In this week’s edition of Four Downs, The Daily Mississippian football beat writers John Luke McCord and Matt Sigler and sports editor David Collier answer four questions regarding the week’s matchup.
1. How much of an impact will Vince Sanders’ return have on the offense this week?
Matt Sigler (@SigNewton_2): Vince Sanders will make a big impact this week when he returns to the field. His return really opens up the options for quarterback Bo Wallace and, I believe, allows head coach Hugh Freeze to potentially think about throwing in some new wrinkles into the offense.
John Luke McCord (@JLgrindin): Vince Sanders’ return is huge for the Rebels. It is almost the equivalent of adding another player of the value that Laquon Treadwell has been this season. I say that because the Rebels now have another playmaker in the slot, as Ja-Mes Logan will return to that position and Sanders will be back at the wide spot opposite Donte Moncrief. You also have a weapon outside, as Sanders is more of a true outside receiver than Logan.
David Collier (@DavidLCollier): This week, it may not matter, but down the road, I think it’s huge. The Rebels already have put up points in bunches this season, but the run game has been a big reason for it. The passing game has been good, but they haven’t had to win a game by themselves just yet. Adding Sanders will make that task easier when it comes.
2. Do you think the bye week hurt or helped Ole Miss with the No. 1 team waiting afterwards?
Sigler: Definitely helped. This was a team that needed to get healthy and they were able to do so during the bye. Also, any time you’ve got the No. 1 team in the country on the schedule, who wouldn’t mind an extra week of game planning?
McCord: I think it helped the Rebels. Momentum was created with the 3-0 start; however, the extra week allowed them to be able to get as healthy as they could be. They get a healthy, fresh Sanders and Denzel Nkemdiche. I think the bye week allowed them time to really get a feel and a respect for the Tide, as well. They have had time to reflect on their start and assess their upcoming challenge. I certainly think the bye week helped.
Collier: I don’t think we’ll know for sure until after the game Saturday. Obviously, a loss can’t be blamed on the bye week, but will the offense still be in the same rhythm they were in against Texas or will they have a tough time getting going early on? That’s the biggest question for me.
3. Some of the comments junior quarterback Bo Wallace made about the Alabama secondary were criticized in the media. Do you think Wallace said anything he shouldn’t have?
Sigler: I don’t think so. I think what you are seeing there is a confident quarterback and a side of Wallace that shows he is a leader and believes in his team.
McCord: I think Wallace said what any quarterback of a 3-0 team with a high-powered offense would say. Arguably, the Rebels do have the best receiver corps in the SEC. I think Wallace was being a leader and showing his teammates love. I don’t think he was trying to downplay any other team.
Collier: Absolutely not. I was there, and nothing he said was out of line at all. I don’t buy that a team like Alabama, who has won back-to-back national titles, needs “bulletin board material” to get motivated. I think the “No. 1” in front of their name and the five-star athletes sitting on the sidelines are motivation enough for the starters.
4. Ole Miss appears as though they are more prepared to face an elite team this season. Are they ready for this type of game and what must happen for the Rebels to be in it in the fourth quarter?
Sigler: I think Ole Miss is ready to stand toe to toe with Alabama. For them to win this game, I think they will have to jump out early like they did against Texas, but this time play with the lead better.
McCord: The Rebels are ready for this challenge. Even had the game been close in the fourth quarter last season, I believe they would have found a way to lose the game. This year, I think they are very capable of winning if this game is close late. For them to win, A.J. McCarron must have a very un-McCarron-like day, and they must win the turnover battle.
Collier: I think they’re ready to compete, but not win one of these slugfests just yet. Ole Miss is improved, but the Crimson Tide have so many ways they can beat you, it’s tough to come out on top, especially on the road. For it to happen, the Rebels need to force turnovers, capitalize on every turnover and take care of the ball.