Texas Football: 5 Keys to the Game Against Ole Miss
Both Texas and Ole Miss are undefeated heading into their Week 3 matchup. The Longhorns have taken down New Mexico and Wyoming by a combined margin of 65 points; Ole Miss has beaten Central Arkansas and UTEP by a combined total of 40 points.
Despite both teams having poor schedule strength thus far, the Longhorns enter Saturday's showdown with a bit more to prove.
It will be a tough test for Texas, as is any road game against an SEC opponent. Luckily for Mack Brown, Ole Miss is not the cream of the SEC crop. In fact, the Rebels haven't beaten an opponent from their own conference since 2010 and finished 2-10 last season.
No. 14 Texas should present the Rebels with an adequate challenge come Saturday.
Let's look at the features of this game that will ultimately play a role in deciding the outcome.
Deciding Factor #1: QB David Ash
Ole Miss is an SEC defense, far different from the non-existent New Mexico defense Texas manhandled last week.
QB David Ash had his way with the Lobos, throwing for two scores and adding a 49-yard score with his legs. Still, Coach Brown has yet to fully open up the playbook for his on-field leader.
David Ash's contribution to the offense this week will determine whether or not he and his teammates will get off to a good start against the Lobos and secure a victory on the road.
This is his first test, and I think Ash will come through for the Longhorns in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Deciding Factor #2: Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace
Bo Wallace has been a handful for opposing defenses so far this season. The sophomore slinger has completed over 75 percent of his passes thus far, including five for touchdowns and only one interception.
Wallace is the biggest impact player the Rebels have, and his performance to date should have Rebels fans excited.
This week will be a chance for Wallace to lead his team out of the basement of the SEC and make a statement victory at home. With a wide-open offense designed for Wallace to quickly deliver the ball and avoid the pass rush, Ole Miss plans to gun it out with the No. 14 Longhorns.
It would be major news if Ole Miss beat Texas; Bo Wallace must have a big day for that to be the case.
Deciding Factor #3: Defensive Front
Texas boasts the best defensive line in the Big 12. Ole Miss will put their speed and athleticism to the test with different zone reads, QB runs and potentially the triple option.
Look for ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor to set the edge and limit the options that Ole Miss has out of the backfield. Although QB Bo Wallace can run and the team has averaged over 285 yards per game, the Longhorns defensive line looks for a different result.
Texas stands a chance to lose this game if Wallace and the ground game are able to keep the Longhorns defense on its heels. The way to do so would be to establish the running game early and often enough to allow Wallace to get his receivers the ball in space.
Okafor and Jeffcoat will be on assignment to make sure none of that becomes an issue and on Saturday will rise to the occasion.
Deciding Factor #4: RB Malcolm Brown
What's the best way to make your quarterback comfortable and confident?
Show him he isn't the only source of offense on the team.
During the Week 2 victory against Wyoming, Texas RB Malcolm Brown did just that for QB David Ash. The sophomore back carried 14 times for 105 yards and a score after touching the rock just twice in the season opener.
Ash has yet to fully prove he can make deeper downfield passes with consistency. Until he grows more into himself as the leader and improves his skills, offensive support is more than necessary.
Brown will get plenty of touches this week to keep the Longhorns' attack balanced. Coach Mack Brown will use the sophomore to open up the playbook and wear down Ole Miss defensively.
The importance of Ash and Brown in conjunction is among the top stories that will decide this weekend's affair.
Deciding Factor #5: Playing on the Road
Lets face it. Ole Miss is not Florida, Alabama or LSU. However, the fact that the Rebels are in the SEC means a few things.
First, Ole Miss is quite used to stiff competition. They have to play divisional games against several of the best teams in the nation every year. No. 14 Texas, while currently rolling, is still young and not on the same level as 'Bama or LSU.
The Rebels will have the crowd behind them; a dedicated, home-grown fanbase that always believes the Ole Miss can win. It will certainly be loud in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, making it more difficult for Texas QB David Ash to relay signals to his offensive comrades.
Ultimately, I don't believe the home fans will have enough of an impact to cover the difference in talent and execution between the two teams. However, college football is no stranger to upsets and the Rebels will be gunning for it with the home hearts behind them.