August 25, 2014

(AP) - Eli Manning is royalty in the Mississippi football universe, still loved in Oxford for his clean-cut looks, family pedigree and two Super Bowl rings.

Bo Wallace is known more for his shaggy hair, gunslinger mentality and long road to the SEC that started at Arkansas State, moved to a junior college and ended with the Rebels.

Both have one thing in common: They're successful college quarterbacks. And if Wallace has a good senior season, he might pass Manning for several Ole Miss career passing records.

''I'm thrilled that we have him,'' coach Hugh Freeze said. ''I like the demeanor he has right now. I like the leadership he's trying to show, the way he's studying film. It's his last chance and he could do something special.''

The 18th-ranked Rebels open their season against Boise State on Thursday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Wallace said he's aware of his place in the Ole Miss record books and the records he could have with a productive fall. He also has a chance to be among the top 10 in SEC history in career passing yards.

The 6-foot-4, 217-pounder made it clear he was upset when the league's media selected him as the third-team preseason All-SEC quarterback in July. He's the active career leader in just about every league passing category.

''I just think he's hungry to go out and prove that he can have a better year than he did in the last one and the one before that, and he's had two pretty good ones,'' Freeze said.

But Wallace said individual numbers are secondary to the one goal that really matters: Leading the Rebels (8-5 in 2013) to their first SEC championship since 1963.

That, of course, will be a monumental task. The Rebels are the only team from the SEC West that has never played in the championship game since the league split into two divisions in 1992.

''We're all ready to go,'' Wallace said of his team, which went 3-5 in the conference last season. ''We're tired of playing against each other - against the scouts. We're ready to go against some competition and see what we have this year.''

Wallace should have a couple of capable targets in receiver Laquon Treadwell and tight end Evan Engram. Treadwell is coming off a productive freshman season, finishing with a team-high 72 receptions for 608 yards and five touchdowns.

The Rebels will finally get the chance to show what they can do in the opener against the Broncos (8-5), who are coming off their worst season since 1998.

First-year coach Bryan Harsin, who has played and served as an assistant at Boise State, has set out to keep the Broncos relevant on a national scale following the departure of Chris Petersen to Washington.

''The thing about it is I understand that expectation level that was set here because I happened to be part of it for a number of years,'' said Harsin, who was a graduate assistant with Boise in 2001 and an assistant until 2010. ''So to me, every time I'm asked it, and to be honest with you I don't think about it because that's just the expectations we have of ourselves anyway to go out there and play and coach and work to be at that level.''

Quarterback Grant Hedrick will have a couple of talented options at his disposal offensively after he threw for 1,825 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions while splitting time with Joe Southwick last season.

Jay Ajayi rushed for 1,425 yards on 249 carries in 2013, and ranked eighth nationally with 18 touchdowns. He's averaged 5.96 yards per carry in two seasons, the seventh-best among active players with more than 250 career attempts.

Matt Miller led the Broncos with 88 catches for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, while Shane Williams-Rhodes had 77 receptions for 702 yards and six scores.

They'll take on what should be a much-improved Mississippi defense behind All-America safety Cody Prewitt, tackle Robert Nkemdiche, cornerback Tony Conner and linebackers Serderius Bryant and Denzel Nkemdiche.

This is the first meeting between the schools, but Boise State is 6-2 versus ranked opponents since 2009. One of those wins came in the Georgia Dome to open the 2011 season, a 35-21 victory over No. 19 Georgia.

This will be Ole Miss' first game at the Georgia Dome.

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