After their victory last year against the Volunteers, the Ole Miss Rebels look to win again against the downtrodden Vols.
The Rebels are facing a losing record this season, but things look hopeful as they enter Neyland Stadium on Saturday. The Vols have experienced two coaching switches over the last two seasons and are also in the midst of a losing season, and head coach Houston Nutt felt that the Rebels definitely have a chance.
"I think it's no secret that they're a lot like us," Nutt said. "There are still bowl possibilities for both teams. There is a lot to play for. It's about how you finish in November. We will have their best, there is no doubt in my mind, and we are going to give them our best."
Sophomore kicker Bryson Rose is one of the Rebels' best and has significantly helped the team this year. Nutt said that his assistance on the field has been an unexpected but welcome surprise.
I never thought he would be so consistent," Nutt said. "He has done an excellent job for us."
Even with players like Rose on the field, this is still some cause for doubt, and the Rebels will be giving their all for the team as they face the Vols. The recent freshman talent that has come in the form of Vols quarterback, Tyler Bray, is something that gives the Rebels concern and that Nutt said is important not to overlook.
"He has a very strong and accurate arm," Nutt said. "He has made some big throws for them and has some good receivers. He has gotten better each time he has taken the field."
Though Nutt said a lot about the similarities of the two teams, he is also aware of the differences. He said that the team has developed since last year and feels that the greatest cause for concern is the Vols' outstanding defense.
"There are some differences, several of their players are back from last year," Nutt said. "They have some guys that can run, including Chris Walker on defense. He is a very good defensive end. Every team has one or two that are so athletic, and he is one of those guys. LaMarcus Thompson, Herman Lathers and Janzen Jackson really show up as well. They are more different on defense this year."
The Vols are also aware of their improvements over the course of the semester. As they approach the end of the year, head coach Derek Dooley began to see growth and improvement in his team during a recent practice.
"It was good today, not a lot of mental errors," Dooley said. "It's getting competitive. I feel like we're practicing better here down the stretch, and hopefully it's going to carry over to the game."
With the confidence that the Rebels will face when they meet the Vols on their home field, Ole Miss will need to be prepared for the challenge and Nutt is aware of this. Nutt said he is aware of improvement, but that now is not the time for the team to jump up and down thinking that everything is right.
"We will play a much more athletic team jumping back into the SEC," Nutt said. "You have to hold your blocks longer. Everybody has to finish like Bobbie Massie (sophomore Ole Miss offensive tackle). We have to keep working and keep getting better."