Ole Miss is the lone Southeastern Conference team that has yet to play a conference opponent. That changes Saturday, when the Rebels head to Tuscaloosa to take on the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN.
Head coach Hugh Freeze hopes Ole Miss’ second experience on primetime television goes better than the first time against Texas in Oxford on Sept. 15.
“Hopefully, we’ve matured some since our last experience in primetime play against Texas here,” Freeze said. “We’ll get another opportunity to do that again. It’s just another step along the way in our journey.
“We get to play a great football team with a great staff. They’re the gold standard in football right now. Being a competitor, which I hope our kids and coach are, you want to play in those environments. It will be a fun environment to play in, and we will get to see where we are in the next step our journey.”
Ole Miss enters this week coming off of a 39-0 win against Tulane, a game that Freeze called Ole Miss’ “most complete” performance so far.
One aspect that will have to be improved is ball control, as the Rebels lost three fumbles against the Green Wave.
“I was not near as pleased after the game because of the number of balls that were on the ground,” Freeze said. “After you watch the film and break it down, I did think that our kids had great effort, and we got better in a lot of places. Unfortunately, when you put the ball on the ground, it’s hard to feel good about your game.”
The Crimson Tide rank second in the SEC in turnover margin at plus-10 and allow just over three yards per play defensively.
“The thing is you just don’t see is they don’t get out of position,” Freeze said. “It is very, very rare.
“They’ve got eight (big plays) that they’ve given up, and most of those occurred when the game was well in hand and he had his backups in. They’re just not giving up big plays. They’re always in position and they’re very fundamentally sound. Then you add to that how talented they are, it is very difficult to say they have a weakness.
Morris honored by SEC
Sophomore offensive guard Aaron Morris was named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the week for his performance this past weekend against Tulane.
Morris and the Rebels’ offensive line paved the way for 304 rushing yards on 53 carries. He also graded out the highest of any Ole Miss offensive lineman this year.
“He’s the first lineman we’ve had grade out over 80 percent this year, and Coach Luke is very difficult on his grading system and expects a lot out of them,” Freeze said. “He’s the most talented kid we have. He is an SEC lineman for sure. We need him to be effective, and he did have his best game.
“When he knows what to do and is comfortable with what is going on, he can be very good.”
Morris is the third player — and second offensive lineman — to claim a weekly award this year, joining sophomore defensive end C.J. Johnson (Week 1) and senior offensive guard A.J. Hawkins from (Week 2).
Sophomore wide receiver Collins Moore, who is working through a torn labrum, caught his first pass of the season on Saturday against Tulane. There had been a debate on whether to play Moore or go ahead and have labrum surgery, and it appears Moore will continue to play.
“It looks like we’re going to proceed with him playing,” Freeze said. “It’s just a long season. As you can see already, we’re getting beaten up some. We’re going to need him, and he wants to play. It looks like we’re going to proceed forward with it.
“Game six would be the end of it. There are several different ways you can go about it, but it looks like we’re going to proceed with him playing.”
According to Matt Ball, the senior associate athletics director for compliance, “The injury has to have occurred prior to the second half of the playing season and results in incapacity to compete for the remainder of the playing season.
“Additionally, the athlete may not compete in more than three contests, or 30 percent of the scheduled contests in order to qualify for a hardship waiver.”
Ole Miss is also hopeful to get injured defensive tackles Uriah Grant and Woodrow Hamilton back, and “maybe” slot receiver Korvic Neat as well.
Quarterback Bo Wallace was also injured Saturday, hurting his throwing shoulder during the game. He’s expected to be ready to play Saturday.
“I think he’ll be fine, but you never know when you’re dealing with injuries to quarterbacks,” Freeze said. “He was moving around yesterday and doing OK — sore like a lot of our kids are. Bo, I don’t know if he’ll be ready Tuesday, but I do expect him to go (Saturday).”
Texas A&M game time announced
Kickoff for Ole Miss’ SEC home opener against the Texas A&M Aggies on Oct. 6 has been set for 6 p.m. CT, the Southeastern Conference announced Monday.
The game will be televised by ESPNU.
Ole Miss Sports Inforamation contributed to this report.
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss football, follow @thedm_sports and @bennetthipp on Twitter.