With gameday rolling around faster than you can say "a bully for Ol' Mizzou," I've taken a brief look at the Ole Miss Rebels before their date in Oxford this Saturday.
When Mizzou has the ball:
The Week One stories are almost too similar between both teams defenses. The Ole Miss defense was spotted a huge third quarter lead against Memphis (23 points, compared to the 24 Mizzou was spotted against Illinois) that the unit proceeded to nearly cough up. It wasn't until Martin Hankins pass on a two-point conversion attempt to tie fell incomplete that the Rebels escaped 1-0.
Depending on your view of defensive success, Ole Miss should either be condemned or congratulated for the efforts of its defensive unit against Memphis. The squad surrendered 467 yards of total offense, including 343 yards through the air and 30 first downs. If the Rebels let Martin Hankins and a Memphis offense that was 64th in the nation last year do this kind of damage, it may be a long day for the Ole Miss defense on Saturday when Mizzou's eighth-ranked offense from 2006 heads to Oxford.
Individually, only two Rebels - LB Ashlee Palmer and DL Greg Hardy - finished with double digit numbers in tackles. But the true gamebreaker was DB Dustin Mouzon, who turned in a Pig Brown-esque performance in the opener, finishing the game with two picks, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown (see below).
The biggest problem for the Missouri offense, at least one not mentioned above, could be sophomore end Marcus Tillman, a 6-4, 260-pound difference maker who accounted for two takeaways - a pick and a fumble recovery - against Memphis.
But Ole Miss is an SEC team, and never underestimate the speed of any SEC defense. When all is said and done though, I do believe Mizzou will pass with ease against Ole Miss. Expect more of the same four- and five-wide sets, as well as more outs, hooks, and bubble screens than the Rebels will know what to do with.
When Ole Miss has the ball:
At first glance, the Ole Miss QB situation seemed shaky at best, but QB Seth Adams was extremely effective in the win over Memphis. Adams completed 19 of his 30 attempts for 201 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Ed Orgeron and the Ole Miss coaches seem content to keep the reins on Adams, as his long completion of the day last Saturday went for only 23 yards. Adams can not single handedly beat the Tigers, but his ability to avoid mistakes can put them in one hell of a spot.
But the one man who CAN single handedly beat Mizzou is RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a 5-11, 225-pound back who Missouri was fortunate enough to contain last season. In Columbia in 2006, Green-Ellis got the ball 16 times for a total of 69 yards. Green-Ellis finished a yard shy of 1,000 in 2006, turning in 100-plus yard efforts against Memphis, Georgia, Vandy and Northwestern State last year. He carried 23 times for 79 yards last week, but the Missouri run defense appears ready to turn every opposing running back into the second coming of Barry Sanders.
Missouri's chances for an SEC road win may directly correlate to two things that were horribly absent against Illinois: the ability to stop the run, and the ability to wrap up and finish tackles. Ole Miss' offense itself turned in only 10 of Ole Miss' 23 points last week, with the other 13 coming as a result of a 0-yard blocked punt return and a 99-yard interception return. If Green-Ellis gets loose, Ole Miss could keep Mizzou's offense off the field and keep both team's offensive numbers down. But if Missouri gets ahead and the Rebels are forced to abandon the run, consider this one over.
Again, Wolfert can somewhat serve as the ultimate trump card. But even if Wolfert was average, at best, he may still be better than Ole Miss PK Joshua Shene, who missed a 28-yarder and an extra point last week. From a punting standpoint, Ole Miss P Christian Albarracian averaged 47.7 yards per kick last week, including dropping one of his three punts inside the twenty. He also kicked off and averaged 52.6 yards per kickoff.
Missouri's punting conundrum continues, however. Adam Crossett's ridiculously strong leg is once again being minimized by several different factors:
- Poor long snapping
- Lack of protection
- Poor blocking/playcalling between max protect and max coverage
- Inability to control the ball on short-range kicks
Intangibles, gut feelings and instincts:
Does this game have all the makings of a "Missouri's ego gets inflated and overlooks an underrated team" game? Let us count thy ways:
- Road game? Check
- BCS conference opponent? Check
- Decent running game? Check
- Opponent wanting revenge? Check
- Cautiously optimistic fan base? Check
- Missouri team with high expectations? Check
The Spread: The line, not the offense:
Lines have fluctuated between 5 and 6 points in Mizzou's favor on the road. To make things easy, we'll agree the line is set at Mizzou -5.5.
Not that ETS "condones" gambling or anything, but ETS says take Mizzou to win by more than 5.5 in Oxford.
Missouri MVP: Chase Daniel (Cop out answer? Hell yes, it is)
Ole Miss MVP: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Missouri Unsung Hero: Sean Weatherspoon
Ole Miss Unsung Hero: Marcus Tillman
Write it down (prediction time):
Missouri defeats Ole Miss, 31-17
Photos courtesy: ViewImages, Sarah Becking, Helmet Project