Jaxson Dart stays in command
The junior quarterback was nearly perfect again Mercer, completing 18 of 23 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns. More than that, he kept the ball out of harm's way and did not throw passes that were close to being intercepted. Dart was in rhythm, he was accurate and operated masterfully from a largely clean pocket. Tulane, however, is not Mercer.
The Green Wave are tough on both lines of scrimmage and are likely to make things more hectic for Dart. Dart doesn't have to complete nearly 80% of his passes, but limiting turnovers will be key, particularly on the road. Ole Miss committed 21 turnovers as a team last season — which was tied for 91st nationally — with 12 coming via interception. Eleven turnovers came in the Rebels' five losses. Avoiding the big mistake will be key in New Orleans.
Make the pocket uncomfortable for Michael Pratt
Tulane's senior quarterback was almost flawless against South Alabama, completing 14 of 15 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns. The one incompletion came via drop. Pratt is a four-year starter who has thrown at least 20 touchdown passes in each of his previous three seasons. He is a dual threat — he ran for nearly 500 yards and 10 scores last season — but keeping him off-balance in the pocket could go a long way in negating his accuracy.
Quinshon Judkins helps play keep-away
Ole Miss' sophomore star is a preseason All-American by nearly every publication, and for good reason: he set school records with 1,567 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns as a freshman. He wasn't asked to do much in Ole Miss' 73-7 blowout of Mercer, but he did run for 60 yards and score a pair of touchdowns.
Tulane averaged 36 points per game last season and scored 37 in the season-opener; the Green Wave are prolific offensively. The less opportunities for Pratt and Co. to have the ball, the better Ole Miss' odds grow. Games are already going faster with the new rule change that keeps time running after first downs. The Rebels will always play with tempo, but keeping drives alive with Judkins could be huge, regardless of pace.
Limit the big passing plays
Pratt averaged nearly 20 yards per attempt last weekend and a staggering 21 yards per completion; he was 10th nationally last season at 14 yards per completion. Receiver Jha'Quan Jackson averaged better than 35 yards per catch against South Alabama, and Lawrence Keys III averaged 24 per reception on his four grabs. Pratt and Tulane want to get the ball down the field.
Mercer did not present many challenges in that regard for Ole Miss, but the Green Wave are a different test altogether. The Rebels have a lot of new pieces in the secondary this season, and breakdowns in communication could be costly against Pratt's downfield passing.
Get out to a hot start to quiet the crowd
Tulane's Yulman Stadium only holds 30,000 people, but Saturday's matchup is one of the biggest games there in quite some time. You can imagine it will be filled to the brim with fans. The Green Wave are coming off a 12-2, Cotton Bowl-winning campaign and have similar expectations in 2023 of representing the Group of Five in a New Year's Six Bowl. Falling behind early will only cause the crowd to get more raucous, and falling behind by several touchdowns early could be a recipe for disaster.
The Rebels need to control the game early and keep Tulane's explosive plays in-check. First-half missteps against Arkansas and Texas Tech dug the Rebels into holes too big to recover from a season ago. That can't be the case again against Tulane.