1. This feels like something of a "season on the brink" type of game for Ole Miss with three losses and two in conference play already. Does it have that feel to you as well?
It certainly could be. In Freeze’s first four seasons on the job, he has improved each season’s win total by one (7-6, 8-5,9-4,10-3). That’s already impossible (unless college football as we understand it implodes and a three-loss Ole Miss team makes the CFP). The Rebels face a series of tough matchups over the course of the remainder of the season and have to go undefeated to simply tread water.
So certainly this season would be pretty much “over” with one more loss. It may be “over” already. But there’s some reason for encouragement that this season is not the end. Sure, Chad Kelly graduates (in theory) this year, but there are offensive weapons all over the field for Ole Miss. Promising young skill players and offensive linemen help keep things interesting on that side. Alternatively, the defense is kind of meh and will probably continue to be kind of meh until staff changes are made and the recruitment of defensive players (namely linebackers and defensive ends) ceases to be a story of almosts.
2. Chad Kelly has been outstanding on standard downs this year, but struggled on passing downs a bit. Any idea what might be the problem there?
It’s mostly the offensive line. When the coaches are adequately mixing in the run and throwing defenses off guard, the game becomes more than a one-dimensional “get to the quarterback” approach. For a young offensive line with new or young starters (some of whom just aren’t talented enough, at least yet) all across the board, it’s a recipe for trouble.
The frustrating aspect of that is that given time Chad Kelly can do absolutely astonishing things. A narrative of inconsistency has begun to envelop Chad, and that’s not fair. He’s inconsistent…. when he’s consistently getting crushed moments after letting go of the ball. Generally, he’s exceptional.
3. We know about Kelly and that outstanding receiving corps, but what else should we know about this offense?
The running game can, at times, be successful. Other times, it struggles against terrible run defenses like that of Arkansas. Akeem Judd is a patient runner, who sometimes picks up tough yards. Equgene Brazley is quicker but lacks some of the consistency of Judd. Freshman D’Vaughn Pennamon, if he’s not out for the game with an injury, could pose an interesting threat. He’s a big, one-cut runner who has done some fun things when given the chance the season.
That’s all I’ve really got other than the passing game.
4. The Rebels have been really struggling on defense after a few years of solid units. What's happened there?
Tons of recruiting misses and a coaching staff that appears unwilling to make the changes needed to rectify the situation. Ole Miss has signed one decent linebacker in the past four years. He, Demarquis Gates, is very good. It’s just that the rest of the unit is below average.
One the defensive line, there’s a strong starting unit, especially when senior Fadol Brown is healthy at DE. There’s adequate depth at DT, but the backups at DE are not good. They neither keep contain nor rush the passer well… so…. Yeah.
The secondary is quite promising, but only among the young players. The older guys are…. also not good.
Then there’s Tony Conner, who many expected to be the rock of the defense after losing a season to injury. He has continued to improve, but he’s just not what he was before the injury.
5. Care to offer a prediction?
Um… can I take a pass?
I think the Ole Miss defense is bad enough at stopping the run that LSU should be able to score a lot. There’s a chance that Ole Miss is able to score more, even though I have a lot of respect for LSU’s D. Still, I think that ultimately, too much pressure will be placed on Chad Kelly’s shoulders as first down after first down sees the Rebels run directly into the line and pick up one to two yards.
LSU by 10.