Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace will play a crucial role in the Rebels' bid to upset No. 1 Alabama Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In fact, he'll be the field general for the red and blue.
From a personal standpoint, Wallace has likely had this one circled for a long time.
Last season against Bama, Wallace only went 15-of-26 for 123 yards passing, not to mention tossing two interceptions. On the ground, things were equally as bad, as he rushed eight times for minus-14 yards on the night. Not exactly the kind of performance that will help you knock off the Tide.
Earlier this week, the Rebel QB caught media heat when he suggested, "We can put points on them (Alabama). I think we can put points on anybody. We just got to show up and play, and it's the same thing every week: Let's stay on schedule and control the tempo and don't have any turnovers."
He then said, "I think we have better receivers than A&M. They want to talk about Mike Evans being so good, but we have Donte (Moncrief), and I think Laquon (Treadwell) is going to be that way. We have better players on the outside than A&M does."
There's a fine line between being confident and cocky, and the Rebel QB is anything but the latter.
As large as the Ole Miss Alabama game looms for both clubs this weekend, many across the national media were happy to inaccurately construe his comments into Alabama bulletin board fodder.
Fodder it may be for Kirby Smart's defense, but the comments also show where Wallace feels both he and his offense are right now: confident in their ability to score points (on anyone).
And you know what, Wallace and the Rebel offense "will" put points on Alabama.
Don't get me wrong, Wallace isn't Johnny Football, and he won't come close to posting the same level of offensive output (562 all-purpose yards) against the Tide as Manziel did two weeks ago.
However, if Wallace even picks up half as many yards (281) as Johnny Football did, Ole Miss should be right in the thick of things as the final minutes begin to tick away on the clock.
As dangerous a dual-threat option as Wallace is for Ole Miss, he's become a level-headed field general more than anything. While the Rebels have yet to get into the meat of their SEC schedule (which begins this weekend), through just three games this fall, Wallace has shown that he's learned from past mistakes.
Entering week four last year, the then-sophomore had tossed five touchdowns and four interceptions. Most impressive so far this year, the junior still has yet to throw a pick. He's simply making wiser decisions when he finds himself in trouble.
At least thus far in the young season, Wallace is playing like a seasoned veteran.
Come Saturday evening in Tuscaloosa, in front of 100,000 strong, Smart and the Alabama D will try and rattle Wallace early and often. He's going to be hurried, he's going to take some hits and he's going to be forced into sticky situations, but that's alright.
When it comes time to take a calculated risk or make the best of a bad situation, expect Wallace to "know when to show 'em" and "know when to fold 'em."
He doesn't have to win the game by himself. He's got to play well, but the game isn't all on him.
The Rebel offense is loaded with explosive athletes, many of whom are capable of scoring on any given play their number is called. Between the shifty running back Jeff Scott, WRs Evan Engram, Laquon Treadwell and Donte Moncrief (just to mention a few), as well as athletes like reserve QB Barry Brunetti, even Alabama isn't going to "stop" Ole Miss all night. It just won't happen.
Further, be prepared to see Freeze and offensive coordinator Dan Werner dig into their bag of tricks a few times in Tuscaloosa. Mixing in a few gadget plays to complement a well-balanced attack could yield big plays or points on a defense having to play honest against the run and pass.
And when the fast-break Rebel offense gets inside the red-zone, there's more reason to feel confident.
Against Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide defense allowed the Aggies to score on 5-of-6 red zone trips. Again, Wallace isn't Manziel, but they're both extremely dangerous dual-threat QBs. As for Ole Miss, they've succeeded in 13-of-14 red-zone trips in 2013 (11 scores being touchdowns).
Therefore, Wallace was correct; his offense will put points up in Bryant-Denny.
Unlike most of last season, when the Rebels were just trying to figure out what pieces they even had on offense, Wallace just about has all the puzzle pieces he could ask for in Oxford this season. If they can all be pieced together just right in T-Town, then it could create something very special for the program.
As for Wallace and his outspoken confidence, look for his play to back it up Saturday night.