Hugh Freeze looks to build on his nice debut as Ole Miss coach by takning down UTEP next Saturday.
The Rebels displayed the kind of quick-strike, aerial offense that Freeze fancies by beating Central Arkansas 49-27.
UTEP's debut was not as promising, but they did face much stiffer competition. They fell to No. 4 Oklahoma 24-7. It was a solid showing for the Miners.
Ole Miss is hosting this game and they have a talent advantage, but UTEP is not going to be a walkover game for the Rebels.
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, MS
When: 7 p.m. ET
Watch: Fox Sports South, ESPN GamePlan and live streaming on ESPN3
Betting Line: Ole Miss -7.5 (according to BetOnline on 9/3)
Key Storyline: Ole Miss QB Battle
Junior college Bo Wallace and junior Barry Brunetti have been in a fierce battle for the starting quarterback position. However, Wallace has to be close to making that battle moot.
He got most of the snaps in the Rebels' thrashing of Central Arkansas, and he made the most of them. He was 20-for-24 with 264 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also had 13 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Brunetti was also excellent, he just didn't have as big an opportunity as he finished 5-for-7 with 64 yards and a touchdown. He also pumped out 54 yards on eight carries and added a touchdown.
That was good enough to keep him in the running for the starting spot, and this game against stiffer competition should be revealing.
Who Might Not Play for UTEP?
*Injury information according to USA Today.
QB Blaire Sullivan, ankle, and LB Jamie Irving, back, are questionable.
Who Might Not Play for Ole Miss?
*Injury information according to USA Today.
The Rebels have two guys questionable for the contest. RB Jeff Scott has back issues, and DE Gerald Rivers has eligibility issues.
LB D.T. Shackleford is out for the season with knee issues.
What They're Saying?
The Clarion Ledger's Hugh Kellenberger brought us up to speed on Ole Miss' quarterback situation.
"Bo started this game, and he'll start the next one," coach Hugh Freeze said after Saturday's game. "I'm not ready to say that Barry is out of it. I think Barry did some really nice things too, but certainly Bo had a great game, and I've always known he's a gamer."
UTEP head coach Mike Price was not pleased with his team's passing game in their opener. Beau Bagley of KTSM. Price:
Our passing game was missing on six of eight cylinders. We dropped the ball too many times. Nick [Lamaison] ran out a couple of times when he didn’t have to, they pressured him and covered our receivers well. They were strong with their hands and physical in the secondary against our receivers, but we had no penalties on the offensive line.
We were onside the whole game. We had no holding calls. We did have three offsides penalties against our young receivers. We had no turnovers. We averaged seven yards per rush and Nathan Jeffery was honored as the Conference USA player of the week. He had a wonderful game. I didn’t realize I was going to run him 20 times in the first half.
UTEP Player to Watch: Nathan Jeffery, RB
Sophomore running back Nathan Jeffery had a fantastic game against Oklahoma. He had 21 carries for 177 yards.
It was a sparkling season debut for a player who had just 166 rushing yards for his entire freshman season.
Ole Miss Player to Watch: Bo Wallace, QB
It was not that long ago that a QB named Cam Newton came into the SEC as a junior college transfer and dominated in the ground and through the air. Could Bo Wallace be ready to do the same thing?
He almost certainly is not, but what a debut he had. Wallace was not advertised as a runner, but he definitely proved he has some legs to go with his arm.
UTEP's defense had a fine showing against Oklahoma, let's see how Wallace handles this defense.
Key Matchup: UTEP Pass Offense vs. Ole Miss Pass Defense
As Price illustrated above, the Miners were not in sync with the passing game. That wasn't just a coach nitpicking, either. They were awful.
QBs Nick Lamaison and Carson Meger combined to go 7-for-26 for 48 yards and no touchdowns. The good news is that they were so off target they also weren't intercepted.
Meanwhile, the Ole Miss pass defense was not overly impressive in their opener as they allowed 247 yards on 25-of-32 passing and two touchdowns with just a single pick.
If they allow the UTEP passing game to get on track in this game, they could be in trouble.
On the Hot Seat: Nick Lamaison
Lamaison accounted for all but three of the Miners' passes in their aerial-challenged opener. Obviously, these terrible performances cannot continue.
No matter what struggles go in around him in the passing game, he has to find a way to be better.
Prediction: Ole Miss 20, UTEP 17
This should be a fun game. In the end, I see the dynamic Rebels' offense they displayed in the opener to produce enough to hold off a Miners team that is still trying to find balance in their offense.