1. Well, one thing that hasn’t changed much about the Ole Miss offense this year is that it’s scoring a ton of points. Is there anything all that different from what we saw last year?
In short, not really. The passing game has been excellent against everyone but Alabama so far this year. That was to be expected, given that four of the five starting linemen returned as did every starting offensive skill player other than running back Jordan Wilkins.
Wilkins’ departure was supposed to be really difficult to handle, but juco transfer Scottie Phillips has 467 yards through four games and is averaging 7.5 yards per carry on the year. A lot of that has come against bad defenses, of course, but Phillips did churn out more than 200 against Texas Tech (who is admittedly bad) and averaged just under 4 yards per carry against Alabama.
2. That said, Alabama is a pretty stark outlier in terms of production. What were the Tide able to do on defense, and what seemed to hurt Ole Miss the most in that game?
The real story of the game on this side of the ball will be how much you’re able to rattle Jordan Ta’amu in the pocket. He has a history (albeit brief) of slumping in games when he’s getting pressured a lot early. Alabama did that, and the results were…. Frustrating. Ta’amu, who leads the SEC in passing, was 7/22 for 133 yards with two picks. Taking out his 75 yard passing touchdown to open the game makes that number even worse.
The most frustrating part of it is that the receivers were regularly getting open; Ta’amu just wasn’t really seeing them. Missed some guys on intermediate and deep routes and just didn’t see when receivers were open streaking deep.
Part of that is that this offensive line is good but not great. Other than Greg Little, there aren’t enormous difference makers there. That’s not enough to succeed against Alabama.
3. As for the other side of the ball well...the Rebel defense is um...bad. Is there any hope on that side of the ball, or will it just take time and better talent?
There is no hope. It will be terrible. The players jog a lot, and they can’t tackle well. The best two linebackers on the team are former three-star freshmen. If the talent wasn’t so decrepit, they’d be given time to build muscle and become the players they’re capable of. Instead, they’re STARTING.
There’s also a big coaching issue. DC Wesley McGriff is at best unproven and at worst proven to be bad. While he’s not the one telling the players to be 20 yards away from open receivers, he’s not remedying it either. Most fans hope he’s not on the staff after Thanksgiving or… like…. now.
4. Kent State kept things surprisingly close last week. Looking at the box score, something that stands out is that the Golden Flashes ran 84 plays. What was the story there? Was this a hurry-up offense doing its thing, or could the Rebel defense really just not get them off the field?
I can’t fully account for that statistic. I certainly noticed the drives simply lasting longer on both sides, but it’s awfully strange that it was 7-7 at the half. I wish I had a magical answer here, and I’m sure people who go into more advanced metrics than I do could figure something out. In the second half, the Ole Miss offense could do almost anything it wanted, so things were going pretty fast at that point. 84 though, is a hell of a lot, especially considering they only averaged 5.6 yards per pass and 3.6 yards per rush.
5. What’s the feeling with this game? Another typical hair-on-fire LSU game? Extra juice because of Ed Orgeron? Any sense of futility after the last few weeks?
I think the Ole Miss offense will keep things interesting for 2-3 quarters, but LSU’s offense should be able to waltz down the field on the ground over and over again. Eventually, Ole Miss isn’t going to be able to keep pace.
The fans hate Ed Orgeron. Most of the players know nothing about him.