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Four Downs: Tulane

In this week’s edition 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.

1. How do you think Tulane handles the adversity of playing their first game after the serious injury to Devon Walker?
Bennett Hipp (@bennetthipp): I think it'll be very emotional for them as they get back in the swing of things for the first time since the injury. I don't expect the game to be very close, but I'd be shocked if Tulane gave Ole Miss anything but its best shot as they honor Walker. 
Matt Sigler (@SigNewton_2): I think they will be an inspired team. It’s always something you hate to hear about, and I think that Tulane will be able to rally as a team behind it and will play in honor of him.
David Collier (@DavidLCollier): Tulane will come out playing inspired football in the first quarter. It will be an emotional game for the Green Wave players, but it can't carry them throughout the entire game.
Austin Miller (@austinkmiller): I think it will be very emotional for both teams, and I expect an inspired effort from the Green Wave to honor their injured teammate. It will be interesting to see if Tulane can stay within itself, and how Ole Miss matches Tulane’s emotion.
2. What do you think of the secondary shakeup with Trae Elston starting at safety and Charles Sawyer moving back to corner?
Hipp: It was a necessary move. Ole Miss' corners struggled badly against Texas, and Sawyer for whatever reason didn't look comfortable at safety. This was the week to do it, as it'll give secondary a week to gel before heading to Tuscaloosa to face the Crimson Tide next week. 
Sigler: I like the move. Sawyer said he is comfortable there, and obviously, Elston is already a big-time player three games in. I also think making the move now to give Elston experience there before conference play was good thinking. 
Collier: It had to be made. Sawyer was not playing well at safety, and we've all seen him be effective at corner. I really like getting Elston on the field more because Ole Miss needs to do anything they can to get the best 11 players on the field.
Miller: I agree with any move that gets the four best players on the field in the secondary, and right now that includes Elston. The shakeup, in my opinion, strengthens both positions. The Rebels have three safeties to rotate in Elston, Chief Brown and Cody Prewitt. Sawyer and Wesley Pendleton gives Ole Miss length at the cornerback position and allows Senquez Golson, Cliff Coleman and Anthony Standifer to play more nickel and dime. Quintavius Burdette has impressed on special teams, and I look forward to seeing his progression at cornerback.
3. Hugh Freeze said he wants to spread the ball around. Does someone other than Donte Moncrief step up and become a viable option for Ole Miss in the passing game?
Hipp: Someone has to step up and become a reliable second option besides Moncrief. Teams are going to start throwing double coverage at him, and shifting their coverage around to try and contain him at all costs. Korvic Neat could be on his way to becoming that guy (in the slot at least), but either Vincent Sanders or Ja-Mes Logan needs to step up at the other boundary spot opposite Moncrief. 
Sigler: I think if anyone steps up it is going to be from the running back position. The offense is based around high percentage throws, so passes to players out of the backfield, I believe, work well in the offensive scheme. Moncrief is the threat downfield and always will be, but don’t be surprised to see a running back making an impact in the receiving game.
Collier: Before the season started, I pegged Vince Sanders as a guy who would have a breakout year. I still think he can, but right now, Ja-Mes Logan has to be the guy the coaches are counting on. He's proven before he can be a viable option, but we've yet to see it this year. I look for Logan to make some plays come Saturday.
Miller: At some point, an opposing defense will double cover or bracket cover Moncrief, and someone one will have to make plays in the passing game. Vince Sanders and Ja-Mes Logan are two possible candidates outside, and Korvic Neat looks to have found a niche in the slot, but I think Jamal Mosley is a prime candidate to break out in Freeze’s offense. He has the speed and size to be a matchup problem, and he’s already more than halfway (7) to his reception total from last season (12).
4. What is the key to the game?
Hipp: I'm not sure there is one key for a game like this. It's more of just recovering after last week and putting that in the rear view mirror. 
For the offense, it gives them another opportunity to put up a lot of yards and points, work out some kinks protection wise and continue the momentum before an impossible test next week. 
Defensively, this is a chance for the unit to regroup completely and regain confidence heading into conference play. Generating a pass rush with the front four, working in a new secondary grouping and playing an aggressive, attacking style defense should the focus. The defense badly needs a big performance after what happened last weekend in Oxford. 
Sigler: Win the turnover battle. It has been two straight games with three turnovers for Ole Miss, and that won’t cut it come conference play. Ball protection is preached by this coaching staff, and if the Rebels want to be successful, they need to hold on to the ball better. 
Collier: Jump out early. Ole Miss can't allow Tulane to hang around for long. They need to score early and often and make this a game where some younger players can get valuable time on the field. I look for Hugh Freeze to push the tempo early and grab a sizable lead by halftime. 
Miller: For the game itself, win the turnover battle. It’s as simple as that. Ole Miss should be able to wear Tulane down on both sides of the ball and impose its will in the second half. Going into conference play, it’s solidifying the defense, particularly the front seven and finding a pass rush. The two linebacker positions appear to be question marks. Denzel Nkemdiche figures in the defense somewhere. C.J. Johnson is the team’s best defensive end, but he is also probably the team’s best linebacker, where he took some reps this week.