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Rebels & Bulldogs hit the road, USM returns home – Week 5 CFB Preview

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Week 5 of the college football season has arrived. Ole Miss and Mississippi State will each head east for the weekened to face both of the ranked teams in Mississippi’s neighboring state, while USM opens C-USA play at home. Below, you can check out a brief preview for each game.

  • Ole Miss @ #2 Alabama

A week after their controversial loss to Cal, Ole Miss travels to Tuscaloosa to face #2 Alabama. The Rebels enter the game as heavy underdogs and with a banged-up starting QB. Even if Matt Corral is able to play with bruised ribs, head coach Matt Luke and OC Rich Rodriguez said earlier in the week that both he and true freshman John Rhys Plumlee may see the field. 

Related: Corral ‘didn’t do much,’ Plumlee takes first-team reps

Defensively, Ole Miss currently owns the 114th ranked pass defense, and Alabama boasts the 3rd-ranked passing attack in the country. The Rebel secondary was shredded by Cal’s Chase Garbers last week, allowing over 350 yards through the air. This week, they’ll face Tua Tagovailoa and a Bama offense with no shortage of talent across the field. WRs Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III will give the Rebel DBs all they can handle, and upfront, they’ve got to try and stop RB Najee Harris. 

“It’s a huge challenge,” Luke said. “They have one of the best quarterbacks in the country, three of the best receivers in the country, maybe four, and obviously a good running back. So, they are just very talented. You can kind of pick your poison. They are very, very talented and very hard to defend. Obviously, they are really, really fast and get behind you. The thing you see is even on some short routes, they are breaking tackles and scoring. They are hard to tackle in the open field. You have to tackle well against them and limit the big plays and make them earn it all the way down the field.”

In the last two seasons, Ole Miss has lost to Alabama by scores of 66-3 & 62-7. To avoid a similar result, the Rebels will have to play a perfect game in all three phases, and even then, it may not be enough.

Kickoff is set for 2:30.

  • Mississippi State @ #7 Auburn 

Mississippi State is also on the road as they travel to take on #7 Auburn. The Bulldogs were able to upset the Tigers in 2018 behind a dominant defensive effort in Starkville. Without the key contributors from last year’s upset, the Bulldogs face a tough task in attempting to earn their second straight win over the Tigers. 

Auburn’s offense leans heavily on their rushing attack, which Mississippi State will have to find ways to slow down and make true freshman QB Bo Nix beat them with his arm. The Bulldogs lead the SEC with 11 turnovers and forcing a few on Saturday while controlling the clock could be a winning formula. 

On offense, if Tommy Stevens’ injury keeps him out again, Garrett Shrader will make his second start for the Bulldogs. No matter who is under center, the offense will run through Kylin Hill, the SEC’s leading rusher. Through 4 games, Hill has rushed for just over 550 yards and 5 TDs. This week, he’ll face an Auburn defense whose strong suit is their defensive line. The Tiger defense is allowing just 89.5 rushing yards per game. 

While the Bulldogs had success in the matchup last year, head coach Joe Moorhead isn’t relying on past achievements. 

“I am just as nervous going into this one as I was last year. I just see a big, strong, physical, athletic front seven, Moorhead said. “You have to find ways to run the ball on them successfully and we were very fortunate to be able to do that [last year]. Between, Nick [Fitzgerald], who was close to 200 yards…and then Aries [Williams] and Kylin both combined for somewhere in the 150 [yard] range. We were fortunate to be able to do some things to keep them off-balanced with maybe a little more misdirection than we have normally done. You are not just going to line up and run the ball downhill at these guys. It doesn’t work that way. We are going to have to find creative ways to create space and angles.”

Kickoff from Auburn is set for 6:00 p.m. 

  • UTEP vs. Southern Miss

After a 3-game road trip, Southern Miss returns home to open conference play against UTEP at 6:00 p.m.

Southern Miss is a 26-point favorite in their conference home opener, but head coach Jay Hopson isn’t looking past UTEP. 

“UTEP is a good football team,” he said. “You’re going to hear me say it for eight-straight weeks. They’re an excellent football team, they’re well-coached. They played Nevada tooth and nail Saturday; probably a couple turnovers were critical in that game, so we know we got a good football team coming to town. We’ve got to be ready to play; we’ve got to bring our A game. They’re a football team that’s physical, they run the ball well, they can throw it, they’re just a football team that has our utmost respect. We know what’s coming to town.”

Early in the season, the Golden Eagles have flashed their big-play ability with WR Quez Watkins averaging 23.3 yards per reception and Jaylond Adams breaking 3 returns for TDs (2 kickoffs & 1 punt). 

Defensively, senior DQ Thomas continues to lead the Golden Eagles with a team-best 34 tackles, as well as notching both of the team’s interceptions this season. Junior Ky’el Hemby is next for the squad with 29 tackles.

The Golden Eagles and UTEP will meet this weekend for the 12th time in football with Southern Miss holding a 7-4 advantage in a series that dates back to Jan. 1, 1954, and the 1954 Sun Bowl. Southern Miss has won the last four games in the series, including a 39-7 victory last season in El Paso. Over the four-game win streak, the Golden Eagles have averaged 34.0 points to the Miners’ 6.8 during that stretch.

This will also be the beginning of alcohol sales at M.M. Roberts Stadium. For more information, click here. 

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