too much. He's helped me through that. There are a lot of similarities in our progressions.

"We both believe in tempo offense. He may throw it a little more than we do, even though we can do that. Our defense is playing so well right now that I try not to do anything that causes us to get too far out of whack and stay in the game until late in it."

"There are a lot of similarities as far as how we're going about building it and recruiting. He's recruiting really well, and we have done OK in recruiting. Our philosophies are very similar. He's a player's coach, I know that about him, and hopefully our players would say the same about me."

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin (starts at 1:31:35 mark)

Opening statement...

We're coming off of a disappointing loss last weekend at Mississippi State. We look forward to this week. We have another huge challenge. Ole Miss is a team playing really well. They're one of only 10 undefeated teams left in the country. 

"This will be our first SEC game at home. That will important for us to get back to Kyle Field and play at home. Our guys have approached the week in a good way and ready to get back on the field again."

On Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace...

"He is one of the few veteran quarterbacks in this league. This our third time playing against him. Bo has had his ups and downs over his career, but this year, he has really played like a true veteran. He made plays to win the game last week in a critical moment in a big game. There is no substitute for experience. 

"There's no doubt you see his leadership and his ability to be in the system for the amount of time he's been in the system. You see his confidence level and the confidence the coaching staff has in him with the situations they put him in. He's improved. He understands what they're trying to do, he's operating at a high level right now, and he's a big reason for their success offensively."

On defensive end Myles Garrett...

"He's a very talented young man. He was the number one defensive end in the country as a prospect. He's extremely explosive and naturally gifted. He's working on his technique, which is something all young guys are going to do. He's starting to see different blocking schemes, which is the greatest compliment. He was frustrated, and we explained to him that was the best compliment to pay him. 

"He's gone through that phase of it. Right now, it's a hard time for all talented freshmen that are playing or have been starting midway through the season, particularly in this league. He's still very young, he's raw, and he's getting better. Over the course of time, he's going to pick up weight and get stronger. He will be the first to tell you there's still a lot of room for him to improve."

On what a win over Alabama can do for your program...

"Alabama is such the standard program for college program, particularly when you're in this league because of their success over the course of the last decade of so, particularly when you're in the West. It becomes not only a big deal for your team, but also for your fan base and your university to say you can compete with the top of the league. It helps in recruiting, too.

"You don't me to tell you what it can do for you. All you have to do is look at the postgame at Ole Miss, and that will tell you enough and how big it was for them."

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 29-Oct. 5)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2014

Football
- Ole Miss outscored then-No. 1 Alabama 20-3 in the second half Saturday en route to a thrilling 23-17 victory over the Crimson Tide. It was the Rebels' first win over a top-ranked opponent in program history.
- Senior quarterback Bo Wallace went 18-31 for 251 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. Wallace finished the game by completing each of his final three pass attempts for 57 yards and two touchdowns. The win was the Rebels' first over Alabama since 2003 when Eli Manning was the Ole Miss quarterback.
- Despite Alabama entering the game averaging 42.0 points, the Ole Miss defense held the Crimson Tide to just 10 points. The Rebels also held Alabama to 3.8 yards per carry, which is nearly two yards fewer than its season average.
- Senior cornerback Senquez Golson sealed the game with an interception with 37 seconds remaining in the back of the Ole Miss end zone. Ole Miss has forced a turnover in 28 straight games, which ranks among the top five streaks nationally.
- The Rebels are 5-0 for the first time since 1962. Ole Miss is also 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play.

Soccer
- The Rebels posted a fourth undefeated weekend after playing Auburn to a 2-2 draw and posting the shutout victory over Alabama this past weekend.
- Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick tied for first on the all-time shutout list at Ole Miss with a 1-0 victory at Alabama on Sunday. McCormick has 21 shutout wins for her career.
- Ole Miss will now have a bye week after moving the match with Georgia to the season-opener for the SEC Network, and return to action in two weeks with road matches at Kentucky and South Carolina.
- Jennifer Miller scored her second goal of the season, hitting the game-winner in the 1-0 victory at Alabama to extend the Rebels' win streak over the Crimson Tide to four matches.

Volleyball
- Ole Miss downed defending SEC Champion Missouri 3-0 in its only match of the week, snapping the Tigers' 20-match SEC win streak dating back to Nov. 23, 2012. The Rebels improved to 3-0 against Missouri in Oxford.
- Junior Nakeyta Clair posted a team-high 14 kills and hit .500 to lead the offensive attack, also adding three blocks defensively. Clair ranks second in the SEC in hitting percentage at .425.
- Freshman Taylor Alexander, in just her third start, posted a career-high eight blocks to lead the defensive effort. She had four blocks in the second set to help the Rebels erase a 22-16 deficit and win the set 25-23. For her efforts, Alexander was named the SEC Freshman of the Week.
- With the win, the Rebels improved to 8-0 at home this season.
- Head coach Steven McRoberts earned his 490th career win in the victory over Missouri.
- The Rebels rank second in the SEC in hitting percentage (.271), second in opponent hitting percentage (.167), third in assists per set (12.61), fourth in kills per set (13.54) and fourth in blocks per set (2.47).

Rifle
- Ole Miss hosted its second annual "Shoot Pink" match Saturday as part of the Ole Miss Invitational. The Rebels posted a 4603 aggregate score with a 2336 in air rifle to finish sixth overall.
- The Rebels were paced by two freshmen. Jessica Haig fired a 588, while Nadia Hata posted a 586 in air rifle.  Sophomore Alison Weisz shot a 583 in air rifle.
- In smallbore, the Rebels were led by freshman Shelby Sandstrom, who turned in a 569.

Men's Golf
- The Ole Miss men's golf team placed three players in the top 20 of a tournament for the first time since 2012.
- Seniors Joe Lewis and Blake Morris, and sophomore Noah West help propel the Rebels to a fourth-place finish at the 2014 Shoal Creek Invitational.
- With first-year head coach Chris Malloy at the helm, Ole Miss has finished in the top five in two of its three tournaments this season.

Cross Country - Men's Team
- The Ole Miss men's cross country team, ranked fourth in the USTFCCCA South Region, finished second in the Greater Louisville Classic on Saturday. The finish was above 12 other regionally ranked teams and all four other SEC teams competing.
- Junior Wes Gallagher led Ole Miss in his first event as a Rebel. The Northeastern transfer clocked a time of 24:00.74 in the 8K, good for seventh overall. The Rebels placed six runners in the top 33.
- Gallagher, Robert Domanic, Sean Tobin, Daniel Bulmer, Taylor Caldwell and Mark Shaw all made their first appearance of the season in the strong performance for the Rebels.

Cross Country - Women's Team
- The Ole Miss women placed 17th overall in the 5K race. Freshman Shelby Brown turned in a time of 18:10.51 to pace the Rebels. Brown has improved on her 5K time in each race this season. She's shaved 38.82 seconds from her opening meet time.
- Ole Miss raced a young squad at the meet. The nine Rebels competing included six freshmen and two sophomores.

Women's Basketball

- The women's basketball team officially opened the 2014-15 season with its first practice on Sunday, Oct. 5 inside the Tuohy Center.
- The Rebels will open the regular season campaign Nov. 14 when they host Grambling for the 12th annual School Kids game at 11 a.m.

Men's Basketball
- The men's basketball team officially opened the 2014-15 season with its first practice Friday, Oct. 3 inside the Tuohy Center.
- The Rebels open their season Nov. 14 with a home game against Charleston Southern at 6:00 p.m.

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."

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.

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Alabama head coach Nick Saban on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's much-anticipated matchup.

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban (starts at 36:16 mark)

Opening statement...

"It's always a tremendous challenge to play on the road in our league. Ole Miss has a very, very good team. They're undefeated and have played extremely well all year long. The most important thing for our team is to understand that executing, paying attention to detail, maintaining discipline, playing smart and playing our game are really important and that all starts with the preparation that you have and how you focus on getting ready for the game. That's something our guys have done a pretty good job of this week.

On Blake Sims...

"Blake has done really well in practice. He hasn't had any issues this week so far in terms of throwing the ball. We're really pleased with the way he's progressed and he's been able to take all the reps he's prescribed to take, so we're pleased with that."

On Tony Brown and confidence in playing younger players...

"Tony has progressed very nicely for us. He's made really good progress, so we're pleased with that. We have no problem playing younger players, but we also try to protect our players and make sure they have enough knowledge, experience and understanding of what's expected of them before we throw them in there. 

"Tony got to play almost half the game in a couple of games prior to the Florida game. Eddie (Jackson's) been battling injury and that created an opportunity for Tony, and he did a pretty good job. We continue to work with him every day in practice so he can continue to improve. 

"Experience is important to any players being able to play well so they can maintain focus and be able to execute on a consistent basis. For young players, the only way to gain experience is to play. That's been our plan with Tony to this point."

On the bye week and execution on offense...

"Nobody really knows exactly how a bye week is going to affect your team. Sometimes when you have good momentum going and you're making progress and improvement, you rather just continue to play. There are other times when your team needs rest and time to recover. We have a lot of young players who had a chance to develop during the bye week and improve their ability to start, play more, be backups and play on special teams. 

"The bye week is whatever your team makes it and the commitment they make to improving. Hopefully, we had a good bye week and our players will come out and be ready to play. The environment is going to be difficult, and the noise will be difficult. There will be circumstances that we will have to overcome in this game, but the most important thing to keep executing, play your game and play through those things." 

On the challenge of facing Ole Miss' tempo on offense...

"We haven't faced one play of huddle all year long. This is the way of the world now. We made some progress in how our players play against that and the rhythm and routine we can create by playing against this offense a lot more often. It takes a lot of poise on the defensive players' part, especially when they go fast. You have to have a good substitution plan for trying to keep players fresh. 

"It's the way of the world now, and our players have gotten more accustomed to it. We probably practiced it a little bit better and prepared them a little bit better for it, but Ole Miss is a very challenging team not only because of the no-huddle and the pace of play, but also because they have really quality players at a lot of positions."

On matchup problems Evan Engram presents for the Alabama defense...

"Any time a team has a guy who has the versatility that he has, it always creates problems. The guy lines up in the backfield, and then he lines up at receiver, and sometimes you got to have a linebacker on him. Tight end is one of the most difficult mismatch guys, and he's certainly a quality player and a really good receiver.

On experience in spotlight games...

"We're talking about our team. We're still trying to develop an identity relative to the players and leadership we have on this team. You're always trying to develop the team chemistry and maturity  that it takes to play well on the road. We really haven't played a road game yet, other than playing a neutral-site game. It's going to be interesting to see how we respond. Our players have to believe their actions are going to affect what happens in the game, and their ability to have the poise and focus to execute is still going to be the most important things."

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:12:36 mark)

Opening statement...

"We're looking forward to the challenge. I have said before of the respect I have for Coach Saban and his staff. The job they have done there with the consistency of being a measuring stick in this conference is pretty special. When you get into this, you want to measure yourself each year and we have taken steps in the right direction in the last couple of years to give ourselves a chance to compete in this game. 

"It's still a tall task, but it's one we're looking forward to. We're excited about having GameDay here for the first time and being able to showcase our great university, the campus and the Grove, and hopefully our team will represent very well on the field Saturday.

On the state of Ole Miss and Mississippi State with two big games this weekend in Mississippi...

"It speaks volumes for our state and the job that both staffs have done, not only in recruiting, but also developing the talent we have here in this state, and then adding to it from outside the state, and it also speaks to the vision of the administrations to continue to elevate our facilities and resources to compete it this league. 

"We have made great strides at both places in all of those things in the last few years. The Mississippi people, they deserve this. They're great people, generous people with great hearts. There is tremendous passion for this game at both places, and it's exciting for this to happen."

On the importance of mitigating risk and efficiency on offense playing Alabama...

"It will be one of the huge deciding factors in this game as to how we perform in regards to turnovers and negative plays that get us off track, where we can't be in any kind of tempo. Bo (Wallace) is a huge part of the that. 

"He has had a game and a half where he was not really solid in his decision-making. Some of it wasn't just him. We've had a couple of poor routes that probably caused it. And then he's also had two and a half games where he was phenomenal, so we hope that it's time for him to be phenomenal again."

"It will factor into my play-calling probably early, depending upon how our defense is playing, how our special teams are playing, field position, all those things, you can't help but thinking about minimizing the risk as a play caller."

On managing the outside attention surrounding the game...

"We're just a little over two years in here. We have played in arenas like Alabama and the others in our conference but nothing to quite this attention and magnitude. Hopefully they will follow the example that we have tried to set and we focus on what we can do today to be ready for Saturday and stay in the moment. They're hearing that from us constantly in our meetings. 

"Is it totally possible to isolate them from everything with the social media access today? Probably not. Yo just hope we have enough mature leadership that the only way you can have a chance Saturday is to prepare by staying in the moment today."

Ole Miss has been held under 100 yards rushing in each of its last meetings with Alabama, a 33-14 loss in 2012 and a 25-0 loss in 2013. Running the ball effectively and finding a balance is one area, the coaches and players have said, that would go a long way on Saturday.

"Top to bottom, they're a great team, arguably the best team in the country," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "We have to play really, really well to win. We have to protect the football. When a break comes our way, we have to score. We have to be efficient in the red zone. 

"We have to try to eliminate negative plays, stay on schedule and stay out of third-and-longs. We have to do the little things it takes to win close games and win close games in the fourth quarter."

Behind senior quarterback Bo Wallace, the Rebels rank third in the SEC and 13th nationally in passing offense (335.5 ypg), but they rank 11th in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging 160.8 yards per game. Alabama, meanwhile, leads the league in rush defense, giving up just 62.0 yards per game

Ole Miss has found more consistency on the ground in recent games, rushing for 214 yards on 35 carries against Louisiana-Lafayette and 178 yards on 42 carries against Memphis, but Alabama undoubtedly will provide the toughest test yet.

"They're just pretty good," Luke said. "They're big and fast. 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.

"You don't want to be one-dimensional against any team," sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil said. "You want to run the ball, pass the ball, mix it up."

Replacing Alford on Defense, Special Teams


Without sophomore Anthony Alford, who decided to leave the Ole Miss football program and pursue a professional baseball career, players are thrust into bigger roles on defense and special teams.

Alford, who transferred to Ole Miss in January 2011, played in all four games this season as a backup to junior Trae Elston at Rover safety and punt returner. He registered six tackles and two punt returns for eight years.

"We had a great talk last night and this morning about what was best for him and his wife and his future," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I hate it for our team and for him because I love having good kids a part of us but he really felt like it was best."

In Alford's place, sophomore David Kamara and freshman C.J. Moore, who have both played primarily on special teams, stepped into the backup Rover safety spot in practice Tuesday. 

Freeze said they didn't have to shuffle a lot, but should they need to shuffle players going forward, senior cornerback Cliff Coleman and junior cornerback Mike Hilton both have previous experience at safety. On a semi-related note, sophomore Derrick Jones, who started the year at cornerback and then moved to wide receiver, practiced at cornerback Tuesday, providing extra depth there

"I know they're both athletic kids," said Freeze of Kamara and Moore. "They haven't been in the battles but really neither had Anthony. This was really his freshman year to be a defensive player. He has more experience than them from being in the early games, but we'll get them ready and I think they will do well."

On special teams, freshman wide receiver Markell Pack has been the primary punt return option, returning seven punts for 38 yards. Freeze also mentioned redshirt freshman Eugene Brazley stepping in as a punt return option.

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