BLOG — ESPN college football analyst Todd Blackledge was kind enough to share his thoughts on Saturday night’s matchup between the No. 24 Ole Miss Rebels and No. 8 Missouri Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Blackledge, who is in town to call the game with partner Brad Nessler, took some time out to talk about the important Southeastern Conference matchup while he as at Big Bad Breakfast taping his Taste of the Town segment. Blackledge, who saw Ole Miss play No. 1 Alabama in person earlier this year, said the matchup is shaping up to be an interesting game.
“These are two teams, that on the surface look similar, in how they play offense, in terms of spread formations. Scheme wise they are different. I think they’re both capable of scoring a lot of points and gaining a lot of yards,” Blackledge said. “I would expect, if the weather is good, kind of an exciting, back-and-forth kind of game.”
This is the first time that Blackledge has watched Missouri in person. In preparation for the contest, Blackledge watched tape of the Tigers and came away impressed with their defensive front.
“The one thing I was a little surprised in watching film on them was their defense is better than I would have anticipated. Last year, again I didn’t see them, but I felt like they got pushed around in their first year in the SEC. But their defense is good. They’re undersized a little bit, but their defensive line is very, very active,” Blackledge said.”(Michael Sam) isn’t the biggest guy, but he’s very explosive coming off the edge. He’s great a great first step. And not to take anything away from him, but they’ve got four kids that they rotate in there, two on the same side, and they all play the same way. They all play with great motors and really get after the quarterback. I think they set the whole tempo for their defense.”
Sam, a 6-foot-2, 255-pound end, leads the SEC in sacks with 10 and tackles-for-loss with 16. He was just named a semifinalist for the Rotary Lombardi Award given annually to the nation’s top lineman. Blackledge said that he noticed the Tigers often use their best pass rushers on third down, which means the Rebels have to watch their down and distance for sure Saturday.
Blackledge said the “proof will still be in the pudding” when asked if he thought Ole Miss’ offensive line had shown improvement since the Alabama game.
“The last time I saw them, they played against arguably one of the best defenses in the country in Alabama and they struggled. They did some good things against Auburn, who I don’t think is a great defense. They did some good things against A&M, which I think is a bad defense. Now the games they’ve won, I think they have momentum and they’ve got confidence but I think they’ll be challenged more by this defense than they have been the last few weeks,” Blackledge said. “Again the way (Missouri) rushes the passer will be a challenge for (Ole Miss QB) Bo (Wallace) and the offensive line Saturday. He is going to have to be quick in his decision making when he is throwing the football because these guys are good pass rushers. But, a lot of what Ole Miss does counters that too. They do a lot of wide receiver screens, a lot of quick things outside to the perimeter.”
Missouri (9-1 ovearall) is 5-1 in the SEC but needing to win at Ole Miss and then beat Texas A&M at home in its home finale to advance to play in the SEC Title game next month. The Rebels (7-3) are 3-3 in league play and have a chance to improve their bowl resume.
“I think it’s going to be a fun game. Obviously it’s meaningful for both teams. It’s kind of crazy for Missouri to have this incredible season. They’re 9-1 and yet they have to win their last two games to get to where they want to go,” Blackledge said. “I think in one sense that’s pretty cool because you want to be able to control your own destiny. You don’t want to depend on anyone else. It’s a tall order that they have because the two games they have are going to be challenging.” (November 22, 2013)