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2019 Season Opponents Preview: Ole Miss Rebels

No...Land...Shark doo doo doo doo doo doo

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss Rebels

Last Season: 5-7 (1-7)

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Mississippi
“I wonder if this patrolman can arrest the other team for being too dang good” - Matt Luke’s thoughts, probably
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Head Coach: Matt Luke – 3rd year (former Ole Miss Co-OC/OL coach)

Overall Record: 11-13 (4-12)

School Record: 11-13 (4-12)

Offensive Coordinator: Rich Rodriguez – 1st year (former Arizona HC)

Defensive Coordinator: Mike MacIntyre – 1st year (former Colorado HC)

Last Game Against Mizzou: 2013 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, lost 24-10

This Year: HOMECOMING at Faurot Field – Columbia, MO – October 12th, TBD

Projected Overall S&P+ Rank: 39th

Projected Offensive S&P+ Rank: 21st

Projected Defensive S&P+ Rank: 73rd

Returning Production: 51% – 30% Offense, 71% Defense (116th in the nation)

NCAA Football: UL Monroe at Mississippi
Matt Corral
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Players to Watch

-Matt Corral – QB – R-FR: 16-22 (72.7%)/239 yards/2 TDs/1 INT/3 sacks/8.84 ypa

-10 rushes/101 yards/2 TDs/10.1 ypc/50% OPP rate/0 fumbles

-Scottie Phillips – RB – SR: 153 rushes/928 yards/12 TDs/6.07 ypc/51.6% OPP rate/1 fumble

-11 targets/10 catches (90.9%)/105 yards/2 TDs/10.5 ypc/9.5 ypt2.6% tr

-Elijah Moore – WR – SO: 48 targets/36 catches (75%)/398 yards/2 TDs/11.1 ypc/8.3 ypt/11.2% tr

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Texas A&M
“Ahhhhhhhhhhh-chooooooo” - Benito Jones, probably
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Players to Watch

-Benito Jones – DT – SR: 25 tackles/16 solo/9 TFLs/3 sacks/0 INTs/0 PBUs/0 FFs/36% HAVOC

-Mohamed Sanogo – ILB – JR: 79.5 tackles/50 solo/6.5 TFLs/1 sack/0 INTs/1 PBU/2 FFs/11.9% HAVOC

-Myles Hartsfield – FS – SR: 36 tackles/31 solo/1.5 TFLs/0 sacks/0 INTs/7 PBUs/1 FF/26.4% HAVOC

Preview

BREAKING NEWS: Ole Miss is still a historically great program and a modern SEC team. They have 3 National Championships. They’ve won 6 SEC titles. They are 43rd in all-time wins, have won 37 bowl games, sent 246 gentlemen to the NFL (including 22 first-round picks), spent 289 weeks in the AP Poll and ranked #1 for 5 weeks. They also have recruited in the Top 25 for the past 4 years. The Rebels are “old money” SEC and act as such.

Now… Ole Miss in 2018 went 5-7, including logging only one win in the SEC (it was Arkansas, of course). They were clearly better than their non-con opponents, although their strongest non-con was… (shuffles papers)… um, Texas Tech. They took their ritualistic beat downs from Alabama and LSU, but lost by 15 to Auburn, South Carolina, and Mississippi State at home AND to Texas A&M and Vanderbilt (!) on the road. An offense that could put up 70 on Louisiana-Monroe AND Southern Illinois couldn’t put up 30 on either Vandy or Auburn?! Not to mention, one of the most painfully one-dimensional offenses ever at Mississippi State knocked the Rebel defense around for 31 points. Yet six (6!) players from the 2018 squad were drafted by NFL teams.

I certainly don’t believe head coach Matt Luke is on the hot seat because both he and the Oxford administration had to know what he was getting into. After Hugh Freeze spent 5 years slinging slinging bible verses and passes with equal aplomb, the good reverend was busted for soliciting sex workers via HIS WORK PHONE. That revelation, mixed with Freeze and his staff getting caught luring 5-star talents via the pastoral offering plate, brought Ole Miss to the decision to force Freeze to resign and start anew. Luke was the co-offensive coordinator in the halcyon days of Ole Miss where the Land Shark defense ran amok and Dr. Bo Wallace was surgically destroying opponents’ secondaries with a rotating cast of NFL 1st round wide receiving talent. Wallace, the receivers, and the Land Sharks are all gone. This year’s Ole Miss team will feature a brand-new QB, their #1 running back with no depth behind him, 2 of their top 5 receivers (the three departed receivers are all in the NFL), one starting offensive lineman, and almost everybody from a sieve of a defense.

In one of the most “I can’t WAIT to see what happens” series of moves this offseason, Luke brought in former Arizona/Michigan/West Virginia head coach, Rich Rodriguez (the father of the zone read) as his offensive coordinator and former Colorado/San Jose State head coach, Mike MacIntyre as his defensive coordinator. Having TWO former head coaches coming in to be your assistants is super intriguing from a relationship view, especially since both guys were dismissed from their schools— one for sexual harassment (Rodriguez) and one for losing 6 games whilst covering for a coach accused of domestic assault (MacIntyre). From purely a football view, neither man has coordinated their respective sides of the ball since 2000 (RichRod) and 2009 (Mac), but considering MacIntyre turned freaking SJSU and Colorado into 10+ win teams and Rodriguez took West Virginia to the doorstep of a national championship, Luke might be relying on skills outside of just calling plays and managing their side of the ball.

Ole Miss has Matt Corral slotted as the starting QB, and while he technically has experience, it comes in the form of 22 passes thrown for 239 yards. His receiving corps will have a brand-new look as well with the leading returner being slot man Elijah Moore, a sophomore with 36 catches and 400 yards to his name. Scottie Phillips returns as running back, but behind him are career backups with not much on-field experience. Oh, and all of this offense will be operating behind a line that loses four starters, including 1st team All-SEC (and 2nd round NFL Draft pick), Greg Little. Last year’s group ranked 6th in offensive S&P+, but that’s a whole lot of new faces to break in for RichRod’s first go; it’ll probably take until the week before our game when they start figuring out what’s going to work. Advantage: Missouri.

The bad news for the former Land Shark defense: they were terrible. 90th in the country, to be precise. The good news: minus their starting strong safety and nickel corner, everybody is back! Ole Miss played a ton of new guys last year and now they’re all juniors and seniors. How much improvement being a year older makes is unquantifiable, especially since they’ll be learning a new system, but it’s hard to get much worse than 90th as a P5 program (sit down, Kansas and Rutgers, I’m being hyperbolic). Josiah Coatney and Benito Jones were a good tag team on the line, combining for 10% of the team’s total tackles and 10% of the team’s total HAVOC (tackles for loss, passes defensed, forced fumbles). Having them return to eat up blocks should give the more experienced Mohamed Sanogo better opportunities to further his “tackle-machine” reputation and free up havoc-master Qaadir Sheppard (40% HAVOC rate (!). Losing Zedrick Woods hurts in the secondary, as he was the second-leading tackler on the team, but returning sophomore Keidron Smith and junior Jaylon Jones at corner (Jones missed 2018 with injury) should give the pass defense a little more fighting chance. Again, how much is tough to tell— they were slightly better against the pass than the run but neither was a top 85 unit and that’s not going to bode well against an SEC schedule. Returning experience plus some form of bump from Coach Mac might get them into the low 70s, but they’ll need tremendous production from the offense to keep games close.

They have the SEC patch on their jersey and the Ole Miss script on the helmets, but these aren’t the Rebels that were dominating the polls in 2014 and 2015. They are vulnerable and rebuilding and we need to treat them as such. This will be Homecoming in Columbia and I expect the joyous festivities in the morning to lead to a solid victory in the afternoon. Again, I never bank on wins (hi, I’m an emotionally abused Mizzou fan) but this is an opportunity Odom and the Tigers need to seize.