Veteran sports writer Parrish Alford takes a look at the Week 5 matchups for Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss.
No. 12 Alabama at Mississippi State
Time: 8 p.m. TV: ESPN
Man, I don’t miss an 8 p.m. start. For clarity, that means I don’t miss “working” an 8 p.m. start, not that I watch all 8 p.m. starts.
State’s 37-30 loss at South Carolina almost felt like a win considering the beatdown the Bulldogs suffered the week before against LSU.
I thought Will Rogers would be better, and he was. The play-calling of Kevin Barbay, with more deep throws, and Rogers own performance gave the Bulldogs a chance to win.
Rogers looked confident and comfortable, not like the lost puppy that he did in the Bulldogs’ 41-14 loss to LSU.
He passed for 487 yards and a touchdown with 63 percent accuracy, but he likely lost sleep over his fumble that changed the game.
And it wasn’t his fault.
An SEC right tackle has to do more to slow down an edge rusher than Kameron Jones did on the sack-fumble that led to Carolina’s clinching touchdown.
You can debate whether Rogers’ arm was going forward, but it would have been a meaningless discussion had Jones slowed his man just a little bit.
Tulu Griffin had seven catches for 256 yards and a touchdown, an average gain of 36.6.
I’ve watched this guy the last two weeks and wondered why he was so under-utilized on offense last year.
Unfortunately, State’s defense didn’t experience the same impressive turnaround as its offense and for the second-straight week was lit up by the opposing quarterback.
Spencer Rattler was 18 for 20 – with seven completions of 10-plus yards, five of 15-plus – for 288 yards and three touchdowns.
So the last two weeks combined the Bulldogs have allowed 48 pass completions in 54 attempts for 649 yards and five touchdowns. SEC opponents have dropped to pass 54 times, and the Bulldogs have no interceptions.
Yes, Emmanuel Forbes was a first-round selection, a pick-six machine and a huge loss, but the Bulldogs have to be more competitive in the secondary if they’re going to win games.
Fortunately for State, it won’t face an elite quarterback this week.
It will, however, face a quarterback with more confidence coming off a win. That’s good news for Alabama’s Jalen Milroe, but he still had made some questionable decisions against Ole Miss.
So far it’s not taken a championship-level quarterback to bother the Bulldogs.
Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura, when he settled down and stopped throwing it to State, threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns.
Only Southeastern Louisiana – which had one touchdown pass – has failed to throw at least two scores.
There’s too much of a trend here to think Alabama is about to flounder on offense at Davis Wade Stadium.
It was good to see the Bulldogs play so well on offense at South Carolina, but now they’ve got to prove they can get things done against an upper-level defense.
They won’t if they can’t protect Will Rogers better. He was sacked four times by the Gamecocks, and the Bulldogs are giving up 2 ½ sacks a game on average.
Credit the Bulldogs for being prepared and playing hard after an emotionally difficult home loss, but there are no participation trophies in the SEC.
A lot of folks were ready to write off Nick Saban after the Texas loss and a lackluster performance at South Alabama.
Apparently one Mississippi team was just what the doctor ordered for the Tide.
Will it be Two Mississippi this weekend?
Prediction: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 17
No. 13 LSU at No. 20 Ole Miss
Time: 5 p.m. TV: ESPN
The $9 million narrative was quick to surface after the Rebels’ disappointing 24-10 loss at vulnerable Alabama last week.
It’s rare that “vulnerable” is a modifier for “Alabama,” but right now it fits. Some TV talking heads were picking the Rebels, Ole Miss fans got their popcorn, Alabama was indeed wobbly, but the Rebels couldn’t find the game plans to push the Crimson Tide over the edge.
This loss just had the look of familiarity for Nick Saban. Lane Kiffin coached with him for three years, and Ole Miss offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr., was there for two of those seasons.
Plus Saban sees Kiffin every year and played him with Weis last year.
Familiarity works both ways, or at least it should, but it was Saban’s staff who made an adjustment after an impressive seven-play, 75-yard drive for the Rebels on their second possession, and that seemed to take care of Ole Miss for the rest of the day.
Alabama was less vulnerable on defense where they were allowing just 14.7 points a game before holding Ole Miss to 10.
But you’ve got to move the ball and score against good defenses to be an upper tier team in the SEC West.
More than one Ole Miss fan took to social media to compare Kiffin’s $9 million salary with the product they saw on CBS. They’re not wrong. They might be early, but they’re not wrong.
The narrative won’t even be late if the Rebels can’t begin to perform better against upper tier teams, and very little Saturday inspired confidence on the offensive side.
Defense was not bad. Maybe familiarity paid off for Ole Miss coordinator Pete Golding after his stint with Saban.
But I question whether the Rebels will contain LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, who leads the SEC and is ranked No. 8 nationally with a 189.1 passer rating.
There’s something special going on right now between Daniels and his favored target, Malik Nabers.
Nabers is only 6-feet tall, but he plays bigger, and he can run past defenders. He’s got 21 catches for 369 yards and two touchdowns in just the last two weeks.
Daniels had five touchdowns against Ole Miss last year, three rushing to go with his 137 yards and 23 carries and two passing where he was 21-for-28 with 248 yards.
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson got his receivers involved and hurt LSU in the run game as the Razorbacks lost 34-31 in Baton Rouge last week.
There could be opportunities for Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart to make some things happen.
Lane Kiffin needs this game. Not to earn his salary, that’s done over time, not in one game, but he needs to restore some confidence in the Ole Miss fan base.
The Rebels were 7-0 when they went to Baton Rouge last year. They led 20-17 at halftime but were hammered after adjustments and lost 45-20.
Since last year’s 7-0 start the Rebels are 4-5, 1-4 in SEC games.
Prediction: LSU 37, Ole Miss 27
Texas State at Southern Miss
Time: 6 p.m. Streaming: ESPN-plus
Frank Gore rushed for 132 yards in last week’s 44-37 loss at Arkansas State.
Hopefully that’s a spark for Gore, who was held in check by Florida State and Tulane.
Gore was All-Sun Belt last year as running back (second team) and all-purpose (first team) after rushing for 1,382 yards and nine touchdowns on 228 carries.
He set a school record with 329 rushing yards in the Lending Tree Bowl against Rice.
But Florida State and Tulane aren’t Rice. Gore was used sparingly in a big season-opening win over Alcorn State, and all that added up to a man in need of a breakout game.
He looked much more like his 2022 form with 6.6 yards per carry in Jonesboro.
That good news came in a losing cause. The Red Wolves were pretty good on the ground themselves with almost 200 yards and two touchdowns.
The Eagles are still building depth, and they need their best players to show up in their biggest games.
Southern Miss was held to 25 rushing yards, just 16 from Gore, in a 21-3 loss to Tulane.
The Arkansas State loss is cause for some alarm because losses are starting to mount. The Red Wolves were not pegged as Sun Belt royalty and in their first three games have mostly played to those expectations.
Jonesboro was a chance for Southern Miss to turn the corner. The Eagles and Red Wolves are both Sun Belt climbers, so if the climb didn’t begin then … when?
Climbing will be harder this week, even back at The Rock, especially if the Golden Eagles’ defense continues to surrender explosive plays. Three Arkansas State touchdowns came from beyond 30 yards, two from beyond 60 including quarterback Jaylen Raynor’s 62-yard run when Southern Miss trailed by just three with under 3 minutes to play.
The Golden Eagles were better last year, giving up less than 4 yards per carry. Now they’re giving up 5.5 per carry and rank last in the Sun Belt with 202 yards per game allowed.
Texas State leads the league in scoring at 41.7 points per game. The Bobcats are 3-1 with a nice 42-31 win at Baylor to open the season.
Two weeks later they put up 77 points on Jackson State.
Teams have been able to control the line of scrimmage against the Eagles, and that’s a concern against the Bobcats with a big, physical runner at quarterback in TJ Finley, formerly of LSU and Auburn.
Finley (6-7, 250) has rushed for three touchdowns this year. He didn’t stick in the SEC, but through four games this season he’s completing passes with an 80-percent success rate with eight touchdowns and only interception.
It’s been a frustrating start for the Golden Eagles. Unfortunately, that frustration continues this week.
Prediction: Texas State 45, Southern Miss 27
Recipe of the Week
Chocolate Chip Cake
I keep waiting for cooler temperatures for some fall weather food. Wish me luck. In the meantime you can’t go wrong with chocolate chip cake. This always comes out moist.
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 box instant chocolate pudding (5.9 ounces)
- 1 bag milk chocolate chips (11.5 ounces)
- 8 ounces sour cream
- Half cup oil
- Half cup water or fat free milk
- 4 eggs beaten
Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients except chips. Mix well. Add chips. Bake in greased pan and invert onto cake plate. Add icing if you like. We don’t. Often we’ll eat what we want then freeze individual slices.