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Opponent Q&A - Ole Miss Rebels

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Red Cup Rebellion lends us one of their fantastic writers for a little chat!

Mississippi v LSU Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images

Big thanks to JUCO All-American over at Red Cup Rebellion for taking the time to give us some info on the Rebels. Ole Miss is coming off of a big victory over Arkansas last week, and they’re looking for more as we learn about the Landsharks.

Ole Miss is all about offense this year. I like to think Jordan Ta’amu is the best Hawaiian quarterback in the SEC because he doesn’t have the Avengers as his supporting cast. What can we expect to see from the Rebels’ offense and who are the guys that we’re going to be cussing when they convert third-and-long situations?

I would argue that while Ta’amu likely doesn’t have the complete offense that Alabama does, he has (or at least had before DK Metcalf was lost for the year) better receivers. He also has the best left tackle in the SEC in Greg Little. The rest of the line is good at pass blocking, having allowed something like two sacks all season. The running game is also good. The problem comes when he’s facing an elite defense. Things just clam up. The team doesn’t lean on the running game enough in those situations, and Ta’amu seems to become a deer in the headlights even without significant pressure.

As far as who you’ll potentially be cussing at on third and long, there are of course the easy answers of wide receivers AJ Brown and Damarkus Lodge, who will both be in the NFL next season. Past hem though, there are just a ton of targets. Sophomore Braylon Sanders has come into his own this season as much as someone behind Lodge, Brown, and Metcalf could. Freshman receiver Elijah Moore is the type of smaller, shifty receiver we haven’t really seen at Ole Miss in a long while.

But I’ll throw out the tight ends here actually. Both juniors Dawson Knox and Octavious Cooley were involved last week against Arkansas and each had big gains. They’re not Evan Engram or anything, but guys as big as they are still shouldn’t be as good in the receiving game. I’d look out for them on third downs, assuming the offense looks at the middle of the field…. Which they’ve only done in one game so far this season.

On the other hand, the defense is decidedly not good. Are there any strengths there? What areas will Auburn likely have the most success in?

Ha. Strengths. Um…. no.

The team ranks 121st in total defense (which is a really flawed and dumb statistic overall, but… still). They’re 73rd in third down efficiency. 99th in passing efficiency defense. They’re allowing 4.83 yards per carry despite playing LSU, Alabama, and…. Um…. Louisiana-Monroe?

I see no reason for any offense facing Ole Miss to pass much. If I were an opposing offensive coordinator, I’d call runs on first, second, and third and only pass in situations wherein there’s no chance a run could really work.

What’s the future hold for the Ole Miss coaching situation? Matt Luke doesn’t seem like he’s just a placeholder, but what do you think the future holds for the Rebel leader?

It’s difficult for me to talk about coaching, given how frustrated I was by the last hiring process. The leadership in place at the university overall isn’t very good, so any future hires are likely hampered by some level of institutional ineptitude anyway.

But as for Matt Luke, he’s not going anywhere this year no matter what. He’s owed too much in guarantees (yeah, it’s only 10 million compared to your 30, but we also haven’t gotten bowl revenues in two years, and are a smaller program anyway). I imagine he’ll be in Oxford for three or four years before some other hire is made. I’m sure it will be someone infuriating, because, I don’t know if you know this, but Ole Miss’ coaching searches are always, always hilarious. Think about it: Ed Orgeron. Houston Nutt. Hugh Freeze. Matt Luke. Like… what?

This is going to be a strength (Auburn D) on strength (Ole Miss O) and weakness (Auburn O) on weakness (Ole Miss D) matchup. Why would Ole Miss have the upper hand in both of those regards?

When the Ole Miss offense is operating properly, it’s incredibly dominant. There are absurd athletes on the outsides, the line is pretty good, Jordan Ta’amu plays well within the system, and Scottie Phillips has proven to be an exceptional running back. With inventive play-calling and a willingness to rely on what’s working versus trying to force things, I think the Ole Miss offense could be too much to handle. That being said, there are a lot of caveats in that sentence you should pay attention to.

There’s absolutely zero chance the Ole Miss defense has the upper hand against Auburn’s offense, regardless of how bad you may think your offense is.

Can Ole Miss get a big (at least in name) win this weekend? Name the score and why it’ll happen.

Probably not. While fans are really excited after the SEC win last week, many are forgetting that win cam on an improbable final 97-yard drive against then 1-5 Arkansas. It’s obviously always nice to have a win, but I’m not carrying over much to this week.

There’s some chance the defense has figured out a way they can be serviceable, as they’ve stepped up several times this season in the second halves of games, but the first half is just so disheartening.

I’ll take Auburn 41 – Ole Miss 33.