From Tennessee having to defend one of the nation's finest playmakers to if OIe Miss possibly sees this weekend's contest as a "trap game" and more, the latest edition of "Beat to Beat" reveals thoughts on many topics.
Take a deeper look at the matchup as InsideTennessee managing editor Danny Parker posed key questions for OM Spirit publisher Chuck Rounsaville.
1. Seems like one of the Southeastern Conference's most complete teams. So, how do you beat Ole Miss? Is there any weakness?
Rounsaville: There doesn’t appear to be glaring weaknesses, but it did take three or four games for the offensive line to come around enough to somewhat neutralize opposing defensive fronts. Like Tennessee’s OL, the Rebels have a “new” starter at center in Ben Still, a new right tackle in JUCO Fahn Cooper and a left guard, Aaron Morris, who is returning after a season-ending knee injury a year ago. The chemistry on the Ole Miss offensive line is still developing and while they have gotten better, there are still openings for defensive coordinators to exploit in that area. Also, the field goal/PAT kicking, now being handled by a true freshman in Gary Wunderlich, has been shaky to this point.
2. Is the Tennessee fan's attempt at exposing defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche for allegedly smoking mariquana any sort of distraction?
Rounsaville: If anything, it just made the Rebel fan base, and Nkemdiche, angry that someone would try to dredge up old, and dealt with, mistakes by a young man in an attempt to defame his character over a football game. What Robert did was wrong, and he paid a price for that lapse in judgment, but it only hurt him. What the UT fan did was an attempt to injure another human being. Quite a difference, particularly when the motive was to do so over a game.
3. After impressive wins over Alabama and Texas A&M with a trip to LSU and a home date with Auburn in consecutive weeks directly after, is the Tennessee showdown a "trap game?"
Rounsaville: The feeling around the Rebel camp is that it doesn’t qualify for that label because they feel UT, while young, is a dangerous opponent ready to put things together at any moment and capable of beating anyone on any Saturday. UT will not take Ole Miss by surprise or catch Ole Miss with their guard down. They will not be looking ahead to LSU, Auburn or anyone else. There creed of “win the day” and one day at a time attitude has kept them focused on the moment and has served them well. UT is capable of defeating Ole Miss and they know it, so there will be no “trap.”
4. From Nkemdiche to Senquez Golson to Cody Prewitt, the Rebels appear to have first-team All-SEC talent on the front and back end of the defense. How does this "D" compare to best all-time in Oxford?
Rounsaville: The Ole Miss defense of 2014 could end up going down in the annals as one of the Rebels’ finest ever, but it will be hard to beat the 1959 defense that only allowed 21 points the whole year or the 1962 stoppers that allowed just 40 points all season or 1963 that gave up just 33 points in an entire campaign. Considering, however, the advancement in offensive football in the modern era, the 2014 defense rivals any at Ole miss in recent history and might just be the best seen here since those teams of 50-odd years ago. They are certainly making an early case for “best ever,” but there is still a lot of football left to play.
5. Tennessee sophomore Cameron Sutton is one of the team's better players, but he could have his hands full when matched up with Laquon Treadwell. How does Treadwell compare to the best receivers in school history?
Rounsaville: Treadwell is as talented as any receiver the Rebels have ever had, but he earns that status in different ways. Laquon not only possesses excellent receiving skills, he is an outstanding blocker. He does all the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. Laquon draws double teams or shade coverages that opens up the rest of the receivers to man coverage, which is also valuable. He’s not much of a “home run” threat, but he’s very good at getting yardage after the catch due to his strength and his strength also enables him to catch the ball in traffic. Where he will go down in the annals of Ole Miss football remains to be seen, but nobody on the Ole Miss staff would trade him for any receiver in the country.