Rebels a different team than a year ago

David Collier

Just like last season, Ole Miss enters a matchup with Texas siting at 2-0. However, the Rebels aren’t the same team the Longhorns saw in last season’s 66-31 blowout.

Instead, the 25th-ranked Rebels are a squad basking in confidence after a strong finish to 2012 and a Top 10 ranked signing class. On the other hand, the Longhorns are looking to stop the bleeding after a shocking 40-21 loss at BYU last weekend.

“We’re excited to be 2-0 and to be going to Austin,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. “It will be a great atmosphere, and [Texas] will have a chip on their shoulder. Texas will be ready to prove that they are better than they performed last week. We 
understand what we’ll get from them. We’ll have to challenge our kids to see if we can raise our game and match Texas’ level of intensity.”

Last year, matching the level of intensity and physicality was a challenge for Ole Miss. Texas put up 676 total yards, including 350 yards on the ground in last year’s contest, and it was the first failed test of the Freeze era 
in Oxford.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace called last year’s game with the Longhorns “overwhelming” earlier in the week, but he also added the Rebels are more prepared going into a big matchup.

And why shouldn’t they be?

Wallace and Co. have been through the gauntlet that is the Southeastern Conference Western Division since then.

But most importantly, the Ole Miss offense relies heavily on one play: the read option – which happens to be what broke the back of the Texas defense that gave up 550 rushing yards to BYU.

“That’s what we do,” Wallace said of the read option. “As long as we execute, we feel like we’re going to get some yards.”

In six quarters of action this season, Wallace has led Ole Miss to 70 points and six of the Rebels nine touchdowns this year have come from the read option. So there’s little doubt Freeze’s offense feels it’s up to the challenge come Saturday, but on the defensive side of the ball, it’s a different story.

Ole Miss remains extremely thin in the secondary, so Texas should test the Rebel corners with deep balls early and often like last year. On the ground, Ole Miss is better suited to slow down the Longhorn running backs.

The Rebel defensive line returns some key pieces from last year and added the No. 1 overall recruit in defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who has started the first two games of the year. Still, the front seven for Ole Miss will be tested Saturday night.

Despite the distractions surrounding Texas’ program, the Longhorns still have to be the team to beat.

However, it shouldn’t be the same blowout game as last year. Freeze will have his team ready to play, and if Texas gets down on itself, it could mean a big win for Ole Miss.