Veteran sports writer Parrish Alford takes a look at the Week 8 matchups for Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Last time out pick record was 3-0, making 15-3 overall for the 2023 season.
Let’s take a look at the Week 8 matchups for Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Southern Miss played on Tuesday, losing to South Alabama.
No. 13 Ole Miss at Auburn
Time: 6 p.m. TV: ESPN
There’s a temptation to discard Auburn as washed up for 2023, its first season under former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.
Many in its fan base feel that way after last week’s 48-18 loss at LSU. In the pre-Nick Saban Era LSU-Auburn was “the” game of the year in the SEC West. Now an Auburn team that struggles to score could manage just 18 points in a four-touchdown loss against an LSU defense that struggles to stop respectable offenses.
Two things keep Auburn with a heartbeat in the mid-week guessing game: A 27-20 loss to No. 1 Georgia and Freeze’s desire to show up his former employer.
Freeze said the right things in his presser this week but was quick to fire a shot across the bow when he was hired last November as he talked about having “leapfrogged where I was at that time by being in this family and this culture here.”
It’s important for your head coach to be locked in and motivated.
The Rebels saw at the end of last season what can happen when a head coach looks distracted.
Lane Kiffin had the bizarre in-season flirtation with Auburn last year and had to decide if he wanted to remain as Ole Miss coach. Arkansas ran Ole Miss out of Fayetteville the week the story broke which also happened to be the week after a deflating home loss to Alabama.
The Rebels then lost a close Egg Bowl where they couldn’t figure out Zach Arnett’s defense, and didn’t show up for a bowl game against Texas Tech.
Kiffin, with an extra week to prepare, will also be motivated in this game, in part because of the way last year unfolded but also because this team has an awful lot to play for.
Motivation is important, but it works best when backed by a team with confidence and ability, and Auburn is questionable in those areas.
The Tigers have managed a pretty good run game by committee with five players totaling more than 150 yards.
Auburn rushed for 219 yards against Georgia which leads the SEC with 91.4 rushing yards per game allowed.
Freeze took a subtle jab at the Tigers’ receivers in a pre-game interview at Texas A&M. He was asked about the talented receivers he had as coach at Ole Miss and responded with guys like that “are coming” which means they’re not there now. Certainly the numbers back him up.
Michigan State transfer Payton Thorne hasn’t been the answer at quarterback. The Rebels will likely see both he and Robby Ashford, a one-time Ole Miss verbal commit who was 8-for-17 for 140 yards and two interceptions when Ole Miss won 48-34 in Oxford last year.
There’s no doubt Ole Miss has seen a lot of that Georgia video this week.
A Rebels defense that has done a good job of bothering quarterbacks – fourth in the SEC and fifth nationally in sacks – should have some opportunities against an Auburn offensive line that ranks No. 104 in sacks allowed at 2.83 per game.
Ole Miss has been fair against the run and needs one of its better games there.
These teams didn’t play every year before SEC divisional play began in 1992, and Ole Miss hasn’t won consecutive games in the series since a three-game streak in the 1949, 1951 and 1952 seasons.
This year the Rebels get it done.
Prediction: Ole Miss 39, Auburn 25
Mississippi State at Arkansas
Time: 11 a.m. TV: ESPN
The Bulldogs’ 40-17 win over Arkansas last year was their most complete game of the season, but it came with the Razorbacks missing quarterback KJ Jefferson.
The big guy is back this year, and Jefferson (6-3, 247) is completing passes with 66 percent accuracy and 14 touchdowns.
He’s shown a propensity to throw it to the other guys. He was picked off twice by Ole Miss two weeks ago – including when the Hogs had the ball last with a chance to tie or win the game – but had no picks at Alabama last week.
The irony is State could be without its QB1, Will Rogers, who sustained an apparent shoulder injury in a 41-28 win over Western Michigan two weeks ago.
If Rogers can’t go, it will be Mike Wright, a former starter at Vanderbilt, but one who has played more of a specialized short-yardage role at State. Wright did throw it a little more against Western Michigan and had some success.
It’s been a sometimes bumpy ride for Rogers in the new run-oriented system of offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay, but he’s still the best choice behind center for State.
Wright got a few more passing opportunities against Western Michigan but in his seven completions still averaged just 8.1 yards.
On the flip side, State hasn’t been able to victimize anybody’s quarterback this season and ranks No. 124 in pass defense efficiency in the season after Emmanuel Forbes, a pick-six machine last year.
The Bulldogs need to make Arkansas one-dimensional, and with the Razorbacks’ suspect offensive line play that could happen.
This isn’t your father’s Arkansas team of deep and talented running backs like Houston Nutt used to roll out.
The Razorbacks are rushing for just 109.9 yards a game, and they’ve allowed pressure to get to Jefferson.
Getting to Jefferson and getting him down are separate things. When the Bulldogs have a chance to get Jefferson to the ground, they must wrap up tight and take advantage.
If the Bulldogs can get consistent pressure on Jefferson with their defensive line, they’ll have a good chance to win this game. The greater the pass rush the less the defensive backs have to cover.
If the Bulldogs have to blitz to get pressure, they better be fast. Jefferson, a third-year starter, can make quick decisions. He can also run to daylight, and if you can’t wrestle him to the ground in the backfield it’s a lot harder when he gets a head of steam.
Arkansas played Alabama closer than State did, but the game never felt as close as the 24-21 final score. The Hogs finished with just 250 yards of offense and punted seven times against an Alabama defense that ranks in the top 15 in both points allowed and yards allowed.
The Hogs were also a lot closer to LSU than was State, and that 34-31 final was legit.
Rogers completed less than 40 percent against LSU and threw three interceptions against Alabama. He hasn’t had his best games against the SEC’s better teams, but that’s not what Arkansas is right now.
Arkansas is, however, a team that fights and plays hard, and being back at home after a two-game road trip will be one playing at a faster pace as well as with desperation in wanting to end a five-game skid.
Jefferson needs three touchdown passes to surpass Brandon Allen and become the Hogs’ career leader.
He’ll throw two, but Arkansas will win.
Prediction: Arkansas 26, Mississippi State 21
Recipe of the Week
Red Beans and Sausage
I didn’t pick up on my Dad’s love for cooking until later in life. When I did, it was because of a craving for red beans and rice. It’s hard to find them north of Jackson. So, I found a recipe and modified it.
- 2 pounds Camilla Red Beans
- 32 ounces chicken broth
- 1 pound ground chuck
- 1 pound ground sausage, hot or mild
- 1 pound link sausage (Mine comes from Fernwood Grocery south of McComb.)
- 7 teaspoons minced garlic
- 3 teaspoons thyme
- 2 tablespoons Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
Soak the beans overnight. Cut link sausage into bite-sized pieces and boil for 10 minutes. Brown ground chuck and ground sausage. Combine it all in your big pot. Add more broth or water as needed to keep liquid near the top of the beans. Cook on medium heat till liquid reduces a bit, and beans are soft. That’s usually 2-3 hours for me.
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