Happy Homecoming week! In the 108th Homecoming, the Missouri Tigers (4-1, 1-0 SEC) will take on the Ole Miss Rebels (3-3, 2-1 SEC) at 6pm CST, officially ending their 5-game homestand. To get the Ole Miss perspective, I chatted with Red Cup Rebellion’s One Man to Beat for the upcoming match up:
Sammy Stava: Ole Miss was picked to finish sixth in the SEC West in the preseason. Halfway through this season, they are off to a 3-3 start. Has this been a disappointment or is it just about what everybody around the program has been expecting?
One Man to Beat: I think when the season started, Ole Miss fans were in two camps — one wanted the season to go poorly so the coaching staff and program could reset completely because they don’t feel confident in leadership; the other was hopeful for a 6-6 season to build on. If you wanted Ole Miss to make it to a bowl, we needed to be 4-2 at this point most likely, so it has been a little disappointing in that regard. I felt like a 4-0 start was possible, and clearly that was the case, though two games didn’t end up in the win column. Once the team started out 0-1, the detractors were on the, “We’re going to go 2-10, burn it to the ground” train, so it is fantastic the team has continued to fight to find an identity and get wins.
SS: Obviously, there’s nothing you can do about playing Alabama on the road. So, of the two one-score losses, which was the most frustrating – at Memphis or home vs California?
OMTB: I’d say the home loss to Cal was very frustrating due to the controversial end of the game (to which we wrote a very lengthy rebuttal). The PAC-12 officials got it wrong, and Ole Miss got denied a chance to send the game into overtime against a top 25 opponent. The Memphis Tigers have been a thorn in our side in the past, and neither team really played very well that day. Again, the Rebels had a chance to win that game, but they just didn’t know how to finish and win games then. The Cal game, for that reason, when you’re sitting at 2-1, you know how to win and fight at that point at a very high level, it is the more frustrating loss.
SS: Looking at both sides of the ball, who, in your opinion, should Missouri be the most concerned about in this game? Who has the potential to make a big impact?
OMTB: John Rhys Plumlee at quarterback and our bevy of running backs just rushed for more than 400 yards, the highest rushing total in 40 years, against Vanderbilt in week six. They have clearly found what works on offense, and it’s predicated around a classic Rich Rodriguez read option, draws out of shotgun, and passing less than Army. JRP needs to rush and pass for more than 100 for the Rebels to be a viable team. On defense, Lakia Henry has been fantastic at linebacker and notched 15 tackles last week against Vanderbilt, but I would say Benito Jones is equally, if not more important, on the defensive line. Jones is a senior leader, and when he is able to penetrate opposing lines, he causes chaos that pays off in a big way for this defense.
SS: Ole Miss was hit with a postseason ban in 2017 and 2018, but is now eligible this season. With Missouri’s postseason status still up in the air for this year, what was it like watching the regular season knowing that Ole Miss couldn’t go to a bowl?
OMTB: I mean, it really just took all the anxiety out of the game. It’s like playing with house money at a casino, because yes, it clearly sucks to lose, but also it’s not really tangible yet. Honestly, I just was hoping we would wreck someone’s season and cause them to not go bowling as collateral damage.
SS: How do you see Saturday’s game playing out? Do you have a final score prediction?
OMTB: I think it’s going to be rough, honestly. Tua Tagovailoa torched our secondary, and I fear Kelly Bryant will try to repeat that, though not be quite as efficient. What is more anxiety-inducing for me is that Mizzou might have the talent and know-how to shut down our offense and provide a blueprint for the next five teams to follow and really shoot a hole in our bowl chances. I think we’re a little young to go to CoMo and pull off the upset, so I’ll say 38-27 for Mizzou.
Thank you to One Man to Beat for the time, and you can follow our friends @RedCupRebellion for the Ole Miss side of things this week.