Episode IV: A New Hope

It’s a good thing I watched that toilet game from the safety of my fainting couch. Oh, the elation of the first game. Oh, the humanity of the second. So much fail. So much yelling. So many rage strokes.

So what’s in store for this week? All the signs point to potential trouble. My Magic 8 Ball stopped taking my calls. My voodoo doll is gone. I read the Tarot, asked the Zodiac, consulted the shaman down the hall (and I’m not making that up). All around, big question marks.

One thing is for sure: Ole Miss and Foghorn Leghorn are coming to town looking for revenge. Sweet, sweet, revenge, served up to a home crowd in Austin. Let’s face it—we are all still stunned by what happened last weekend. Can people find their seats? Remember the yells? The fight song? I sure hope so.

Last year Texas roared into Oxford and blew off the Rebels’ straw hats with a convincing 66-31 win. They all looked at each other and said, “Well, I declare!” while fanning themselves, then circled a date on the calendar in red pen (the color of blood): SEPTEMBER 14, 2013. The day Ole Miss gets its groove back. In the meantime, Mr. Freeze (part-time Batman villain and full-time coach) was busy rounding up the #1 receiver and #11 recruiting class in the nation. If you think I’m being absurd about Coach (Mr.) Freeze, the dude has a War Room. With an octagonal table no less. You can read about it here.

Oh, let’s talk about that recruiting thing for a hot minute.

Back in January, Laquon Treadwell, the nation’s #1 receiver, posted a photo of himself caressing a stack of $100 bills, just prior to National Signing Day. Aside from snagging this guy, Ole Miss also added #1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche to their roster. I heard if you say his name three times in a dark room while looking in the mirror, Archie Manning jumps out and slaps you.

There’s a lot of nasty talk around the country about how Ole Miss managed to snag a recruiting class bursting at the seams with talent. An embarrassment of riches, as we highfalutin types like to say. I’ll leave the speculation up to you. You might think it was a violation of the NCAA rules. You might think he froze everyone’s brain with a special gun. According to Mr. Freeze, all he had to do was win the Egg Bowl last year. Whatever works, I guess.

What can we expect on Saturday? I was hoping you could tell me.

Let’s go back to Week 1. Ole Miss faced the Vanderbilt Commodores. Ole Miss pulled out to a quick 10-point lead, but Vanderbilt racked up 21 unanswered points before the half. Ole Miss squeaked out a 39-35 win.

Week 2, Ole Miss faced the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks, or SEMO to their friends. The Rebels scored 31 quick points and…nothing in the second half. They still won, 31-13, but they were shut out in the second half. You should be saying, “Hmmmmm” and stroking your (imaginary) beard right now.

Texas and Ole Miss come into the game on Saturday in very different places mentally. It would be easy for Texas to feel defeated and demoralized. A shredding loss, coaching upheaval, injuries…recipe for disaster. Ole Miss is swanning in to town in the top 25, with a 2-0 record, looking to embarrass Texas at home. And at this point, Texas is the 4.5-point underdog. With good reason.

But are the ‘Horns out? Is Daje Johnson’s injury a game changer? Who shot J.R.?

In many ways, the Ole Miss team is untested. Vanderbilt was likely a better team than SEMO, and the Rebels squeaked by. They bring their diamond-encrusted freshman recruiting class, who play like pros…but they’re freshmen. Freshman who can be prone to thinking errors in big games. Make no mistake; this is a big game.

Texas has averaged 245.5 rushing yards so far. Ole Miss has allowed only an average of 109.5 yards. This is a collision worth watching. On defense, will Coach Robinson make a difference? Maybe more important than creating an effective defensive scheme, Coach Robinson has to find a way to lift their flagging spirits.

Look for Ole Miss to use its many weapons on offense this weekend: I’Tavius Mathers, Jaylen Walton, Mark Dodson, Kailo Moore, and Jeff Scott. Bo Wallace is slated to be the starting QB. Last season he was pick-off prone. This year, so far: zero picks thrown. Let’s change that! At Oxford, Wallace was manhandled pretty thoroughly by the Texas D-line. If the ‘Horns let Wallace settle in to his tempo offense early, it could spell real trouble. Disrupt early and often. Ole Miss has potentially a more dynamic offense than BYU. Thank goodness I was close to the fainting couch when I read that.

Mr. Freeze didn’t mix it up too much on offense in the first two outings. I read the descriptor “vanilla” to describe his play-calling. This week, expect him to open up the playbook and try a little sumpin’ sumpin’ against the ‘Horns. When he’s not planning world domination, of course.

Ole Miss also tended to drift off in the second half. Let’s hope that tradition continues this week.

Is there some good news? Of course! It really can’t get worse for the defense. Texas now ranks 121st out of 123 teams for rushing defense. Yeah!

The game is on LHN, again, so it will be going in my ear holes only. I will probably listen from the safety of my pillow fort, whisky-soaked tee shirt at the ready. Let’s hold hands and hope for the best.

Hook ‘em!

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