Ole Miss: “Biggest Game in My Lifetime”

According to CBS’ Dennis Dodd, that’s how Ole Miss fans are approaching today’s game against Alabama:

“One of our biggest donors stuck his head in,” Freeze recalled, “[Saying], ‘Biggest game in my lifetime.'”

Here’s a little more of the Ole Miss perspective:

They can talk all they want in this state about Archie and Eli and John Vaught and StarkVegas and Egg Bowls past. This is, arguably, the most significant week in this state’s glorious football history.

“I think it’s probably the biggest,” said Rick Cleveland, 49 years a sportswriter in the state, now executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

They say Eli Manning’s last home game here against LSU in 2003 was a big deal. The Rebels and Bulldogs haven’t been ranked at the same time in 15 years. They haven’t been ranked together this high since 1958. The legendary Vaught had a fine run at Ole Miss from 1947-70. The schools battled for the SEC title in 1941.

For Alabama, it’s, uh…not.

As a Tide fan, I can definitely lose perspective about these sort of games since Alabama regularly plays in high-profile, high-stakes-type match-ups.  Bama has won championships and competed for national titles in every decade of my life.  For a guy that’s on the back side of 40, that’s saying something.  And from that perspective, it’s hard to really fathom what Mississippi fans must be feeling.  We may have gone through rough patches, but there was usually some sort of bright, shining light somewhere in the middle of the rough patch, even if it lasted only briefly.

For Ole Miss, that hasn’t been the case since since the early 1960s.  Yeah, well, except for the brief periods Mannings have been on campus and even then no championships were won.

As far as the game goes, I am a bit concerned.  Ole Miss has a good team and they are plenty capable of pulling off an upset.  When Alabama loses, the common denominator is often a quarterback that plays out of his mind for four complete quarters.  It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that this could happen to Bo Wallace.  The Rebel Black Bear defense is also sort of salty and I am a bit concerned about Blake Sims’ shoulder.  If he’s off, even just a tad, that could spell trouble for us.

Ole Miss will play with a ton of emotion to start the game, but we’ve seen that before.  Ultimately, for Alabama, it won’t be about the other team.  The game will come down to how Alabama plays.

 

 

 

First Thoughts on Ole Miss

The Ole Miss Rebel Black Bears are feeling pretty good right now heading into this week’s game against Alabama.  I guess they should.  After all, they are unbeaten through four games and are ranked No. 11 in the latest Associated Press poll.

They also have a pretty good defense.

But in 2014, these Black Bears will only go as far as their quarterback, Bo Wallace can take them.  Here’s what Dr. Bo has done so far this year:

BoWallaceThrough4Games2014So far, at least statistically, Wallace hasn’t had a bad year.  In fact, before last week’s game against Ole Miss (and through the bye week that proceeded it), folks were downright gushy about the RBB signal caller.  As the line went, Wallace had been on first since the second half of the Boise State game.

But I think the story goes deeper than just these numbers.  Let’s face it, if you look inside the big red sort of circle, you’ll see that Ole Miss’ competition this year ain’t all that grand.  You’ll also see that Wallace likes to turn the ball over, and those tend to come in bunches.  That’s something about Wallace’s play that isn’t new for 2014.

Of course, I also buy the line of thinking that Ole Miss, and Wallace, were probably looking ahead to Bama.  It’s hard to keep your focus on a team like Memphis when the big boys are rolling into your town the next week.

Most of us Bama fans look at the Black Bears and Wallace and aren’t all that concerned.  After all, this is a team that hasn’t beaten us since 2003.  But I look at this game as trouble.  The RBBs have a salty defense, they are playing at home, they have some momentum that comes from being 4-0, and, they do have a quarterback that is capable of getting hot and pulling a Stephen Garcia.

Freshman Eddie Jackson Lays Wood

Alabama falls victim, for the second time this season, to the worst rule in college football:

I don’t like to see players get hurt, and I don’t like cheap shots, but this is a sorry rule.  Players – both the offensive and defensive – are reacting to the ball and then, at the last moment, to each other.  The Ole Miss receiver got lit up, but it wasn’t a cheap shot.

Ole Miss: The Good and Bad

On Saturday, the Tide finished off Ole Miss 25-0 and, in the process proving Black Bear quarterback Bo Wallace to be very, very wrong:

“Yeah, I think we can put points on them,” Wallace said. “I think we can put points on anybody. We just have to show up and play. It’s the same thing every week, let’s stay on schedule, control the tempo and don’t have any turnovers.”

Apparently, there’s more to scoring on Alabama’s defense than just “show up and play.”

The Tide’s performance against Ole Miss falls into two distinct categories:  good and bad.

On the good side, there’s the Alabama defense.  Heck, any time you throw a shutout, it’s good, but the shutout on Saturday was good on several levels.

* First, as noted above, it was a very nice response to a spunky Mississippi team.  One ‘Bama commentator noted earlier in the week that the Rebs’ yapping had a very distinct #Hailstate ring to it.  I couldn’t agree more.  While it wasn’t the worst smack talk we’ve ever heard, it did have the “if we talk about tit enough maybe we can defy the laws of physics” sound.  All sound, no fury, I guess.

* On another level, the shutout was a nice follow up to the stinker laid in College Station.  Giving up a record number of yards has a way of leaving a mark, so this performance was a very nice rebound.

* On a third level, it was nice to ring up a shutout against one of the vaunted “hurry up no huddle” offenses of this era.  This wasn’t a world-beater type Rebel team, but their head coach Hugh Freeze is considered to be one at the forefront of the HUNH movement and it was nice to hang a goose egg on him.

On the bad side is the Alabama offense.  The word that kept coming to mind watching the game was “discombobulated.”  The final stats were good enough, but, for the most part, the play calling was mediocre and the offensive line didn’t seem to play well, at least early in the game.  After the Virginia Tech and Colorado State games, I thought the offense was sandbagging a bit, but after Saturday’s game, I’m not so sure.  Now, I think, the offense just isn’t very good.  There’s plenty of talent, but there seem to be problems putting everything together.

Defending the HUNH

One thing I’m looking forward to this season is seeing how defenses across the country – and especially inside the SEC – will adjust and try and stop Hurry-Up-No-Huddle (HUNH) offenses, which are now all the rage.

I think many of us are especially interested in the match-up on September 14th to see what Nick Saban and Kirby Smart have cooking for Johnny Manziel.

First, though, we get to see what Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has worked up as his Commodores take on Ole Miss this Thursday to open the season:

“We’re going to run a tempo defense this year, which no one has ever heard of,” Franklin said jokingly. “You’re going to have to wait and see.”

A tempo defense, huh?

Commodore defensive lineman (and former Briarwood Lion) Walker May gives us a hint of what this “tempo defense” may entail:

Senior defensive end Walker May said Vanderbilt’s defensive linemen typically go four or five plays in a row as hard as they can, knowing someone will rotate in for them.

“We’ve been doing a lot of conditioning,” May said. “If that (substituting) doesn’t happen, we’re not worried about it. I like it when teams go faster. It makes it more fun for me.”

Franklin also notes another factor:

“When the ball is snapped, I want everybody set,” Franklin said at his Monday press conference. “We went back and looked at (film of the game against) Ole Miss last year and there was probably 10 to 12 plays when they snapped the ball, their offense wasn’t set. But the officials had a hard time keeping up with the pace to get in position to do that.

I think Franklin makes a good point – and, hey, it never hurts to work the officials a bit, but I’d be surprised to see this change much this year.

In fact, though these are both good points and make sense when defending the HUNH – good conditioning and the officials making sure all the players are set, I think there are other factors that weigh even more heavily.

First, you have to understand that the speed of play affects the environment, but you are still playing football.  At the end of the day, the HUNH will run “X” number of plays and have a certain percentage of run plays and a certain percentage of pass plays.  They’ll have tendencies for down and distance.  They’ll have tendencies based on field position.  In short, the first and main thing that changes is pace.

To defend this, defenses will have to change their pace as well.  That’s why you hear Franklin barking about players being set and why you hear coaches like Bret Beliema moaning about player safety.  Coaches want to do anything to slow the pace down just a tad.  If the officials can help, that’s great.  But for the defenses to really keep up – and truly run a “tempo defense” – the defensive players on the field are going to have to adjust quicker and be ready to play quicker.

In some ways, the HUNH is a direct response to a Nick Saban defense.  His defenses have not only been wickedly talented, they’ve also had plenty of intelligent players that could create defensive changes based on offensive sets and formation changes.  The HUNH has whittled this time for making changes down to just a few seconds.

So, if the officials aid in the offense’s hurried up pace, we’ll need players that can make defensive calls much quicker.

Once your just playing football, defending the HUNH is no different that defending any other offense:  control the line of scrimmage and get the offense off the field as quickly as you can.

Vandy’s May notes defensive linemen going “four or five plays in a row.”  Sure, you certainly have to plan for this, but in reality, if you’re having to rotate linemen once or twice on each drive, you’re in trouble.  Especially for a team like Vandy.

At the end of the day, if speed and pace are the main ingredients to bring teams like Ole Miss and Auburn back to a competitive state, I think the rest of the league will adjust.  The more teams that run the HUHN, the more experience your team will have playing against it.  And the more familiar teams become with it, the less special it become.

What Does a 2-10 Record Get You? Plenty of Season Tickets Available.

Ole Miss has some tickets available:

 A struggling economy. A fundraising campaign that required a donation on top of the cost of tickets. And a 2-10 football season that resulted in a coaching change.

All of it has added up for Ole Miss, which is down 3,000 season tickets sold from this time last year. Overall, the school has sold 32,000 season tickets, out of a 45,000 ticket allotment, for this fall.

“We got some work to do,” athletic director Ross Bjork said. “There’s no doubt about that. We just have to keep talking, keep pushing, keep selling.”

 

“I don’t know who this Archie guy is, but he’s popular.”

This is a funny story involving the guy who now has Archie Manning’s old cell phone number:

“A lot of these people who call and text, I have no clue who they are. Here’s a text that says, ‘Archie, I have tremendous love for Ole Miss. I would love to serve as their next head coach. Any consideration would be greatly appreciated.’ It’s signed, ‘Hugh Freeze.’ Do you know who he is?”

“Finally one day when a caller asked for Archie, I tell the guy, ‘I don’t know who this Archie guy is, but he’s popular,'” Guidry said. “The guy says, ‘He used to be quarterback for the Saints.’ I said, ‘Archie? Manning? No way.'”

I can think of a few SEC personalities that should never change cell numbers.

Update: It looks like Freeze found Archie’s number.