Mizzou football faces its toughest rushing opponent in its first game without its start linebacker.
The Mizzou football-Ole Miss matchup begins a slate of SEC games that ends the year for the Tigers.
Ole Miss is the first of Mizzou’s two SEC West games, and it ends a five-game home streak for Mizzou. The five-game home streak is capped off Saturday night with the 108th homecoming for the Tigers.
On the field, Mizzou will try to continue its winning ways as the Tigers welcome a Rebels team to town with a fresh quarterback while trying to slow down Mizzou with an improved defense.
Here’s a look at Ole Miss:
Ole Miss is 3-3, but some would argue the Rebels should be 5-1, or at least 4-2.
They had a couple close games against Memphis in Week 1 and California last month. But Ole Miss picked up wins against Vanderbilt and Arkansas, so the Mizzou Tigers would be its biggest win to date, and an important one for coach Matt Luke.
The Rebels will be led by a new quarterback in run-first John Rhys Plumlee.
He stepped in three weeks ago and has led the Ole Miss offense since. The freshman has 327 yards over three games played.
With the addition of Plumlee, the Rebels now are a top rushing team, gaining 1,406 yards on the ground for an average of 234 per game. It’s going to take a lot for the Tigers to stop the rushing attack, and even more with the loss of middle linebacker Cale Garrett. This is the ball game.
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At running back, Ole Miss has a plethora of bodies led by Scottie Phillips. The senior has a team-high 451 yards rushing. But there are a bunch of Rebels who have more than 200 yards on the ground.
Jerrion Ealy (305) and Snoop Conner (248) also have gotten the ground game going for Ole Miss.
Plumlee tosses the ball about 20 times a game, and he has two scores through the air. His 327 rushing yards is near equal to his 322 passing.
Elijah Moore is the top target with 36 receptions for 460 yards and three scores. The 5-foot-9 sophomore could be locked one-on-one with Mizzou CB DeMarkus Acy while the rest of the defense looks to stop the rush. But Moore’s numbers have taken a hit the past two weeks with only seven catches for 80 yards.
On defense, Ole Miss runs a 3-4 set that is 18th against the run.
Middle linebacker Lakia Henry leads the team with 42 tackles and 22 solo stops. He’ll be watching right down the middle for Kelly Bryant and Co. when they try to run. The middle of the defense attacks, and nose tackle Benito Jones is one of the top players on this team.
The All-SEC’er has 20 tackles, six quarterback hits and an interception to go with three sacks — as a nose tackle. Jones leads the Rebels in sacks.
He’ll be right in front of Mizzou’s line, but the center and guard combination of Trystan Colon-Castillo and Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms has been steady for Mizzou.
Ole Miss has five interceptions this year, all shared between five players. The Rebels’ weakness appears to be the secondary. Cornerback Jaylon Jones is without an interception, but he has five pass breakups, a team high. The Rebels use their safeties to help stop the run, so Bryant could attack this defense with Albert Okwuegbunam over the top or a wide-out outside. I feel I write it every week, but I think Albert O could have a big day.
For now, it appears he saves his production for the end zone.
Mizzou football should be able to win this one. The Tigers have a freshman QB in front of them who leads the Rebels in a night game on homecoming, that will help.
The Tigers have a great rush defense that will be tested, and they will take a hit with the loss of Garrett. But it’s possible others will step up, because the rush defense as a group has been solid.
That is what should win the Tigers this game.