Veteran sports writer Parrish Alford takes a look at the Week 9 matchups for Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss.
Last time out pick record was 1-1, making 16-4 overall for the 2023 season.
Let’s take a look at the Week 9 matchups for Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss.
Mississippi State at Auburn
Time: 11 a.m. TV: ESPN
Zach Arnett celebrated his defense, and rightfully so, after the Bulldogs’ 7-3 win at Arkansas last week.
I picked Arkansas in that game because the Razorbacks had shown some fight in close losses at LSU and at Ole Miss.
They never really threatened to win at Alabama, but they made it interesting in the second half and were mathematically in it before losing 24-21.
So was last Saturday in Fayetteville about a light that suddenly came on for the Bulldogs’ defense or about self-inflicted struggle for the Razorbacks at home.
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson barely took a step without a Mississippi State defender in hot pursuit.
As a result, Jefferson made a couple of bad passes when in fact he could have done something else. He was uncomfortable.
Arkansas has struggled on the offensive line this year and against the Bulldogs looked like they’d never seen pressure. State finished with seven tackles for loss and four sacks.
“Every pressure we called had been called prior during the season,” Arnett said.
It was a vastly different performance than two weeks prior when a backup quarterback in the MAC came off the bench to complete 77 percent of his passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
So, was what happened in Fayetteville an Arkansas thing or an MSU thing?
Apparently Arkansas coach Sam Pittman, whose own job is being questioned, thought it was an Arkansas thing as he fired offensive coordinator Dan Enos the next day.
Arnett said part of the improvement was getting healthier and noted the return of end Deonte Anderson.
I don’t want to short-change the Bulldogs for holding an SEC opponent to 200 yards and 2.9 yards per play.
However, images of other teams going over the top of the MSU secondary are still fresh.
They won’t have that problem against Auburn, which is ranked No. 102 of 129 FBS teams in passing efficiency.
The Tigers don’t have the playmakers at wide receiver that Hugh Freeze has had in the past. That will change soon but not before Saturday.
The Tigers are a sound running team, but when a defense believes a team is one-dimensional it becomes much better at stopping that dimension.
Offense for State in Fayetteville wasn’t much better than Arkansas. Quarterback Will Rogers missed the game, and his status for this week is unclear.
The Bulldogs are also playing with their top running back, Woody Marks, at less than full strength.
These things would be enough to pick against State in almost any other game, but I like State’s linebackers to be in the right place and make plays against the run.
Auburn was competitive against Ole Miss for three quarters.
The Tigers were a week removed from humiliation in Baton Rouge and were playing before a home crowd at night, a venue that in better times is really hard on opponents.
So Hugh got his guys all jacked up, and they still lost.
Once you’ve played that emotion card it’s really hard to play it again the next week.
State also has the benefit of playing at Auburn at 11 a.m. The environment will be different and that matters.
Prediction: Mississippi State 21, Auburn 16
Vanderbilt at No 12 Ole Miss
Time: 6:30 p.m. TV: SEC Network
This isn’t your daddy’s Ole Miss-Vanderbilt game.
If it was, Vanderbilt would have a much better chance to win. Oh, the Commodores still have a chance because the traditional tenet of respect for every opponent still matters.
Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have played every year since 1970, and while Vanderbilt has spent many of those years in rebuilding mode it has jumped up and picked off the Rebels from time to time. including six out of eight from 2005-2012.
The current reality is under Lane Kiffin the Rebels haven’t lost to teams they weren’t supposed to lose to.
They’ve had bad losses, but when Ole Miss fans wondered what just happened in Fayetteville last year, they’d lost to Arkansas in a bad way but hadn’t really lost to a bad team.
There are other examples, unfortunately, of those kinds of losses, but Kiffin doesn’t typically lose games where he’s heavily favored.
In his three games against Vanderbilt he’s outscored the Commodores 137-66.
Vanderbilt has struggled to run the ball but has shown some proficiency in the passing game.
The Commodores were off last week – which could lend itself to plays Ole Miss hasn’t scouted – but two weeks ago quarterback Ken Seals was 19 for 29 for 201 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia. He was intercepted once.
For that reason the Commodores will find the end zone a couple of times, but they’re giving up 40 points a game against the league.
The Rebels should be able to use the run to set up the pass, and when you can do that the offense really clicks.
There’s nothing easy about the SEC, but the Rebels should be favored at home against Texas A&M next week.
If they can get by that one suddenly they’re at Georgia, the SEC leader that has won games but hasn’t destroyed people.
It’s OK for me to look ahead, though it’s not OK for the Rebels. They won’t, and they’ll get by Vanderbilt Saturday night.
Prediction: Ole Miss 41, Vanderbilt 27
Southern Miss at Appalachian State
Time: 2:30 p.m. Streaming: ESPN-plus
Southern Miss has had its share of injuries on defense, but injuries are part of the game, and you’ve got to work through them without losing 55-3 like the Golden Eagles did at South Alabama last Tuesday.
While the Eagles have lost six straight, they’d managed to remain competitive in those losses.
Now the debacle in Mobile takes the season from a look of struggle to a look of one that’s gone off the rails.
The South Alabama game is one of those that causes AD’s to pause and reflect on the state of the program.
The Golden Eagles were 1-5 before the game when someone thought it would be a good idea to put up billboards in Mobile.
One billboard hailed Southern Miss as “A major college experience at a cost comparable to your local university.”
It was enough for South Alabama coach Kane Wommack, a Southern Miss alumni himself, to comment on it after the game, so you know it had his attention before the game.
Appalachian State is 3-4, 1-2 in Sun Belt play, but it hasn’t mattered who has faced Southern Miss of late.
The Mountaineers have been pretty fair at running the football, but Southern Miss has too many areas to improve to get into talking about matchups.
Hopefully some of that improvement shows up in Boone, North Carolina.
Prediction: Appalachian State 33, Southern Miss 19
Recipe of the Week
Citrus Sweet Potatoes
The cousins devoured these when Dad made them at Thanksgiving every year. Because it’s a Dad recipe there are no measurements.
- Five Sweet Potatoes
- Orange juice
- Citrus zest
- 1 stick butter
Peel then cut potatoes into small squares. Spread in a large baking pan. Toss with cinnamon, salt and sugar. Sprinkle zest on top. Add orange juice until potatoes are half-covered. Bake at 400 degrees for an hour or until tender. Baste every 15 minutes.
Read original article by clicking here.