It’s finally time. Liberty vs. Ole Miss. Hugh Freeze’s return to Oxford. Malik Willis vs Matt Corral. Lane Kiffin.

Ever since this game was scheduled and announced by former President Donald Trump at Liberty’s 2018 Commencement, it has been one circled on Liberty’s calendar. The hype surrounding the game certainly increased in December of that year when former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was hired as Liberty’s new head coach.

But nobody expected quite this much national attention for the newest member of the FBS, Liberty, travelling to Mississippi to take on SEC power Ole Miss.

The eyes of the entire college football world will be paying attention as the Liberty Flames (7-2) take on the No. 10 Ole Miss Rebels (6-2) this coming Saturday, Nov. 6 in Oxford, Mississippi with kickoff scheduled for noon EST and to be televised on SEC Network.

The biggest story line of this week’s game surrounds Freeze returning to Ole Miss and Oxford. The Liberty head coach is originally from Mississippi and was on staff as an assistant for the Rebels from 2005-2007. He then returned as head coach in 2012, a post he manned through the 2016 season. Freeze helped guide Ole Miss to six wins in his first season as the Rebels became bowl eligible for the first time since 2009. Freeze and Ole Miss defeated Pitt, 38-17, in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama.

On National Signing Day in 2013, Freeze received national attention as Ole Miss brought in the fifth ranked recruiting class in the country. During his third season at Ole Miss, Freeze led the Rebels to a 7-0 start, the program’s best start since the Johnny Vaught era of the 1960s, and they were ranked as high as third in the nation before finishing 9-3 and advancing to the 2014 Peach Bowl.

In 2015, Freeze and Ole Miss defeated Alabama for a second consecutive season, making Freeze one of only a handful of coaches who have ever defeated a Nick Saban coached team in back-to-back years. Ole Miss and Freeze would finish that season ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 1969 after advancing to the Sugar Bowl.

In July 2017, Freeze resigned in the middle of an NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations and phone records of calls to an escort service by a university issued phone of Freeze’s.

This week’s game will also feature a matchup of two of the highest rated quarterbacks in the country. Liberty quarterback Malik Willis is currently ranked as the No. 1 quarterback on Todd McShay’s 2022 NFL draft board. Just behind Willis is Ole Miss quarterback Ole Miss. NFL scouts will flock to Oxford this weekend in droves to take in the matchup between the two high profile signal callers.

Corral and Willis have been included throughout much of the season as Heisman Trophy hopefuls, with Corral considered by many to be one of the favorites to win the most prestigious individual college football award. Willis enters the game having completed 66.1% of his 183 passes for 1,679 yards and 17 touchdowns to go with six interceptions. He also leads the Flames in rushing with 647 yards and 9 touchdowns on his 118 rushing attempts.

Photo Courtesy Sports Illustrated

An under the radar story line in this game is Liberty’s defense going up against one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The Flames entered this weekend ranked in the top 15 nationally in both scoring defense and total defense. Of course, the Flames haven’t faced an offense this year as explosive as the Ole Miss Rebels.

Led by Corral and head coach Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss has one of the more vaunted offenses in college football. The Rebels entered this weekend’s games boasting the No. 4 ranked total offense, averaging 541.1 yards of offense per game. Ole Miss is also ranked No. 7 in scoring offense as the Rebels were averaging 41.9 points per game and No. 3 in rushing offense with 263.1 yards per game.

Liberty has only faced one other SEC program in school history, getting embarrassed at Auburn, 53-0, on Nov. 17, 2018. This is a much different Liberty team that will head into an SEC venue this time, though. Beginning with quarterback Malik Willis who suited up for and scored a touchdown for the Auburn Tigers in that game before transferring to Liberty. Under Freeze and his staff, the Flames’ football program has taken on the mindset of an SEC team in the way they prepare and operate.

Liberty and Ole Miss have the national spotlight. Hugh Freeze makes his return to Oxford to take on Lane Kiffin. Malik Willis and Matt Corral will capture everyone’s attention. We’ve finally made it to game week.