What Oklahoma Sooners are saying about Ole Miss baseball before College World Series finals

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OMAHA, Neb. — Ahead of his College World Series matchup against Ole Miss baseball, Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson can't help but reflect on the journey the Rebels took to get here.

Ole Miss (40-23) faces Oklahoma (45-22) in the College World Series finals beginning Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN) from Charles Schwab Field. Oklahoma and Ole Miss have taken similar paths to the championship round, overcoming midseason slumps by catching fire in May and dominating their way through the NCAA Tournament.

Johnson, who has coached at Oklahoma since 2017, spoke directly about the criticism of Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco and the struggles the team went through before heating up late.

WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN: Ole Miss baseball vs. Oklahoma in College World Series finals: Here's our prediction

THE VETERAN TEAM: What CWS finals means to Ole Miss baseball's Mike Bianco — and the coaches who stuck around

FOR SUBSCRIBERS: Dylan DeLucia pitched his way into Ole Miss baseball lore. Now the Rebels can make history

"They were the No. 1 team in the country when we started," Johnson said. "Look at them. How many people y'all got coming to your games? Thousands and thousands and thousands. You look at the environment, what they play in, this environment is not any bigger environment than they play in at home all the time.

"You look at the journey, they've been told they might not get in or might get in or whatever, they're going to fire Bianco, whatever, that was a joke. I mean, it's incredible because that guy has been, last year LSU was wanting to hire him. It's really what we live in our world, in coaching in baseball every day. You're only as good as your last outing, which is not good."

Here's more of what Johnson and Oklahoma hitters Jimmy Crooks and Tanner Treadway had to say about the Rebels on Friday.

Parellel journeys

"In a lot of ways they're similar to us. They do a lot of small things well. They've got power in the lineup. They're a really good ballclub. They've been playing with a chip on their shoulder just like we have. They were in question for a regional, and they're here to make a statement just like we are. They're going to be tough. But we're going to be ready for it." - Treadway, on Ole Miss' path to Omaha

"They have a chip on their shoulder, and so do we. Yeah, they had a real tough journey. They were the last four in, and they've been battling their way all the way here. Same with us." - Crooks, on the similarities between the two teams

Scouting the Rebels

"They pitch fearless. They pound the strike zone. They do a good job. Coach Bianco has been around for a long time. He understands that environment. He's a really, really good coach and runs a great program." - Johnson on Ole Miss' strengths

"I mean, his delivery, he's kind of funky a little bit. He's going to pound the strike zone. It's going to be a great matchup, and it's going to be a great opportunity for us. He is tough, and that's what coach Bianco brings. You can see the toughness in their team and how they play. It's going to be fun to go up against him." - Johnson on Ole Miss pitcher Hunter Elliott

"Coach McDonnell coached for him at Ole Miss. (Now he is) head coach at Louisville. When I was at Navarro (a junior college in Texas), they would come over and recruit our players. That's really the only action I've had really with coach Bianco. - Johnson on his relationship with Bianco

Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or nsuss@gannett.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: What Oklahoma said about Ole Miss baseball ahead of CWS championship