GAMEDAY PREVIEW: No. 8 Missouri At Ole Miss

Senior Jeff Scott

Senior Jeff Scott

Nov. 23, 2013

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Monday Blog:Tough Test In No. 8 Missouri

Wednesday Blog: Another Look At No. 8 Missouri

OXFORD, Miss. - The home schedule has reached a crescendo, as No. 24 Ole Miss hosts No. 8 Missouri in a primetime Southeastern Conference showdown with a kickoff set for 6:45 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway.

This is the first ever meeting between the Rebels (7-3, 3-3 SEC) and Tigers (9-1, 5-1 SEC) with both teams nationally ranked. It will also be the final home game for 24 members of this year’s Ole Miss senior class.

“There are really no weaknesses in this Missouri squad,” head coach Hugh Freeze said. “The job that Coach (Gary) Pinkel and his staff have done is to be commended. Their kids play extremely hard. They’ve got great schemes. They make you earn every single thing that goes your way.

“We’ve got a great challenge. It is at home, which I know our people are going to embrace. We certainly need the Vaught to be rocking and to be an electric atmosphere for our football team. We’ll need a little help from that aspect. We’re really excited.”

Ole Miss is 7-3 for the first time since 2009, when the team started 8-3 before finishing with a 9-4 record. The Rebels have won four in a row, including a 51-21 win over Troy last week, during which they set a school record with 751 total yards.

Missouri is the fourth ranked opponent for Ole Miss this year, all of which have been ranked in the top 10. The Rebels defeated No. 6 LSU in their last outing against a ranked foe after losses to No. 1 Alabama and No. 9 Texas A&M.

The SEC East-leading Tigers rank in the top three in the SEC and top 20 nationally in both scoring offense (41.3 points per game) and scoring defense (20.2). Other than their 27-24 double-overtime loss to South Carolina, none of their wins have been decided by less than 15 points.

“I don’t know if this one game will answer the question if you’re a top-25 team, but it’s why we compete and have a chance to win it,” Freeze said. “That’s what we’re asking out of our kids in year two.”

"It's a huge week for us," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We get to see how good we are. We had some games that we felt like we didn't play as well in that we could have been in, but this is our redemption game that we can go back and see how good we are."

At the quarterback position, Wallace ranks third in the SEC in total offense (289.6 ypg) and fourth in passing (266.4 ypg). For Missouri, senior James Franklin is listed as the starter, having missed the last four games after suffering a shoulder against Georgia on Oct. 12.

“I don’t think there’s much difference in them, that’s the good thing,” said Freeze of Franklin and backup quarterback Maty Mauk. “They know who they are. They’ve done the exact same things with their second guy that they do with their first one. It’s not like you’re preparing for two different schemes. They have confidence in both of them and have good reason to.”

Wallace and the Ole Miss offense will face a Missouri defense that ranks second in the SEC and 14th nationally in rushing defense (111.9 ypg) and also leads the league with 34 sacks and 17 interceptions.

Missouri senior defensive end Michael Sam leads the league and ranks sixth nationally with 10 sacks, while junior defense end Kony Ealy ranks fourth in the SEC with 6.5 sacks.

"They provide probably the biggest challenge we have had all year from top to bottom," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "They're good in every spot. It's not like they have one guy you can focus on.

“Sam has the most sacks, but the other ends provide their own challenges. One of them is faster; one of them is bigger, and they're two inside guys are good, so you can't slide your line a certain way and protect against one guy."

On the defensive side of the ball, Ole Miss junior safety and Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist Cody Prewitt is tied for the SEC lead with four interception and also leads the team with 10 passes defended and two forced fumbles.

Prewitt and the Rebel secondary will be tasked with matching up against Missouri’s talented group of receivers, led by sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham and senior L’Damian Washington who each have 500-plus receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

"That's a physics problem that we can't solve," said Freeze of Missouri’s four starting wide receivers, all listed at 6-foot-2 or taller. "It's a concern for sure because there are times where their guys are more able to make a play on the ball than some defensive backs they have faced. That is a great concern and something that we have to try to figure out what the best answers are when those cases arise."

This is the seventh meeting all-time between Ole Miss and Missouri dating back to 1973. The Tigers hold a 5-1 series lead, with the Rebels’ lone win a 10-0 victory in 1974. This is the first time they will meet with Missouri as an SEC school.

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