Mississippi has clawed through the most difficult part of its schedule with mixed success.
Now the Rebels hope to pile up some wins down the stretch.
Mississippi (4-3) hosts Idaho (1-6) on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, stepping out of the Southeastern Conference for the first time since mid-September.
"That gauntlet that we've gone through has taken a toll on us physically and mentally," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "We certainly need to continue moving in the right direction in all areas."
The Rebels are still basking in the glory of a stunning 27-24 victory over then-No. 6 LSU last Saturday. The victory came after three straight losses to Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M.
It was a satisfying end to a difficult stretch, but now the Rebels are beat-up physically. About a half-dozen defensive players, including linebacker Serderius Bryant (concussion) and defensive end Robert Nkemdiche (hamstring), are trying to recover from injuries.
There's little doubt Idaho — which is a 41-point underdog on Saturday — represents a chance for a breather. But Freeze said it's dangerous to take any opponent lightly.
"We have a team coming in this week that I'm sure they will play like they have nothing to lose," Freeze said. "They're playing in an SEC home and have a chance to make some noise, just like many teams did last weekend. We don't want to be on the other end of that. So we've got to regain our kids' focus and elevate our concentration to do little things right."
Idaho is playing this season as an independent before joining the Sun Belt Conference next season. The Vandals are led by first-year coach Paul Petrino, who is the brother of Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino.
Five things to watch as Idaho travels to face Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss.:
WALLACE IS ROLLING: Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace had one of the best games of his career against LSU last week, completing 30 of 39 passes for 346 yards. He was especially good on third down, extending drives with good decisions and pinpoint throws. If Wallace has a good day against Idaho, it should be a short one, considering the Rebels are favored by more than 40 points.
RUNNING BACK TANDEM: The Rebels' starting running back Jeff Scott has been hampered by a thigh bruise, but sophomore I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton have filled in admirably. The 5-foot-8, 166-pound Walton had 19 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers. Mathers, who is a little bigger at about 190 pounds, added another 51 yards on the ground.
BANGED UP REBELS: Ole Miss will be missing several players as it tries to nurse a beat-up roster back to health for November. Linebacker Serderius Bryant (concussion) and defensive end Robert Nkemdiche (hamstring) are some of the biggest names likely to miss the game against the Vandals. The Rebels are also trying to find a full-time option to replace TE Evan Engram, who was lost for the season because of an ankle injury suffered against LSU.
A PETRINO IN THE SEC: Idaho's coach is Paul Petrino, a name that will certainly sound familiar around Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Petrino is the younger brother of Bobby Petrino, who was the coach at Arkansas from 2008-11 before being dismissed after misleading officials about a motorcycle accident involving his mistress.
CAN IDAHO COMPETE?: The Idaho-Ole Miss matchup looks like a laugher on paper and the Vandals will come into Oxford as 41-point underdogs. Idaho has one victory this season over Temple, but has lost by at least 10 points in every other game. Several media outlets have also reported that the Vandals could be down to their third-string quarterback — Taylor Davis — for Saturday's game.
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