Preview: Tennessee vs. Ole Miss

Texas A&M v MississippiMuch like my prediction of the Ole Miss/Alabama game, my prediction for the Ole Miss/Texas A&M game was pretty much spot on*. So go ahead and get your wallets out because my preview for Ole Miss/Tennessee is one you can take right to the bank.

The Tennessee Vols and their rabidly loyal fan base had realistic but high hopes for the 2014 football season. The team is young on both lines, but returned some offensive firepower primarily in the form of Justin Worley. A winning season and bowl bid were not out of the question. But then a few bad things happened for the Big Orange. First, Kentucky started playing good football taking away what many Vol faithful had penciled in as a “W”. The second, of course, was Wil Muschamp and the Gators going into Knoxville and leaving 100,000+ people “disappointed.”

Once Kentucky started winning games and Muschamp trolled the hell out of Vol Nation, it was hard to go through the UT schedule and find six wins. After this week’s matchup with the Rebels, the Vols still have Alabama, Kentucky, and Mizzou at home, and trips to South Carolina and (poor, pitiful) Vandy. There’s no way Tennessee wins three of those and gets to a bowl. They just aren’t ready to win tough games right now. But next year, and really the year after that, watch out, because the Vols will be back in the national picture in a big way.

As for Ole Miss, there really isn’t a whole lot I can say about them that I haven’t already said. After absolutely dismantling Texas A&M in front of about a million (110,000) people, there’s no doubt that the Rebs are for real. The offense is clicking. Bo Wallace has been #GreatBo the past two weeks. And the defense is otherworldly. Before the two garbage time touchdowns A&M scored at the end of the game, the Ole Miss defense had scored as many touchdowns as it had given up. These guys are scary good.

Check out the defensive plays on this highlight video for proof:

As for this week’s game, I think Ole Miss wins easily. Tennessee, like I said earlier, is not ready to win tough games. And Ole Miss has their sights set on something bigger. Hugh Freeze has his team, the fans, and now the national media believing. You can damn sure bet he’s not going to let his men lose to an inferior Tennessee team, at home, for homecoming. It’s just not going to happen.

Three things to watch:

1) Robert Nkemdiche.

After a Tennessee fan released a months old Snapchat of Bobby Murder (Can we make that a thing?) taking a hit off of a bong in hopes of getting him in trouble, I imagine Nkemdiche will be out to make a point. Justin Worley ought to find that fan and punch him right in the face, because with the Busch league attempt at creating controversy combined with the youth of the Vol’s O-line, I think Worley is going to have a long night. Seriously though, #BobbyMurder.

2) Bo Wallace.

Dr. Bo grew up a Tennessee fan. This will be his first time to face the team he always wanted to play for. Will he be out to make a statement against the team that never recruited him? Will he try to force things and return to his Bad Bo ways? It should be interesting to see how he and the offense react to playing a team they should beat after getting past Alabama and Texas A&M. I think Bo will be just fine, but I do think he will throw his first interception against an SEC opponent this week. It won’t matter though.

3) Tennessee’s attitude.

After the heartbreaker against Florida, Tennessee rebounded fine against Chattanooga. But if they get down early to the Rebels, will the young Vols just give up? Or will Butch Jones be able to keep his team fighting? I’m curious to see how well these kids will buy in as freshmen. It will go a long way to determine how they come together as a team and how successful they will be in future seasons.

This weekend will be a fun one for Ole Miss fans. It’s a rare appearance for the Vols in Oxford. The next one won’t be until at least 2026. So I expect it to be quite the party for 2014 Homecoming. There will be plenty of orange in the stadium, but this weekend belongs to the Rebels and their fans. Ole Miss jumps out early; the defense takes UT out of the game; conservative Rebel play calling in the 2nd half; late touchdown from the Vols against second string Rebs’ defense. Ole Miss is going to win big. Make your bets accordingly.

Ole Miss 31 – Tennessee 10

*While my prediction was spot on, there was an error in the article. I wrote that Texas A&M struggled at home against Arkansas. That game was played at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, not Kyle Field in College Station. My apologies.

Warner Russell covers Ole Miss Football for MemphiSport. Read his non-sports stuff over on The Wise Guise. Follow him on Twitter @uncle_warny.

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