Ole Miss takes a rare trip to Gainesville tonight to face a SEC heavyweight program in the Florida Gators.
The Rebels and the Gators are not common opponents and have only faced off 24 times in history but Ole Miss has had success recently as the underdog as Ole Miss has won three of the last four, including the last two games in Gainesville.
The underdog tends to have a little more success in college football than professional sports. Emotions do not show up on a stat sheet. Maturity is not a guarantee. We have all seen a team lose a game and seen the underdog rise up and blow a top team off the field that no one expected.
Today in Florida, the Mississippi boys are 4-0, ranked in the top five, and favored by a touchdown on the road, not the Gators.
This is an odd position for Ole Miss fans and players.
The players have to learn to win the games that they are “supposed” to win. To be able to take another team’s best game, a game where they play over their ability; and still find a way to win.
The hardest thing for young athletes is to execute at a high level in a hostile environment. When the crowd is against you and the ball does not bounce your way, can you block out the external and have the maturity to focus on the internal process and continue to do your job?
It’s not easy obviously because very few college players are not affected by road games, especially non-traditional power house teams.
One thing fans can take solace in is that Ole Miss has already faced the hardest road game they will face all year in the early trip to Tuscaloosa so certainly that will prepare Hugh Freeze’s bunch for whatever Florida can throw at them.
I would make the point, however, that Ole Miss was playing the underdog role against BAMA, and did not feel the pressure to win that game, which aided them in the landmark win.
Today, the pressure is squarely on Ole Miss for the first time since that road game in Baton Rouge last year.
There are a lot of similarities between LSU last year and Florida this year. Both teams have some questions on offense with strong defenses and with a little help Florida can follow a similar script and use defense to help out a struggling offense.
The challenge for a #3 ranked Ole Miss team is to not focus on anything but Ole Miss. Keep that same high level of energy they took to Tuscaloosa and execute. Protect the football, catch the football, make good decisions at the QB position and find a way to run the dang ball.
Florida is not good enough to win this game on paper, but at 7pm tonight the game will be played on the field.