MSU & USM back from byes, Rebels travel to Mizzou – CFB Week 7

We’re just one day away from another busy college football Saturday in Mississippi. Mississippi State and Southern Miss are coming off of bye weeks, and Ole Miss is on the road for a tough test. Below, you find a brief preview of each game.

Mississippi State @ Tennessee 

Fresh off their bye week, Mississippi State travels to Knoxville in what could be the perfect chance to get back in the win column against the 1-4 Volunteers. QB Brian Maurer will make his 2nd start for Tennessee, but as for the Bulldogs, head coach Joe Moorhead has remained noncommittal on who his starting QB will be.  

“Both Tommy (Stevens) and Garrett (Shrader) are a little nicked up right now. They are not included on the injury list because they are not out. Both of them are working through some lower body things…We kind of have a plan for what we expect to do with both of them healthy,” Moorhead said on Monday.

The Bulldogs’ bye week came at the perfect time following a blowout loss on the road at Auburn. In the loss, the Bulldog defense gave up 56 points and 578 total yards. The Tennessee offense doesn’t present anywhere near the same threat as the Tigers, having scored a total of just 17 points in the last two weeks. 

Mississippi State enters the game as 6.5-point favorites. Kickoff from Neyland Stadium is set for 11 a.m. 

Ole Miss at Missouri

Ole Miss is on the road at Missouri one week after rushing for over 400 rushing yards in their win over Vanderbilt. If the Rebels hope to continue their success on the ground, they’ll have to do so against a Tiger defense that ranks 12th against the run while allowing just 88.8 rush yards per game. 

Freshman QB John Rhys Plumlee has shown the ability to lead the Rebels with his legs, but he’ll likely have to put the ball in the air in order to give the Rebels a chance to pull an upset this week. Head coach Matt Luke says that they’ll have to take advantage of what’s put in front of them on Saturday. 

“We want to run the football. But, when people load the box and have some one-on-ones, we want to be able to make big plays down the field and try to capitalize on that,” Luke said.

Missouri will be without leading tackler Cale Garrett for the remainder of the season after tearing a pectoral muscle last week. QB Kelly Bryant suffered a knee injury in last week’s win, but it appears that he’ll be ready to go against the Rebels. The Clemson transfer has thrown for 11 TDs so far this season against just 3 INTs. 

The Rebels are a 12.5 point underdog. Kickoff from Columbia is set for 6:00. 

North Texas vs. Southern Miss 

Southern Miss is well-rested off their bye, and they welcome North Texas to Hattiesburg for their homecoming matchup. 

The Golden Eagles are off to a 3-2 start, with both losses coming against SEC West opponents. North Texas is looking to get back to .500 as they currently sit at 2-3. This matchup features two of C-USA’s best quarterbacks with USM’s Jack Abraham and North Texas’ Mason Fine. Earlier this week, both were named as finalists for the ‘Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award’. 

Abraham leads C-USA in passing average per game (303.0), passing efficiency (172.9) and total offense (306.2), while Fine ranks No. 4 in average yards passing per game (258.2), sixth in passing efficiency (137.0) and sixth in total offense (253.8).

While looking ahead to Saturday, head coach Jay Hopson said that Fine can be a game-breaker. 

“They are a balanced football team. They can run the ball and, of course, with Mason, he throws the ball extremely well. He is a dual-threat guy. He is a guy that is the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year, so if you do not have respect for him, you are crazy. We know he is a good football player and we understand that we have a challenge this weekend. Again, we know that we have a big game against a good football team that we have to prepare for.”

Last year, North Texas beat Southern Miss 30-7, and Hopson realizes that they need to play a more complete game this time around. 

“We had our chances. We went inside the 25- and 30-yard lines quite a few times and came away with nothing. When you do that, you’re not going to win football games. That’s something that we have to do; we have to sustain drives and then we have to score and put points on the board. It was one of those games for three quarters, going into the fourth quarter, it was 10-7. Give North Texas credit, though, they did what they had to do and they wound up finding a way and pulled away at the end, but we’ve got to convert. There were a couple of fourth-and-ones we weren’t able to convert and those are things you have to do if you want to win. We certainly understand we have to play better this year than we did last year.”

USM enters the game as a 3-point favorite. Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m.