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Four Downs: Central Arkansas

In the first of a weekly feature, The Daily Mississippian football beat writers Bennett Hipp and Matt Sigler, sports editor David Collier and managing editor Austin Miller answer four questions regarding the week's matchup.

 
Bennett Hipp (@bennetthipp), football beat writer: The biggest question mark is how will Hugh Freeze’s up-tempo, no-huddle offense fare in its first game? While the competition level isn’t close to Southeastern Conference level, it’ll be interesting to see if there are some kinks and issues early that have to be worked out. It’s the first chance to see how the offense looks and how it fits the players at Ole Miss in a game setting.
 
Matt Sigler (@SigNewton_2), football beat writer: The biggest question mark is whether or not the offense will be able to execute the fast-paced tempo correctly. With the pace Freeze is hoping for, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of confusion in week one, or for the staff to tone things down if things go awry.
 
David Collier (@DavidLCollier), sports editor: In my mind, the best question mark is the psyche of the team. How will they respond when something goes wrong? The earlier Hugh Freeze and staff can figure out how the team handles adversity, the sooner they know how far along this team is and how close they are to taking the next step.
 
Austin Miller (@austinkmiller), managing editor: The biggest question mark will be how does Ole Miss’ depth hold up. The Rebels are thin in a lot of areas, and it’s no secret Ole Miss was outplayed in the second half of games last season. The offseason season strength and conditioning program and the buy-in factor will be put to the test Saturday.
 
 
2. Will a quarterback emerge?
 
Hipp: I don’t think so. Freeze has said that he plans to play both quarterbacks against Central Arkansas and next week against UTEP. I think Bo Wallace clearly has the better game, but both will play and by the end their impact will have been similar. 
 
Sigler: A quarterback will emerge during week one. Which one? No telling. One will find it in themselves to realize that this is their true audition for the starting role, and one will be considerably better in the first game in my opinion.
 
Collier: I think Bo Wallace will show that it is his job to lose, but both quarterbacks will play against UTEP despite who has the better game. Wallace will execute the offense more efficiently and emerge as the starter to be named later.
 
Miller: Both quarterbacks will play, and I expect Freeze to go with the hot hand if a quarterbacks finds success early in the game. I think Bo Wallace will carry the momentum from his two successful scrimmages into Saturday’s game and emerge as the starter by the Texas game, if not by the UTEP game.
 
3. Which freshman will make the biggest impact?
 
Hipp: I’ll go with Jaylen Walton. The freshman running back from Memphis is more of a change-of-pace back compared to fellow frosh I’Tavius Mathers, but Walton has shown great playmaking ability along with a knack for avoiding a big hit. He also could help Ole Miss out in the return game, giving him more chances to affect the game.
 
Sigler: I’Tavius Mathers. Mathers has some size to him, which will allow him to run between the tackles, but also has the quickness to make a run on the outside. He also rushed for 100 yards in the scrimmage on 13 carries, so it appears that the coaching staff will rely on him to make some runs.
 
Collier: I want to say Jaylen Walton, but instead, I’ll go with Issac Gross. The South Panola product has already proven he has the talent, and I expect him to make a couple of big plays early on Saturday to set the tone for the rest of the game.
 
Miller: With Jeff Scott listed as “doubtful,” Jaylen Walton will be the change-of-pack back to go along with Randall Mackey in the backfield. Walton also figures to be a factor catching the ball out of the backfield.
 
4. What are the keys for Ole Miss to avoid the upset?
 
Hipp: The main keys are to get off to a good start offensively, and in turn avoid turnovers. If Ole Miss isn’t able to come out and execute offensive early (whether due to kinks in the offense or turnovers), that will allow Central Arkansas to hang in the game and gain confidence. After losses to Jacksonville State and Louisiana Tech the past two seasons, the Rebels can’t afford to let another small team hang in the game late. 
 
Sigler: Put the past in the past. Forget about last season’s opener and the team’s continual. The team must also believe in the new staff and the things they are trying to implement.
 
Collier: The biggest key for Ole Miss is to play with the lead. Get some distance from Central Arkansas early and, at the very least, keep them at arms length. If they can avoid turnovers and mental mistakes, I believe Ole Miss can grab a two-touchdown lead by halftime.
 
Miller: Don’t let Central Arkansas hang around into the fourth quarter. Central Arkansas is a quality FCS opponent, not unlike Jacksonville State two years, with Division I sprinkled throughout its roster. One of the quarterbacks finding a rhythm to make the offense hit its stride will also be important.
 
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss football, follow @thedm_sports.