(Photos from OleMissFB, HailStateFB, and SouthernMissFB on X/Twitter)
Veteran sports writer Parrish Alford takes a look at the Week 3 matchups for Southern Miss, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Let’s take a look at the Week 3 matchups for Mississippi’s Big Three.
Georgia Tech at No. 17 Ole Miss
Time: 6:30 p.m. TV: ESPN2
Nothing brings more joy to a road trip than a dominant win. What happened for Ole Miss last week at Tulane was not a dominant feeling but a feeling of relief.
The feeling of dominance was last year when the Rebels won 42-0 at Georgia Tech. Nine days later head coach Geoff Collins was fired the Monday following a 27-10 loss to UCF.
Tech looks better off for the rematch.
Brent Key, a Yellow Jackets alum who was promoted to interim head coach after the firing, was retained when he kept the season from going off the rails. Key won his first game last year, a 26-21 upset at No. 24 Pitt. Tech finished 5-7.
There’s really only one game to help draw conclusions this season – a 39-34 loss to Louisville.
The Jackets took care of business last week beating South Carolina State 48-13.
Texas A&M transfer Haynes King appears to have brought some stability to the quarterback position with seven touchdown passes and just one interception in two games. He hit some big plays against Louisville – some short catch-and-run throws and some deep – to set up some touchdowns.
The Rebels caught a break last week when Tulane QB1 Michael Pratt did not play. The presence of Pratt wouldn’t necessarily have guaranteed a win for the Green Wave. That game was going to be close because Tulane has a legitimate Top 25 team.
The backup, Kai Horton, began the game by making some nice plays, but as things unfolded it became apparent he was not going to beat the Rebels with downfield throws. Horton made a critical error late in the game when he went out of bounds before the line to gain on a fourth down run.
What gave Ole Miss the most trouble in the Garden District last week was Tulane’s front seven which dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half. The Rebels were able to scheme the Greenies a little better – and block a little better too – after halftime.
Postgame saw the Rebels patting themselves on the back for overcoming adversity on the road. That’s a nice thought, but it will take a while to be able to identify that maturity as a trend and not an isolated incident.
It’s better to avoid the adversity if possible, and the Rebels can do that this week if they can run the ball.
It’s perplexing that a team that was third nationally with 256.6 yards a game – and returned most key components including running back Quinshon Judkins – would run for just 143 against Mercer and less than 100 against Tulane.
Rebels coach Lane Kiffin says he intends to get that fixed – a noble goal. The Rebels need their run game.
Ole Miss rushed for 316 yards and six touchdowns against Georgia Tech last year.
Louisville rushed for 227 yards against Tech, and South Carolina State had 196.
Chances are the Rebels, with a renewed commitment, get their share in a rocking Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with fans energized by a night game against a Power Five foe.
If they cover the middle of the field defensively, they will mitigate King’s mobility and the catch-and-run plays.
Prediction: Ole Miss 35, Georgia Tech 24
No. 14 LSU at Mississippi State
Time: 11 a.m. TV: ESPN
This game has some interesting similarities to last year when State underachieved in Tiger Stadium and left a win on the table as LSU pulled away late in a 31-16 loss.
A year ago, LSU was two weeks removed from a disappointing loss to Florida State with a gigantic win over a SWAC team the following week. Same script for the Tigers this time.
The script is not the same for Mississippi State which is fortunate to be 2-0.
Credit the usually stout Bulldogs defense for forcing the turnovers that helped State take an early 14-0 lead but not for giving up 431 yards of offense.
State’s secondary sans Emmaneul Forbes watched Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura pass for 342 yards. He threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another.
When the MSU defense had a chance to close out the game and win in regulation it let Arizona drive 57 yards and kick a chip-shot field goal to force overtime.
Credit the group for making the plays in the extra period, but there’s plenty to clean up as the schedule shifts gears.
Another frightening similarity is that the Bulldogs at times struggled to contain de Laura just as they struggled with LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels last year. Daniels rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown. He wasn’t as accurate in Week 3 as he would later become. State caught Daniels behind the line three times, but he didn’t throw an interception.
Daniels was one of the Tigers’ few bright spots against Florida State. He had 90 rushing yards before the minus yards from four sacks was calculated. He threw for 347 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He’ll be a better version of Jayden de Laura.
Last year LSU was vulnerable. The Tigers were coming off a losing season in which head coach Ed Orgeron was fired just three years removed from winning the national championship. LSU was trying to find itself under Brian Kelly.
It’s never about a shortage of athletes with this bunch no matter who’s coaching.
State went into Baton Rouge with the more experienced quarterback, Will Rogers, in his third season with Mike Leach. There aren’t a lot of games I’ve covered at LSU where I expected the Mississippi team to win, but that was one. The Bulldogs failed to execute some plays and made some critical mistakes.
Now Rogers is again the more experienced quarterback, but he’s in a new offense that has yet to do great things. The Bulldogs managed just 307 yards against Arizona.
State ran the ball 69 percent of the time last week but not on the second play of overtime when Rogers threw his third touchdown pass to secure the win.
There’s just too much inconsistency on each side right now to believe the Bulldogs improve to 3-0.
Prediction: LSU 31, MSU 28
Tulane at Southern Miss
Time: 3 p.m. TV: ESPNU
The Florida State game skews the stats since the Seminoles rushed for 306 yards, but a warning sign flashed in the season opener.
The Eagles defeated Alcorn State 40-14, and that was a nice warm fuzzy feeling on Opening Night, but the Braves rushed for 182 yards in the process. Alcorn is an experienced rushing team, but that kind of effort from the FCS team on your schedule will lead to problems from the better Group of Five teams that the Eagles will face.
Tulane is one of those teams.
The Green Wave dropped out of the AP Top 25 after a 37-20 loss to Ole Miss likely because some voters saw only a 17-point defeat. What I saw was the most physical Tulane team I’ve seen in years.
The Greenies controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half. Ole Miss schemed them up better in the second, and the Rebels were better defensively then, but Tulane plays fast and hard. And this week probably mad.
Time will tell if Florida State’s rapid ascent to No. 4 in the rankings is appropriate, but the Seminoles overwhelmed Southern Miss and have looked really good the first two weeks.
It’s a stretch to find a silver lining in a 66-13 loss, but I’ll offer a couple.
Quarterback Billy Wiles threw only one interception – the only turnover the Eagles had in the game. Unfortunately, it was returned 30 yards for a touchdown, but there was plenty of other misfortune for Southern Miss.
The lone pick says Wiles is making good decisions most of the time. Time is something he lacked when he dropped to pass, and that’s why he completed just 11 of 34 attempts. But Wiles averaged more than 14 yards per completion, so he’s seeing the field when he has time and is making something happen.
It’s concerning that Frank Gore hasn’t gotten going yet. He’s obviously No. 1 on the opponent scouting report, but your best player has to show up against your toughest opponents.
Southern got a nice game from Memphis transfer running back Rodrigues Clark, the Starkville native, who had 86 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Rodrigues and Gore can complement one another in the ground game when Gore returns to form. That may be easier said than done against Tulane which has yet to give up 100 yards rushing in a game.
It was mid-week when a Tulane beat writer told me Pratt needed to regain some mobility for Willie Fritz to really feel good about playing him. He could be a game-time decision again.
However, I think this one turns on USM’s ability to get Gore going, not only to move the chains but to open passing lanes and help Wiles gain some confidence.
And Pratt or Pratt-less, I’m not sure that happens against the Tulane front.
Prediction: Tulane 26, Southern Miss 21
Recipe of the Week
Classic Mac and Cheese
It’s hard to get excited about mac and cheese, so I didn’t when my wife clipped this from The Daily Journal years ago. It quickly became our preferred mac and cheese.
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Half of one 16-ounce package of elbow macaroni, cooked
Whisk flour into melted butter over medium low heat. Whisk constantly for 1 minute. Warm milk in microwave. Gradually whisk in warm milk and cook mixture until thickened. Whisk in cheese, salt, pepper, and red pepper if desired. Stir in macaroni. Spread over lightly greased baking dish. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Top with some leftover shredded cheese in the final minutes.