No. 8 Mizzou at No. 24 Ole Miss Preview

NCAA Football: Missouri at Indiana

The first of back-to-back crucial games for eighth-ranked Missouri, the Tigers must win out to clinch the SEC East and play in Atlanta. Ole Miss, riding a four-game winning streak, finishes out a six-game homestand trying to move up from the middle of the pack in a bowl eligible-heavy West.

Here’s what to watch for Saturday under the lights in Oxford:

Return of James Franklin: Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel said Monday that his senior quarterback was “100 percent cleared” this week in preparation for the Rebels, returning to play after missing his last four starts with a sprained shoulder suffered at Georgia. The offense has been steady under Maty Mauk in Franklin’s absence but the multi-year starter has a comfort level in the spread few players on the Tigers’ roster possess. Franklin’s a more reliable zone read option, but in four starts, Pinkel can’t complain with Mauk’s production — 11 touchdowns and 1,087 yards of offense. A quarterback switch often knocks an offense out of rhythm this late in the season, but Franklin’s had more than enough snaps to keep Mizzou’s high-octane attack afloat and perhaps, give it an additional boost.

SEC’s most underrated team: Ole Miss is a three-point underdog to a one-loss Top 10 meaning the Vegas oddsmakers respect the Rebels and how they play at Vaught-Hemingway. Ole Miss is 5-1 in Oxford this season with a quality win over LSU and a walk-off field goal loss to Texas A&M. The Rebels are the only three-loss team in college football that’s suffered all their defeats against current or eventual Top 10s. An eight-point loss at Auburn on Oct. 5 wasn’t impressive at the time, but those Tigers haven’t lost since and are currently one game back of Alabama in the West. Hugh Freeze is quietly building a monster that could be unleashed as early as next season.

Who sticks Dorial Green-Beckham?: Every team has tried and some have failed. Defending Mizzou’s 6-foot-6 Megatron lite will be of utmost important for an Ole Miss defense that’s allowed the third-fewest touchdown passes (9) in the SEC this season. His four-catch, 58-yard per game average seems minuscule, but his presence on the field and command of multiple defenders has paved the way for big seasons from L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas in the Mizzou receiving corps. Cody Prewitt’s ballhawk skills will be on display over the middle when Franklin looks for his biggest target. Prewitt leads the Rebels with four interceptions. DGB is hobbling from a high ankle sprain suffered during his four-touchdown game at Kentucky, but is not expected to be limited this weekend.

First-half production key: These two offenses heat up early, outscoring opponents a combined 203-83 in the first quarters of games this season. Fresh legs certainly help speed-driven, uptempo game plans and each team has weapons on the outside and in the backfield. Mizzou’s made its money with second-quarter scoring drives that deflate opposing teams heading into the locker room. At Georgia, the Tigers engineered a 21-point frame capped off by Michael Sam’s scoop-and-score that shocked a soldout crowd in Athens. Against Kentucky, Mauk threw two touchdown passes while Henry Josey ran for another in the second during the Tigers’ dismantling of the Wildcats. The Tigers have the SEC’s worst defense against the pass (274.9 YPG) despite a conference-leading 17 interceptions and if Ole Miss scores a couple touchdowns early, the pressure will be on Mizzou playing catch-up on the road.

Players to watch:

Jeff Scott, ATH, Ole Miss: After missing the last three games with a bone spur, the Rebels’ lightning bug in the backfield returned last week with an 11-carry, 54-yard effort against Troy. Scott’s played in seven games this season and has only been stopped behind the line of scrimmage twice over 64 attempts. When there’s a crease, Scott moves the chains and is tough to grab in space. He’s a playmaker on special teams too and already has a 73-yard punt return for a score this season.

Kony Ealy, DL, Mizzou: Sam gets most of the attention in the front seven and rightfully so with 16 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks, but it’s Ealy who has arguably been Mizzou’s most productive defender in passing situations. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound quarterback hound is tied for the team lead with five pass breakups, second in sacks (6.5) and first in hurries (13). The redshirt junior is agile and massive with tremendous upside. He’ll be a factor in disrupting Ole Miss’ zone read-heavy scheme.

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COMMENTS

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  • Ole Miss has this.

    • Haha Aubie is scared. Doesn’t matter, y’all won’t get past Bama anyway.

      • Aubie ain’t scared of nothing, just taking it one game at a time. I have little to no preference of whom the East champion is until the Iron Bowl is over. Good luck in at Vault-Hemmingway; it’s an environment where it’s easier said than done to beat Ole Miss; LSU found that out, and Texas A&M was pretty close to being upset there. This shall be a pretty good game.

        • I’ve been to a couple games at the Vaught and honestly I expected more out of the crowd than I got. A buddy of mine came up to Mizzou for the SC game and told me the environment at the game was way crazier than anything he’d experienced at Ole Miss and this was right after the LSU game. Not saying the environment won’t be a factor, any road game in the SEC is tough to win, but I don’t think it will be a huge one. I’d much rather play in Oxford than Samford or Columbia, SC, let alone Tiger Stadium or at Bama. I hope Bama wins the Iron Bowl, for obvious reasons (rather face #1 and have opportunity to knock them off), but I think either game would be fun and extremely tough.

      • Hey guys, check out this article. I truly believe that even Ole’ Miss fans realize this will NOT be an easy game. The way this writer tells the story, its almost as if Ole’ Miss really won’t have much of a chance and is lucky to be only an 2.5 point underdog.
        http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20131120/SPORTS030103/311200033/Ole-Miss-can-t-overlook-SEC-newcomer-Mizzou

        • I promise you, there’s not a single rational Ole Miss fan that thinks this will be an easy game. Mizzou is legit, & probably should be undefeated. I think we are capable of beating y’all, but it would take a great effort to pull it out. Should be a lot of fun to watch. Hotty Toddy!

        • PCB Rebel,

          Trust me, there is not a single rational Mizzou fan that thinks this is an easy win for us either. You have a damn good football team this year. It should be a great game, I’m really looking forward to it.

        • The Clarion Ledger sportswriters always find a way to hate on Ole Miss. Rick Cleveland is the worst, but the rest of them are still pretty bad. So I wouldn’t look too much into that. it’s gonna be a great game. Other than Texas, no one has beaten Hugh Freeze in Oxford by more than 1 score.

        • First of all, I am not even going to check that link because it’s from the clarion ledger. They harbor the worst journalists in the history of the sport. Really, if you want a good laugh go read some more of their crap. Second of all, of course we know this won’t be easy! We aren’t complete idiots like TrueTexasTiger. I mean seriously. I can deal with most of you fans but that guy. Am I right?

  • I believe Mizzou absolutely wins this and covers the spread. They have been playing with a chip on their shoulder and are out to prove that they “more than” belong and deserve the respect that they feel they should be getting. Ole’ Miss is not a pushover by any means but I still think Mizzou has way too many weapons for Ole’ Miss to account for. Also, I’m not too sure they have faced as stiff of a defense up front this year as they will face on Saturday. I expect Bo will be doing some scrambling.

    • I agree. Sam and Ealy (to say nothing of Hoch, Ray, Vincent et. al) will cause a lot of trouble for the talented QB, but I don’t think he gets the time afforded to him in other games. I also think our RB/WR’s will stretch their defense all over the field. If Franklin can resume his form from the first half of the season I see a win here.

      My prediction is a shootout with Mizzou pulling away.

      Mizzou 52 Ole Miss 42

    • Not sure they’ve faced as stiff a defense as yours zoutidefan? Ole miss played bama so I’d say they definitely have.

  • Thanks for the summary Brad. Some of what you are writing about Missouri is the media groupthink, for example there is a tactical reason for Missouri’s defense stats, but I think the fans of 6 other SEC programs have a fair idea of what 2013 Missouri actually is and where they are going. So what I’d really be interested to know is what Ole Miss fans really think about the O-line and D-line, all their running backs, the defense secondary, and of course all their receivers. Here’s my super brief idea based on watching about 60 plays scattered over 4-5 of MS games: Points scored will be somewhere between 24-24 and 48-48. If the home team wins then their offense will have to score at least 2 touchdowns more than the average Missouri allows. Pinkel will have a playbook for both quarterbacks and use them. If Missouri wins it will be a classic Missouri scheme not a special plan. Ole Miss will go to a respectable bowl game and win big. Missouri? They are still in the biggest election. If Ole Miss can pull off this upset, congratulations, but it won’t change their bowl selection much, if at all. Even if Missouri is up by two scores late in the game, Pinkel will still kneel down on the goal line rather than be less than a showboat for the voters. God Bless both teams, keep every athlete safe, and may the best team win.

  • “SEC’s most underrated team: Ole Miss is a three-point underdog to a one-loss Top 10 meaning the Vegas oddsmakers respect the Rebels and how they play at Vaught-Hemingway.”

    Vandy was also only a 3 point underdog. I’d say it’s more of a lack for respect for Mizzou than confidence in Ole Miss. We have received absolutely zero respect from Vegas this season, which is why we’re 8-1-1 ATS.

    • Well……tell them boys to win out, beat the west and make it count! You guys have the most complete team left in the East. I’ll be pulling for Mizzou.

      • We appreciate the kind words. Glad to see there are some people on this site willing to venture onto the road less traveled.

        • Depend’s on which Ole Miss team show’s up to play. Ole miss usually play’s well at home But i think Mizzou will win by 10

      • I think USC/MU are virtually tied in terms of talent. The SEC East is divided into 3 tiers IMO. Upper Tier: USC, MU, UGA. Mid Tier: UF, Vandy, UT. Lower Tier: Kentucky

    • There’s several reasons that Vandy was only a 3 point dog. Vegas knows their stuff. 1: You can count on one hand how many times Ole Miss has won on a Thursday. 2: Before Vandy, we hadn’t won an SEC opener since 2003. When we were #4 in the country playing at unranked South Carolina, we were only 3 point favorites because it was our first SEC game and it was on a Thursday. 3: The game was at Vandy. 4: Ole Miss was starting 7 freshmen that hadn’t even played a college game yet.
      Now all of our players are seasoned, and we’ve shown that even our 3rd string defense can beat a top 10 team. The Grove will be the most hospitable environment you’ve ever experienced, but the Vaught will be a war zone. Get ready for one hell of a game.

  • Boy do I sure hope Ole Miss takes care of business this weekend. It will be nice playing a cupcake early on so us Gamecocks fans can sit back and just take in a great Saturday of football. I honestly think this is a coin flip game. Ole Miss is VERY tough at home, and I think the crowd is going to make it extremely hard on Franklin and the boys from CoMo. I also agree with a lot of Mizzou fans in that the Tigers have been playing with a chip on their shoulder since the crushing loss to USC. Mizzou is certainly among the SEC elite, and I am glad to be able to call them an SEC brother. I also believe that Bama and AU fans are underestimating the fight they are going to get from the East representative. USC and Mizzou are more than capable of beating the teams from Alabama in a one game winner takes all scenario. Do I think Bama and Auburn are better teams overall then USC/MU? Yes, I do. But I believe us East teams are more hungry for an SEC Championship then the West teams. For South Carolina, we are looking to finally capture that elusive conference title, which would solidify us as one of the nation’s elite. For Mizzou, instant respect among all SEC fan bases, proving to everyone they belong in the best conference in college football.

    Hope its a great game with no injuries….with Ole Miss taking it :)

  • I love how all these Mizzou fans are so confident. You would have thought they had learned their lesson last year. All I hear from them is whining. Most of them seem to think they will come down to Oxford an easily beat Ole Miss. Now that is just funny. Ole Miss has played a far more tougher schedule than Mizzou and the when Mizzou finally played a good team they either lost or the other team (Georgia) was missing most of it’s starters due to injury. Ole Miss has a ton of weapons on offense and their defense is very underrated. Ole Miss started this season play a ton freshmen and they are finally starting to play up to their potential. Plus, Ole Miss is finally starting to get healthy, but they are still missing several starters that are out with season ending injuries. Both teams are practically even. I’m pretty sure if each team switched schedules Mizzou would have 3 losses and Ole Miss would probably have one. This game will be a coin flip at best. Hotty Toddy!!!

    • Its not like Mizzou squeaked out victories…every game Mizzou won has been by 15+. Have you watched a game other than the SC game? Theres some substance behind our confidence. I don’t think its going to be a blow out by any means but I do think (hope) Mizzou pulls it out. I think it’ll be a close game due to the crowd. I also sense the beginning of a rivalry b/w us.

      • Yes, I have seen few of Mizzou’s games. I’m not saying that Mizzou isn’t good. But I don’t think they have been tested like Ole Miss has. I honestly think that this game is a toss up, and I’m a realist. I think Ole Miss has a slight advantage on offense and Mizzou on defense. As for an Ole Miss/Mizzou rivalry, it don’t think that will happen because Ole Miss plays in the West and Mizzou in the East. So they won’t play one another enough to become a rivalry, at least not a really heated one. I think Mizzou’s main rival will end up being South Carolina. But I will say this, if your planning on coming to the game and visit the Grove. You will want to come and play Ole Miss every year to tailgate in the Grove.

        • Army guy, I don’t think we are reading the same board. Every Mizzou fan I know thinks Ole Miss is the underrated team in the rankings. Almost all are more nervous about playing you guys in your back yard than Johnny football bringing the Big 12 back to Columbia without a defense. I think it will be a great game. I also hope for no injuries and for no fricking targeting penalties. We just hope and believe in our team. That’s what fans do

  • tough tough game. they have a better passing game we have a better running game. they have a decent running game we have a pretty good passing game. so maybe it’ll come down the defense and I think we have a better one. either way I agree this is a toss up. I would like the odds better if we weren’t playing them at their home. let’s not forget that Brad picked Missouri to lose their next 5 after beating Florida. I know I haven’t forgotten.

  • almost everything I read has Mississippi winning over Missouri. but then everything I read in preseason had Missouri finishing fifth or sixth in the east. and Missouri didn’t just recently got a chip on their shoulder since the SC loss. that’s been there since the end of last season. they screwed up by playing the game not to lose instead of going all out and trying to win

    • “they screwed up by playing the game not to lose instead of going all out and trying to win”
      You got that right, nothing against the amazing performance by Conner Shaw but becoming a turtle doesn’t win you football games

    • What are you reading?? The only national columnist that I’ve seen pick Ole Miss is the ESPN SEC guy, Ashoff (sp?).

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