Central Arkansas (0-0) at Ole Miss (0-0)
Kickoff: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Hugh Freeze will coach his first game at the helm of Ole Miss on Saturday. Photos by Paul Gandy, Rebels247
SETTING THE STAGE…
Hugh Freeze coaches his first game at the helm of the Ole Miss program against the FCS-member Central Arkansas Bears.
Ole Miss fans have suffered through two straight seasons of sub-mediocrity and are excited to see what the likable Freeze can do to change the fortunes of the program. They’re also excited to see Freeze’s high-octane, up-tempo version of the spread offense and would like to see points come in droves against the Bears.
Many across college football will keep an eye peeled on this game this weekend as a potential upset special. Ole Miss opened its 2010 season with a stunning double-overtime loss to FCS Jacksonville State in Oxford. That loss is still very fresh in the minds of Ole Miss fans and it’s a safe bet it has been mentioned more than once inside the Central Arkansas locker room.
The Rebels are coming off a dismal 2-10 season, while Central Arkansas posted a 9-4 mark, advancing to the second round of the NCAA playoffs. All four of UCA’s losses were to conference champions in 2011.
Sophomore Bo Wallace gets the starting nod for the Rebels at the quarterback position, but Freeze was careful to phrase it as Wallace would take the field for the first series.
Barry Brunetti will play but how much and how soon will likely depend on Wallace’s performance. Freeze has alluded that his two QBs may get roughly the same amount of snaps, but it is hard to imagine that any scripted scenario like that would play out if one of them develops the hotter hand.
Wallace needs his offensive line to be successful for him to show full mastery of the mile-a-minute Rebel attack. If the unproven Ole Miss O-line struggles in pass protection, the fleet-footed Brunetti could end up being the flavor of the day.
Bo Wallace (white jersey) will start at quarterback for Ole Miss on Saturday.
While Freeze technically still hasn’t named a No. 1 quarterback, Central Arkansas head coach Clint Conque named Wynrick Smothers his starter 10 days ago.
With only one career start under his belt, it will be interesting to watch Smothers operate inside an SEC stadium against an SEC defense. If things don’t go well for Smothers, you could see backups Jacoby Walker (an Arkansas transfer) or Ryan Howard pretty quickly.
RUN RANDALL, RUN…
He’s looked great in dress rehearsal, but has senior Randall Mackey really made a successful move to the running back position for Ole Miss?
Granted the UCA defense won’t be SEC caliber, but Saturday should offer the first real glimpse of Mackey’s capabilities as a running back. He’s looked awfully good in fall camp…good enough to perhaps keep the speedy Jeff Scott behind him on the backfield totem pole when Scott finally gets healthy.
Freeze wants to get the ball in Mackey’s hands as many as 20 times on Saturday. His durability will be tested.
Scott is unlikely to see action Saturday due to a nagging injury, leaving plenty of opportunities for true freshmen I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton.
A NUMBER TO KNOW: ZERO
With Scott likely out, Ole Miss will counter with the aforementioned 1-2-3 running back punch of Mackey, Walton and Mathers. The three combined have a total number of game carries as a running back on the college level of, well, zero. Sure, Mackey knows how to tote a football, but that’s the math.
True freshman Isaac Gross out of South Panola High School in Batesville, Miss., is expected to see plenty of action Saturday.
Freeze has said he could play as many as eight true freshmen on Saturday.
Especially look out for defensive tackle Isaac Gross, running backs Walton and Mathers, and defensive backs Trae Elston and Quintavius Burdette. Elston and Burdette could also have impacts in the return game.
Every pair of peakers in the stadium will be focused on true frosh defensive end Channing Ward when he runs on to the field for the first time, too.
Wide receiver Jesse Grandy played for Ole Miss in 2009 and 2010. He played last season at Central Arkansas and reeled in more than 700 yards worth of catches. He’s a senior on the Bears’ roster and their best wide out. Look for Grandy in the UCA return game, too. He accumulated 1,238 all-purpose yards last season.
CHARLES IN CHARGE…
The best defensive back on the field Saturday will be Ole Miss safety Charles Sawyer. Grandy and his fellow UCA receivers will have to deal with that fact. He’s the only non-specialist position player on the Rebels’ roster receiving widespread preseason SEC recognition and deservedly so.
FOR THE REBELS TO WIN…
Freeze’s offense has to find that sometimes seemingly mystical (in practice) up-tempo rhythm under one or both of the quarterbacks on Saturday. The offensive line and Mackey must combine to form a run game that must be respected by Central Arkansas. The Rebel defense needs to play mean and nasty and flash a lot of Landsharks in this one against an offense being led by an inexperienced quarterback playing behind an inexperienced offensive line.
FOR THE REBELS TO FALTER…
The Ole Miss offense would like to snap the football as many as four to five times per 60 seconds of game clock. Fail to make first downs and punter Tyler Campbell’s leg might fall off from overuse. Fail to make first downs and the Rebels can’t establish or create the pace Freeze would like from his offense, so there goes rhythm and tempo out the window. Fail to make first downs, and the defense will be left on the field to wither against a Central Arkansas offense that is expected to push the pedal to the metal just like the Rebels. The bottom line is the Ole Miss offense has to play in front of the chains on Saturday and keep those chains moving.
Ole Miss 42, Central Arkansas 14