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Texas A&M Football

SEC Round-Up: Rebels face toughest test yet in traveling to Death Valley

October 20, 2022
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The enigma that is Ole Miss football will be solved this weekend.

Maybe.

No. 7 Ole Miss (7-0) is one of just nine FBS teams still unbeaten. But whether that perfect record is a product of a strong team or a byproduct of a weak schedule remains to be seen.

The Rebels have just two victories over opponents with winning records.

They won 28-10 over Troy (5-2), which is in second place in the Sun Belt Conference West division.

Ole Miss beat (5-2) Kentucky, 22-19, in a game where Kentucky lost two fumbles deep in the red zone in the final three minutes.

The Rebels again take on a winning opponent on Saturday when they travel to face LSU (5-2). It will be their third road game and definitely their most difficult. Their previous road trips were at Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt.

“No disrespect to those places, but this will be a real atmosphere and crowd noise for our guys to go into. That's a lot of challenges of just staying focused and doing things really well. It'll be very challenging.”
- Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin

“I think we've played really well on the road,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “Obviously, this is a different animal than the first two places we played. No disrespect to those places, but this will be a real atmosphere and crowd noise for our guys to go into. That's a lot of challenges of just staying focused and doing things really well. It'll be very challenging.”

The biggest challenge will be maintaining a dominant running game.

Ole Miss averages 271.4 yards to rank third in the nation in rushing offense. Running backs Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans and quarterback Jaxson Dart all exceeded 100 rushing yards in a 48-34 victory over Auburn last week. The Rebels had a season-high 448 rushing yards in the win.

“We've got to be consistent and run the ball really well,” Kiffin said. “The numbers aren't going to be like that every week. People coach. They gear up to stop certain plays once you run them. It's not like we were just running normal inside zone and making all those yards. There were a lot of schematic perimeter runs and crack-blocking and things in there that people will coach up. You don't get to just keep running the same plays, and they work for very long, in my opinion.”

Therefore, the going figures to get tougher this week against LSU.

Well, maybe.

LSU is ranked eighth in the SEC in run defense. The Tigers have allowed more than 200 rushing yards in each of their last two games and three times overall.

If Ole Miss runs successfully and beats LSU, does that answer any questions about the Rebels?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s an enigma.

Around the SEC

This week’s games: Texas A&M at South Carolina; UT-Martin at No. 3 Tennessee; No. 7 Ole Miss at LSU; Vanderbilt at Missouri; No. 24 Mississippi State at No. 6 Alabama

Who’s hot: Everyone is impressed with Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, who may be the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy. But nobody is hotter than receiver Jalin Hyatt, who leads the SEC with 33 catches for 595 yards and 10 touchdowns. In the last two games against LSU and Alabama, Hyatt has 10 catches for 270 yards and seven touchdowns. His scoring grabs against LSU covered 45 and 14 yards. He had five touchdowns against Alabama on plays of 11, 13, 36, 60 and 78 yards.

Who’s not: We knew Florida’s run defense was vulnerable, but the Gators' pass defense was expected to be solid. So much for expectations. Florida has given up 1,176 passing yards in the last four games against Tennessee, Eastern Washington, Missouri and LSU. That’s an average of 294 yards per game. Last week, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels passed for a season-high 349 yards and three touchdowns. It was the second game this season in which Daniels has thrown three touchdown passes. The other game in which he passed for three touchdowns was against Southern.

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Jahmyr Gibbs has exceeded 100 rushing yards in each of the last three games.

Keep an eye on: Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs is on a torrid streak. He has exceeded 100 rushing yards in each of the last three games. In fact, in those three games against Arkansas, Texas A&M and Tennessee, he has rushed for 463 yards on 63 attempts for a 7.3-yard average per carry. He has also scored five touchdowns in that span. He could be in for another big game against Mississippi State, which has had trouble stopping the run of late. The Bulldogs have allowed a 100-rusher in each of the last three games. Texas A&M’s Devon Achane rushed for 111 yards on Mississippi State. Arkansas’ Malik Hornsby had 114 yards. Last week, Kentucky’s Christian Rodriguez gained 192 yards and scored two touchdowns.

The pressure is on: Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz is popular in Columbia, but that may be changing soon. The Tigers are 2-4. Their only two victories are over Louisiana Tech (2-4) and FCS Abilene Christian. Reaching the required six victories for bowl eligibility is looking unlikely. Nationally-ranked Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as Arkansas, remain on the schedule. Missouri will be underdogs in those games. As a result, the Tigers cannot afford to slip against an opponent they’re expected to beat. That would include Vanderbilt, which is this week’s opponent. However, Vanderbilt (3-4) isn’t a pushover this year, so a win might not come as easily as some in the past. Should the Tigers lose to Vanderbilt and fail to reach a bowl game in the same season, it might be too much to overcome. Drinkwitz may be popular, but he’s also 13-16 at Missouri.

Best matchup: Though they won’t face each other on the field, the matchup of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers is intriguing. Rogers leads the SEC in passing with 2,313 yards and 23 touchdowns. Young is ranked fourth with 1,657 yards and 16 touchdowns but would be higher if he had not missed a game-and-a-half with a shoulder injury. Both quarterbacks likely need highly-productive games for their teams to win. Both will be facing vulnerable pass defenses. Alabama’s pass defense is ranked eighth in the SEC. Mississippi State’s is ranked ninth.

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SEC Round-Up: Rebels face toughest test yet in traveling to Death Valley

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