Ahead of Tennessee’s week seven matchup against SEC West foe Ole Miss, The Daily Beacon sat down with The Daily Mississippian’s assistant sports editor, Ruby Draayer, to talk about Saturday’s potentially explosive matchup.
Question: Kiffin returns to Knoxville Saturday. Neyland is going to be rocking. Do you think Ole Miss is ready for the noise?
Answer: “It’s interesting to see how the offense and defense will react. With so much hype, I think they’ll be okay. I’ve heard when you’re playing a game you just tune everything out, and I think they’ll be able to do that. The checker-out will be really cool to see.”
Q: Staying on the topic of Kiffin, would you say the attention he’s gotten this week is a positive or a negative for Ole Miss when concerning a matchup with his former team?
A: “I can’t speak for Tennessee fans, but from an Ole Miss perspective I’d say it’s pretty positive. Everyone is excited to see what he is capable of. I’m sure when he comes out of the field he will get a few boos, but overall I can see it being a pretty positive reaction from a mindset point of view.”
Q: What does the Rebels defense have to do to keep up on Saturday after struggling out of the gate, to avoid a shootout?
A: “I would hope that Ole Miss doesn’t put themselves in another shootout position following last week (against Arkansas). The most important part with Ole Miss is the defense. There’s been a lot of disappointment with how the defense has performed so far this year, in their 3-2-6 defense. I think that the defense is there, they just have to execute. They need to get (the offense) off the field on third down. Arkansas was very effective on third down last week and that can’t happen again, especially in Ole Miss territory.”
Q: Tennessee isn’t ranked, but it’s safe to say it is a middle-tier SEC team this season with a potent offense. What does a win do for the Rebels moving forward?
A: "The Tennessee team, in general, has looked dominant so far this season. I think that’s surprising with a first-year head coach, with the violations and transfers that Tennessee has been dealing with. They look really good. A lot of fans thought that this was going to be an easy win, but winning in a tough atmosphere like Neyland against a good Tennessee team would be huge for the Rebels’ morale. With it being so tight right now (in the SEC West) a win would certainly propel Ole Miss to a good spot.
Q: How are special teams looking for the Rebels this season?
A: “So I’m a big special teams fan, and I think it’s the most underrated part of a team’s success. Ole Miss hopes they won’t punt much, but Matt Brown, in his fifth year, is phenomenal. I feel very confident that Ole Miss has the upper hand in the special teams unit. And they have a kicker that actually makes his field goals, something they haven’t had in the past.”
Q: What can Tennessee do to get an edge Saturday? What can Ole miss do to achieve the same?
A: “I think Tennessee and Ole Miss are in the same boat. Neither quarterback has thrown an interception this year when it counts (Hooker threw one in desperation against Pitt.) I do think we are probably going to see a few turnovers. The turnover battle might settle this one, it’s going to be a high-scoring affair. Nobody is taking the under unless you’re crazy. It’s going to be a matter of who can turn over the ball and who can get the offense off the field on third down.”