(Photos from HailStateFB, SouthernMissFB, and OleMissFB on X/Twitter)
Veteran sports writer Parrish Alford takes a look at the Week 2 matchups for Southern Miss, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Let’s take a look at the Week 2 matchups for Mississippi’s Big Three.
Arizona at Mississippi State
There were games last year where Mississippi State looked absolutely dominant. Texas A&M and Arkansas come to mind.
So does Arizona.
The Bulldogs caught Arkansas when KJ Jefferson didn’t play, but the way Will Rogers and the Air Raid were clicking Jefferson’s absence really didn’t matter.
In Week 2 last year, State was coming off a blowout win against Memphis in which it started strong then coasted to the finish line.
Arizona had been downtrodden of late, going just 1-11 in 2021, but the Wildcats were improving, and you never know what playing a power five road game in a western time zone really means.
Arizona took the opening kick and drove 75 yards for a score then had 216 yards the rest of the night. Will Rogers threw four touchdown passes, and State won 39-17.
Arizona, like State, opened with an FCS team, winning 38-3 against Northern Arizona.
Like the Bulldogs against Southeastern Louisiana, Arizona blew things open in the second half.
Arizona fans like the progress they’re seeing under third-year coach Jedd Fisch, and in what some are calling the most anticipated football season in five years believe bowl-eligibility is a reasonable next step.
But they question whether this team is ready to win an SEC road game.
The Wildcats have an experienced offensive line with Outland Trophy candidates in tackles Jonah Savaiinaea and Jordan Morgan.
The Wildcats rushed for 186 yards and 6.9 yards per carry last week, and quarterback Jayden de Laura threw for 285 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
Those are numbers you expect against an FCS team with the exception of the pick.
It took a half of football before State really looked comfortable on offense in the post-Mike Leach Era.
Ultimately the Bulldogs hit a groove and rushed for more than 200 yards in the second half.
Rogers looked more comfortable after halftime.
This game will look different than it did last year.
While Arizona has some talent on the offensive line don’t look for the Wildcats to march up and down the field against the Bulldogs’ talented and experienced front seven. State held Southeastern Louisiana to 208 total yards. Linebacker Nathaniel Watson showed his range with 1 ½ tackles for loss, a forced fumble which he also recovered, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. He had eight tackles.
The Wildcats are better defensively, and State with its new offense will be seeing an FBS team for the first time.
Prediction: Mississippi State 29, Arizona 13
Southern Miss at No. 4 Florida State
Time: 7:30. TV: ACC Network
It’s a giant step up in competition for the Golden Eagles, but the good news is they get to take the step after a solid Opening Night performance in a 40-14 win over Alcorn State.
Southern Miss was able to check two important boxes against the Braves: New quarterback Billy Wiles was confident and efficient and running back Frank Gore Jr. did not get hurt.
Southern Miss coach Will Hall wisely limited Gore’s exposure, but Gore played long enough to run for 29 yards on six carries and catch three passes. He scored on a 9-yard run and a 2-yard pass from Wiles.
Wiles threw one interception but completed 21 of 28 attempts – 75 percent – for 267 yards and three touchdowns.
He had success downfield too, his average completion going for 12.3 yards.
Quarterback play was a big box to check.
The Golden Eagles will face more talented teams, but an FCS opponent in the first game was a good thing for a transfer who didn’t take many game-day snaps at Clemson.
For Southern Miss, it was not good to see Alcorn State – albeit a good SWAC rushing team – average 6.3 yards per carry and run for 182 yards overall. That’s something to keep an eye on.
The Braves ran only 43 plays and finished with 226 total yards. Southern Miss picked off two passes.
All in all a lot to build on as the Eagles take on a team whose high expectations a week ago became much higher late Saturday night after Florida State put the final touches on a 45-24 win over LSU.
There were times in the game that FSU quarterback Jordan Travis looked nervous. He threw some ill-advised passes, but only one was picked off. He finished with 342 yards and four touchdowns.
The Seminoles were much more physical than LSU at every position. They sacked LSU QB Jayden Daniels four times and limited the Tigers to 113 yards rushing.
The ’Noles jumped 11 spots in the AP Top 25 this week to No. 4.
Frank Gore will need to play a little more this week.
It seems like a daunting task, but it did in 1989 too when the Golden Eagles went to Tallahassee and won 30-26 against No. 6 Florida State.
That was a Brett Favre team, and Favre had more experience then than one game against Alcorn State.
Expect the game to speed up for Wiles this week. If the Golden Eagles are to have a chance he’ll have to make those same good decisions under more more duress. That will likely effect his accuracy and downfield success.
Gore will be more involved and will flash some of his ability, but it will be hard for him to carry the team.
Prediction: Florida State 41, Southern Miss 20
No. 20 Ole Miss at No 24 Tulane
Time: 2:30 p.m. TV: ESPN2
This may not be your father’s Green Wave team, but it may be your great grandfather’s team.
Tulane has struggled for generations, but last year’s group that won 12 games and defeated USC in the Cotton Bowl is playing like the old SEC champion Tulane teams. Tulane’s three SEC titles are more than charter members Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
In recent years, however, Ole Miss fans could have looked at this game as an opportunity for a nice relaxing trip to New Orleans.
Instead it’s a top-25 matchup on the road, and the Rebels are going to have to bring their A game to win.
Tulane will look at this as an opportunity to prove it’s worth. While the Green Wave themselves are top 25-quality there’s not another opponent on their schedule that is currently ranked.
Last week’s 37-17 win over South Alabama marked the first time Tulane was ranked for a season-opening game since 1949.
Ole Miss was solid in its opening game although “solid” always comes with an asterisk when you’re playing the FCS game.
When that game appears on the schedule – and I think the FCS game is a good thing – it’s really about playing against yourself, working hard to maintain focus and playing a clean and efficient game.
That’s exactly what Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart did. Dart hit his first 10 passes and went 18 for 23 for 334 yards and four touchdowns in the Rebels’ 73-7 win over Mercer.
It was a different approach for an Ole Miss team that was so run-heavy last year, but Lane Kiffin was never set out to establish the run. Instead he established the pass, and Dart looked to have special chemistry with receiver Tre Harris, a Louisiana Tech transfer.
Eventually Dart spread the ball around, and Jordan Watkins and Harris each finished with six catches, but Harris had 133 yards and touchdowns.
Harris’ physicality brought back memories of dominant Ole Miss receivers like A.J. Brown and Laquon Treadwell.
There was also a reemergence of the tight end with Michael Trigg getting three catches and Hudson Wolfe one.
You can almost hear the chorus of “If Trigg can only stay focused …” Everyone with that hot take is spot on. It will be huge for the Ole Miss offense if it plays out.
Defensively, the Rebels gave up only one touchdown, that on an early long run by Mercer quarterback Carter Peevy, but the Bears possessed the ball and moved the chains in the first half. They had 15 first downs for the game.
The defense, in its first game under new coordinator Pete Golding, was a little better than OK.
Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt will present a much bigger challenge.
Pratt had four touchdown passes against South Alabama giving him 72 for his Tulane career to tie the school record.
Pratt’s not a stiff in the pocket, but he wins by making good decisions on time and throwing with accuracy. He was 14 for 15 last week.
Look for star running back Quinshon Judkins to be more involved this week.
The Rebels won’t be as vanilla on defense. They show some different looks to Pratt and will make more of an effort to disrupt his timing.
Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Tulane 27
Recipe of the Week
I love these as a side with all things BBQ. You can make them hotter or add sausage and make them heavy. They’re versatile.
- 1 cup grits
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup milk
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons Tony Chachere’s seasoning
- 2 tablespoons Tabasco
- 2 eggs beaten.
Cook grits according to package instructions, remove from heat, mix in next seven ingredients. Stir until butter and cheese melt. Mix a small amount of hot grits with eggs, return the mixture to the pot and stir. Pour grits into lightly greased baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for an hour.