Cal/Ole Miss, Kentucky/MSU, USM/Alabama – Week 4 Preview

We’ve already reached week 4 of the college football season. Ole Miss welcomes an opponent from the pacific coast, Mississippi State opens conference play and Southern Miss will try to pull off a historic upset. Check out a preview for each game below.

#23 Cal vs. Ole Miss

Winners of two in a row, Ole Miss welcomes #23 Cal to Oxford for the final meeting of a home and home series between the Rebels and the Golden Bears. In 2017, the Rebels suffered a 27-16 loss in their trip out West.

While Cal’s offense hasn’t been particularly explosive during their 3-0 start in 2019, the defense, especially the secondary, is the toughest that the Rebels have faced so far. Dating back to last season, Cal has held 10 straight opponents under 24 points, five of those have been held under 15 points and four did not score more than a single touchdown. The Cal secondary returns most of the same pieces from a 2018 unit that recorded 21 INTs.

Matt Corral and the Rebel offense are young at every position and must avoid critical mistakes against a defense that can make them pay.

“They can play man,” head coach Matt Luke said. “They are experienced in their zone coverage. They don’t give you anything easy, they make you earn it. When you have really good players executing a really good scheme, that is a recipe for success. It’s a combination. They understand their defense. Coach (Justin) Wilcox has done an unbelievable job in creating that culture on defense. They are really talented as well.”

Freshman RB Jerrion Ealy had his breakout game last week and Scottie Phillips went for over 100 yards. WR Braylon Sanders returns to the lineup this week to give the Rebels another weapon in addition to Elijah Moore, who Corral has developed a solid rapport with.

Related: Rebels looking for young receivers to emerge against vaunted Cal secondary

Despite taking a step back in week 3 against Southeastern Louisiana, the Rebel defense has shown improvement in 2019 under the direction of new DC Mike MacIntyre. Cal’s offense has yet to score more than 27 points in a game, but because of their stout defense, it has been enough. QB Chase Garbers isn’t asked to do much through the air, but the threat of a productive running game, led by RB Christopher Brown Jr., will open things up for Cal. Garbers will also factor into the rushing attack for the Golden Bears.

Kickoff from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is set for 11 a.m.

Kentucky vs. Mississippi State 

Mississippi State suffered their first loss of the season last week, and they’ll try to bounce back as they begin SEC play at home against Kentucky.

This game could end up becoming a battle of the backup QBs as Kentucky will start Sawyer Smith, who’s filling in for an injured Terry Wilson, and the health of Tommy Stevens is a question mark for the Bulldogs for the second straight week.

If Stevens doesn’t start or is forced to leave the game early again, it’ll likely be true freshman Garrett Shrader that steps in just as he has done in the past two weeks.

Last season when these two teams met, Kentucky was able to stifle the Bulldog offense while leaning on RB Benny Snell, who led the Wildcats to a win with 165 yards on the ground and 4 TDs. Snell is gone and it’s Kavosiey Smoke getting most of the carries for Kentucky this season. Smith is making just his second start, so expect to see a heavy dose of Smoke early on.

For Mississippi State, their rushing attack mustered just 56 total yards against Kentucky in 2018, but Kylin Hill had just 4 carries. With Hill’s hot start to the season and Stevens’ injury, expect the dynamic back to be the focal point of the offense for the Bulldogs once again.

Kentucky suffered a bad loss to Florida last week after giving up 19 4th quarter points and missing a potential game-winning FG late. Bulldog head coach Joe Moorhead knows that both teams are ready to get back in the win column.

“We’re not happy about it. In terms of motivation, I don’t think you’ll see desperation. I think you’ll see two teams who played close games that are a little upset and a little angry about the outcome that are going to come loaded for bear and get this thing back on track,” Moorhead explained.

MSU Athletics has also announced that heat advisory initiatives will be in effect on Saturday.

Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.

Southern Miss @ #2 Alabama

Southern Miss faces their toughest test of the season as they attempt to pull off a historic upset on the road at #2 Alabama.

The Golden Eagles’ tour of the SEC West continues after falling 38-15 to Mississippi State in week 2. USM is now tasked with attempting to stop Tua Tagovailoa and an Alabama offense that has an unlimited amount of talent at its disposal.

“We’ve got to make sure we play great in all phases — offensively, defensively and special teams,” head coach Jay Hopson said. “It’s no secret we’re playing an outstanding football team, a great football team. We’re going to have to certainly be on our A-plus game this week, and that starts today. We’ll make sure we’re preparing, practicing, and paying attention to details. There’s no team that is going to have our respect more than Alabama,” he said.

While they did give up 42 points to Troy last week, the offense and special teams for Southern Miss showed their big-play ability.

After serving a two-week suspension, WR Quez Watkins returned and picked up right where left off in 2018 with 7 receptions for 209 yards and 2 TDs. Jaylond Adams added 180 receiving yards on 11 catches. On special teams, Adams once again proved to be a threat with a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD – his third return for a TD this season (2 kickoffs & 1 punt). Look for QB Jack Abraham to get the ball to Watkins and Adams in space early and often.

Kickoff in Tuscaloosa is set for 11 a.m.