We've got a game to preview once again!
In November 2013, Ole Miss is ridiculously young, dangerous, and not quite all put together yet. The Rebels are 7-3 and 27th in the F/+ rankings with a solid offense and top-20 defense. They are not particularly bad at anything (though like Missouri, they're mired in the 80s in the special teams rankings), but they have no elite trait, either. They are in position where they are good enough to beat a top-10 or 15 team on a good day and incomplete enough to struggle against a lesser team on a bad day.
Ole Miss beat LSU (No. 22) and almost beat Texas A&M (No. 14) but needed a dramatic, final-minute touchdown to beat Vanderbilt (No. 47) and beat Arkansas (No. 87) and SE Missouri State by a combined 28 points. If Missouri catches Ole Miss on a good day (for the Rebs), the Tigers' SEC East title hopes could be dashed by about 10 p.m. Saturday night. But the odds are still a bit in Missouri's favor.
Bo Wallace (6'4, 209, Jr.): 209-for-323 (65%), 2664 yards, 17 TD, 5 INT, 19 sacks (7.4 yards per pass attempt); 84 carries, 357 yards (4.3), 4 TD
Barry Brunetti (6'0, 223, Sr.): 20-for-35 (57%), 286 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT, 4 sacks (6.9 yards per pass attempt); 48 carries, 268 yards (5.6), 4 TD
Head coach Hugh Freeze employs what we'll call a 1.5-quarterback system. Doctor Bo Wallace is clearly the starter, averaging about 34 pass attempts and eight carries per game. But run-first backup Barry Brunetti will see time, averaging about four pass attempts and five carries himself. Brunetti is not much of a passer, but the Rebels have done well in taking advantage of opponents' defensive tendencies when he's in the game. If you gang up on the run too much, he'll throw to (toward? at?) a pretty open receiver.
But yeah, Wallace is the guy. He takes advantage of the defense in the opposite way; he forces you to play the read-option honest by tucking and running if the read defender tries to get a head start on the running back.
Really, Ole Miss' offense is a perfectly conceptual spread offense. There are certainly talented players you have to account for, but with three go-to running backs, two go-to quarterbacks, and eight receivers averaging at least one catch per game, the Rebels are content to take whatever you want to give them. Just like Missouri.
Jeff Scott (5'7, 162, Sr.): 64 carries, 488 yards (7.6), 2 TD; 18 targets, 15 catches (83%), 101 yards (5.6 per target)
Jaylen Walton (5'8, 166, So.): 76 carries, 391 yards (5.1), 6 TD; 19 targets, 16 catches (84%), 262 yards (13.8), 2 TD
I'Tavius Mathers (5'11, 189, So.): 68 carries, 429 yards (6.3), 2 TD; 6 target, 3 catches (50%), 20 (3.3)
Every time I see Jeff Scott running the ball, I find myself thinking "There's no WAY that guy's 162 pounds." He runs strong for such a little guy, and if he is finding yards between the tackles, every other piece of the Ole Miss offense falls into place. Scott missed three games, and Walton and Mathers more than held their own; from what I've seen of them over the last couple of years, Mathers certainly prefers life on the perimeter of the defense (and not between the tackles), and while Walton does, too, he's a bit of a Scott-Mathers combination. All three are dangerous if you're focused too much on the passing game, though.
Donte Moncrief (6'3, 226, Jr.): 85 targets, 44 catches (52%), 686 yards (8.1 per target), 5 TD
Vince Sanders (6'1, 180, Jr.): 20 targets, 13 catches (65%), 275 yards (13.8), 1 TD
Ja-Mes Logan (6'3, 183, Sr.): 50 targets, 36 catches (72%), 497 yards (9.9), 3 TD
Quinty Adeboyejo (6'3, 191, Fr.): 10 targets, 6 catches (60%), 65 yards (6.5), 1 TD
Laquon Treadwell (6'3, 215, Fr.): 70 targets, 53 catches (76%), 477 yards (6.8), 5 TD; 2 carries, 8 yards (4.0)
Jordan Holder (5'11, 179, Sr.): 18 targets, 12 catches (67%), 110 yards (6.1)
Nicholas Parker (6'0, 239, Jr.): 2 targets, 2 catches, 11 yards, 1 TD
Jack Nuismer (6'3, 236, Sr.)
As we'll see in the BTBS preview to come, Ole Miss attempts decent run-pass balance on standard downs but goes all-in on the pass on passing downs. You see a lot of big, five-star freshman Laquon Treadwell on first down -- and by his per-catch yardage, you can kind of see that he's basically used as an extension of the run game -- and you get a big dose of speedy Donte Moncrief on passing downs. Moncrief averages 20.9 yards per catch (with just a 48% catch rate) on passing downs, and since Treadwell spends most of his time in the slot (where he will likely be covered a lot by Duron Singleton, Ian Simon, or whoever the nickel back is on a given play), I assume we'll get quite a few Moncrief-vs-E.J. Gaines battles. Should be fun.
Laremy Tunsil (6'5, 315, Fr.)
Emmanuel McCray (6'5, 320, Sr.)
Justin Bell (6'3, 345, So.)
Austin Golson (6'5, 300, Fr.)
Evan Swindall (6'4, 301, Sr.)
Ben Still (6'2, 285, So.)
Jared Duke (6'7, 377, Sr.)
Patrick Junen (6'7, 349, Sr.)
Pierce Burton (6'6, 290, Sr.)
Robert Conyers (6'3, 286, RSFr.)
Ole Miss' line is pretty much solid but unspectacular across the board. The Rebels rank 33rd in Adj. Line Yards and 25th in Stuff Rate (negative run plays, basically); they also rank just 68th in Adj. Sack Rate, 96th on passing downs. Bo Wallace is a pretty tough guy who wants to make plays, and as a result, he can wait a bit too long sometimes. Hopefully he does that on Saturday night. He could get to know Michael Sam, Kony Ealy, Shane Ray, and Markus Golden pretty well.
Still, one of the key battles of this game will be how Mizzou holds up to Ole Miss' run blocking. Mizzou's defensive tackles have been absolutely fantastic against the run for most of the year; if they are again on Saturday, and Wallace has to create more on passing downs, that's very, very good news for Missouri.
(Also: Holy smokes, the Rebs have a big set of guards.)
Byron Bennett (6'2, 270, Jr.): 6.0 tackles, 2 TFL (1 sack), 1 FF
Channing Ward (6'4, 260, So.): 16.5 tackles, 2 TFL (1 sack), 2 FF, 7 QB hurries
Robert Nkemdiche (6'5, 294, Fr.): 19.5 tackles, 7 TFL (1 sack), 2 PBU, 2 QB hurries (8 games)
Lavon Hooks (6'4, 302, Jr.): 6.5 tackles, 2.5 TFL (1 sack)
Carlton Martin (6'2, 290, Jr.): 2.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL (0.5 sacks)
Woodrow Hamilton (6'3, 300, So.): 16.5 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack), 1 PBU, 1 QB hurry
Issac Gross (6'1, 250, So.): 13.5 tackles, 5 TFL (2.5 sacks), 1 PBU, 2 FR, 2 QB hurries
Cameron Whigham (6'3, 255, Sr.): 23.0 tackles, 4 TFL (2.5 sacks), 1 PBU, 3 QB hurries
D.T. Shackelford (6'1, 246, Sr.): 18.0 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 QB hurry
Temario Strong (6'0, 235, RSFr.): 7.0 tackles, 1 TFL
Star end C.J. Johnson only played four games this year before getting knocked out for the season with injury, but while that may have hurt in terms of pass rushing (the Rebs rank just 111th in Adj. Sack Rate), it hasn't slowed down the run defense one bit. Ole Miss ranks 10th in Adj. Line Yards and 29th in Rushing S&P+. Despite missing a couple of games, star recruit Robert Nkemdiche has proven pretty stout at getting into the backfield against the run. If Ole Miss' standard downs rushing is one key, Mizzou's is another. Mizzou has fared well in trench battles this year. Here's one more the Tigers will need to win.
The size of Ole Miss' line hints at Hugh Freeze's and defensive coordinator Dave Wommack's general philosophy: speed over size. With quickness up front (even in the middle) and safety-sized outside linebackers, Ole Miss brings to the table an ultra-fast D, one that has held its own in the SEC.
Serderius Bryant (5'9, 215, Jr.): 51.5 tackles, 9 TFL (2 sacks), 2 FF, 1 PBU, 2 QB hurries (8 games)
Denzel Nkemdiche (5'11, 207, So.): 21.0 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR (7 games)
Mike Marry (6'3, 250, Sr.): 26.5 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 FF, 1 FR
Keith Lewis (6'1, 220, Jr.): 16.5 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 1 QB hurry
Tony Conner (6'1, 210, Fr.): 38.5 tackles, 3 TFL (1 sack), 1 INT, 4 PBU, 2 QB hurries
Dehendret Collins (5'10, 185, Sr.): 15.5 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 FR
Cliff Coleman (5'10, 186, Jr.): 7.0 tackles, 1 TFL
The Ole Miss defense is defined in part by what qualify as its outside linebackers. The strongside backers are barely bigger than Mizzou safety Braylon Webb, and the third linebacker basically also serves as a permanent nickel back. They are used in a variety of ways; the five players listed at Stinger or Huskie above have combined for 14 tackles for loss (three sacks) and seven passes defensed. They are fast and aggressive and tackle well enough to get away with being aggressive and undersized.
Senquez Golson (5'9, 195, Jr.): 24.0 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU (9 games)
Bobby Hill (6'0, 170, Fr.): 1.0 tackles
Trae Elston (6'0, 190, So.): 41.5 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 FR
Chief Brown (6'1, 200, So.): 21.5 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR
Cody Prewitt (6'2, 220, Jr.): 47.0 tackles, 3 TFL, 4 INT, 6 PBU, 2 FF, 1 QB hurry
Brishen Mathews (6'0, 197, Sr.): 0.5 tackles
Mike Hilton (5'8, 182, So.): 28.5 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU (8 games)
Derrick Jones (6'3, 185, Fr.): 19.0 tackles, 1 TFL (6 games)
Quintavius Burdette (5'11, 186, So.): 3.0 tackles
The front seven sets the table for a relatively young (six of nine players listed above are freshmen or sophomores, and none are seniors), athletic secondary. Despite a nonexistent pass rush, Ole Miss still ranks 24th in Passing S&P+. If James Franklin patiently takes what is given to him, Mizzou should be able to move the ball in increments; but if an opponent starts to get too aggressive, Ole Miss takes advantage of it. Granted, Mizzou has a fantastic, enormous receiving corps, one bigger than any other you will face; perhaps that will give the Tigers an advantage here. Still, this is a good secondary at the tail of a good defense.
Andrew Ritter (6'3, 216, Sr.): 38-for-40 PAT, 13-for-16 FG (6-for-7 under 40) (long: 52)
Tyler Campbell (6'2, 230, Sr.): 34 punts, 45.5 average, 6 fair caught, 11 inside 20
Andrew Ritter (6'3, 216, Sr.): 67 kickoffs, 64.4 average, 43 touchbacks (64%)
Jaylen Walton (5'8, 166, So.): 17 returns, 21.9 average (long: 52)
Kalio Moore (6'0, 187, Fr.): 5 returns, 20.0 average (long: 24)
Jeff Scott (5'7, 162, Sr.): 7 returns, 12.7 average, 1 TD (long: 73)
Jordan Holder (5'11, 179, Sr.): 2 returns, 3.5 average (long: 4)
Marcus Murphy probably won't get many solid kick return opportunities, but while Tyler Campbell's punt averages are incredibly good, the fact that Ole Miss only ranks 49th in Net Punting suggests he outkicks his coverage from time to time. There could be opportunity there.
BTBS preview coming tomorrow, but this game will hinge quite a bit on line play and James Franklin. Unpredictable, right? If Mizzou is doing well in the trenches and James Franklin is playing like pre-injury James Franklin, Mizzou could win by a decent margin. But if he makes a couple of mistakes, and if Ole Miss is running between the tackles better than Missouri does, it will take a couple of super-human individual efforts to overcome that and leave with SEC East title hopes intact.