1. How much will the long layoff effect Ole Miss?
Matt Sigler (@SigNewton_2): I think the long layoff will show early in the game, but eventually, I believe Ole Miss will settle in and not have any problems getting things back on track.
David Collier (@DavidLCollier): There’s no doubt it will have an effect on both teams, and with the two different offensive styles both teams run, it favors Pittsburgh’s pro style offense. However, I think midway through the first half, the Rebels start clicking offensively. The important thing is for the defense to hold down the Panthers while the offense figures itself out.
Austin Miller (@austinkmiller): While I expect some early sluggishness from both teams after such a long layoff, for Ole Miss, I think it was more about getting healthy, particularly on defense and sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace.
2. Is the play of the Rebel offense or defense more critical for Ole Miss to get a win Saturday?
Sigler: I believe it is the offense. Coming off two solid offensive performances to end the season, I think the success of the offense dictates how well the defense plays in a way. Therefore if the offense struggles, the defense is forced to play more snaps, which I believe would be a worse case.
Collier: It has to be the defense. Hugh Freeze will find a way for Ole Miss to put points on the board, but it is up to the Rebel defense to stop a balanced Pittsburgh offense that doesn’t turn the ball over a lot. Tino Sunseri, Pittsburgh’s senior quarterback, only has two interceptions this season, so the Rebel defense will have to create any takeaways that get.
Miller: It’s the play of the defense. The offense was clicking at the end of the season in the LSU and Mississippi State games. The defense will have to limit big plays and stop the run. Pittsburgh senior quarterback Tino Sunseri is efficient, but not explosive in the passing game.
3. What is the main key to the game?
Sigler: I think the main key to the game is Ole Miss getting their running game going. The Rebels have performed much better when they rush the ball well and are able to mix the run in with the pass.
Collier: On offense, Ole Miss has to take care of the ball, especially early. Things may not be as crisp early on, and if the Rebels can avoid mistakes that get them in a hole, they’ll be OK. Defensively, Ole Miss has to get pressure on the quarterback. WIth a quarterback like Sunseri, getting them in long passing downs will be key to keeping the Panthers offense on the sideline.
Miller: As it is for most bowl games, it’s motivation. It’s two evenly matched 6-6 teams, so who wants to be there? Ole Miss finished strong, but will it carry over more than a month later? It’s Pittsburgh’s third-straight trip to Birmingham, but the first time in that span it retained its coach. How does that factor in?
4. Who gets the win and who is named MVP of the game?
Sigler: I’ll say Ole Miss and Bo Wallace as offensive MVP and Denzel Nkemdiche as defensive MVP.
Collier: I’m going to say Ole Miss takes control early in the fourth quarter and wins 34-21. Offensively, sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace, who is as healthy as he’s been in quite some time, will win the MVP, while redshirt freshman linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche continues to lead the Rebel defense to claim hold of the defensive MVP of the game.
Miller: Ole Miss by a touchdown, and I expect another big day from Bo Wallace on the offensive side and C.J. Johnson on the defensive side.
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