Coming off a 34-10 loss to Appalachian State and a loser in four of its last five games Georgia Southern is a frustrated football team.
So is Ole Miss.
The Eagles (4-4) and the Rebels (3-5) are both struggling in a season which they both entered with high expectations.
The two teams face one another at noon on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss., with the Rebels a four touchdown favorite to snap a three-game losing streak. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Georgia Southern and Ole Miss find themselves desperately fighting to become bowl eligible, something none of the pre-season prognosticators saw coming.
While the Eagles need to win two of their final four games to earn one of the Sun Belt Conference’s five bowl berths the Rebels, who were a Top 10 team at the beginning of the season, need to win three of their remaining four to go bowling for the fifth straight year.
Both teams are coming off losses at home, Georgia Southern losing to Appalachian State, 34-10, while the Rebels saw Auburn get a late interception that led to a touchdown to seal a 40-29 win.
Ole Miss led 29-27 after three quarters and trailed 33-29 when Kelly threw an interception which the War Eagles returned to the Rebel 25 and then punched it in with 5:58 to play to put the game out of reach.
With games remaining against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State there’s little chance Ole Miss will get caught looking past Georgia Southern.
Offense has not been a problem for the Rebels who have arguably the best quarterback in the Southeastern Conference in Chad Kelly, nephew of former Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly, and a group of receivers who are considered the best in the SEC.
Kelly showed his capabilities against Auburn when he threw for a school single game record 465 yards and three touchdowns as he completed 36 of 59 passes to 10 different receivers. He broke a record set by Archie Manning that had stood for 47 years.
“I would have to say it is way up there against that defense,” Coach Hugh Freeze said when asked if Kelly’s performance was the best he had ever seen. “They had given up seven (passing) touchdowns all year and gave real problems for quarterbacks.
“He battled and he fought. I thought Chad played really well.”
Kelly will provide a test for a young Georgia Southern secondary. He has completed 189 of 305 passes for 2,532 yards and 18 touchdowns while being intercepted eight times. Evan Engram is the
Rebels’ top receiver with 59 catches for 700 yards and six touchdowns while five other receivers have 12 or more receptions.
Ole Miss’ top rusher is Akeem Judd with 417 yards, and Kelly has 309 despite losing 102 on 16 sacks.
If Georgia Southern has a chance to stay in the game it rests with the Rebel defense which has already allowed 1,910 yards after giving up 1,652 in a 10-3 Sugar Bowl season last year.
Unfortunately running the football is currently not a strength for the Eagles who had only 65 yards on 26 attempts against Appalachian State, and 28 of those came on a 15-yard run by Matt Breida and a 13-yard dash by Kevin Ellison.
It was Georgia Southern’s worst rushing performance since it had only 15 yards in a 52-16 loss at Appalachian State in the 2009 season.