The Ole Miss Rebels play in the Southeastern Conference, arguably the best conference in the nation.
Consequently, they are not in awe of any team, but they do have a great deal of respect for Peach Bowl opponent TCU, the nation's #6-ranked team, according to Rebel Cornerback Mike Hilton and Tight End Evan Engram.
"I didn't watch a lot of their games during the year, but once they were announced as our opponent in the Peach Bowl, I have watched a lot of film of their defense and they are real good. It will be a challenge for our offense," noted Engram, who is coming off a superlative outing in the Rebs' Egg Bowl win over Mississippi State.
Engram boiled down the Horned Frogs' defense into one word, initially, before expanding on his thoughts.
"Active," he said. "They play very fast and they have a lot of athletic guys on that side of the ball. They have good defensive ends and athletic linebackers. Their coaching staff does a great job. They throw a lot of different looks at you and the TCU defenders know what they are doing.
"They will definitely be ready to get after us and we have to be ready for the challenge."
Engram sounded like a coach in his analysis of what the Rebels have to do offensively to be successful against the TCU defense.
"We have to be able to run the ball. We have to be balanced," he continued. "We have to be physical up front and we have to give our running backs some lanes to run in. If we are able to do that, it will open up the passing game, obviously.
"We have to be two-dimensional on offense, like we were in all the games we won this year."
Evan hopes to parlay his big game in the Egg Bowl, where his receptions went for 175 yards and set up two short TD plunges, into another big outing in the Peach Bowl.
"I'm from 30 minutes from here. I was pumped up to play in the opener against Boise and I will be pumped up to play here in the Peach Bowl, for sure," he closed. "I love playing here. We won here in our opener and we'd like to win here to end our season and make a statement."
Hilton said the Rebels are looking for validation to their successful season.
"We started strong this year and then had a couple of downs. We bounced back in the Egg Bowl, but we want more. We want validation," said Mike. "This game will be real tough - TCU is very good on offense - but we know a win here can help take our program to the next level.
"To win a New Year's Six bowl game would cap off a pretty good run and set us up moving forward."
Unlike Engram, Hilton did watch a lot of TCU football during the year and has since gotten deep into the Horned Frogs in the film room recently.
"They really impress me. They make a lot of big plays and they have a lot of speed on the outside," Hilton assessed. "They really have a great offense. As a group, and skill position wise and receiver wise, they look to me to be the best we have faced this year."
TCU QB Trevone Boykin is certainly a big concern for the vaunted Rebel defense, number one in the nation in scoring defense.
Boykin has prolific numbers - passing for 3,714 yards for 30 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions while completing 60.5% of his passes and rushing for an additional 642 yards and 8 TDs.
Hilton, who "spied" Johnny Manziel for two years, says there are similarities athletically but their styles are different.
"Boykin likes to make his reads and go through his progressions. If he gets a one-on-one, he takes his shots. If not, he will try to make something happen with his feet to either extend the play until someone is open or run the ball," Hilton stated. "Manziel would just get it and go a lot of times. Boykin is more disciplined within their offense, to me."
Mike said the end result is a requirement for more discipline by the Ole Miss secondary.
"We are going to have to let the front take care of him and stay in coverage a little longer, making sure nobody gets behind us," Hilton explained.
According to Hilton and Engram, the Rebels have their hands full with TCU, but they both believe in their team's ability to handle the situation.
"TCU presents us a great challenge, there is no doubt about that, but we have faced great teams all year. We have played, and beaten, both the teams that were number one the whole year," Hilton closed. We've had great challenges all year."
Respect? For sure. In awe? No.
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