Ole Miss – October 6
A Season Ago…
There’s no real nice way to put it, Ole Miss was absolutely terrible a season ago. They managed just two wins on the year, and one of those was against an FCS opponent. The only FBS team the Rebels defeated last year was Fresno State. (Who also fired their coach at season’s end.) There were some games where the Rebels fought, none bigger than in late October where they came within a few plays of upsetting Arkansas. But they also got blown away several times as well, including blowouts at the hands of Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Houston Nutt was fired before the season even ended, beginning a coaching search that dragged on into mid-December. a number of names floated around for the Ole Miss job, but in the end it was former assistant Hugh Freeze that came away with the job.
Freeze might be known for his role in the Michael Oher saga, but he’s a coach that has quickly ascended from the high school ranks. He was the AP Coach of the Year in Tennessee six times from 1995 to 2005 before becoming an assistant at Ole Miss.
Freeze then took his version of the “Air Raid” offense to Arkansas State as offensive coordinator, where the Red Wolves made huge strides offensively. Last year Freeze was promoted to head coach, and in his only season as a head coach he took the Red Wolves to a record of 10-2 and the Sun Belt Championship.
Names to Remember
Jeff Scott – The 5-7 Scott may not impress anybody with his size, but he’ll certainly impress them with his speed. Last year Scott ran for over 520 yards in ten games, averaging 4.6 yard per carry. And Hugh Freeze’s spread system should help Scott be even more effective in 2012. There are other backs on the roster that could make an impact, including 235 pound redshirt freshman Nicholas Parker. Similar to A&M, it’s going to be interesting to see what Mississippi does with their running backs in their new offense.
Donte Moncrief – The 6-2 junior had over 450 yards receiving a year ago as a freshman and that number should go way up this year. Freeze’s offensive system is similar to Kevin Sumlin’s at A&M, and Moncrief should be one of his biggest weapons on the roster. A native of Mississippi, the big receiver should give the Aggie secondary all it can handle.
Randall Mackey – A 5-11 “wide receiver”, Mackey lined up all over the place for Ole Miss last season, including six times starting at quarterback. He had over 1,100 yards passing and 180 yards rushing. This year, Mackey will likely stay at wide receiver, but he’s a player to keep and eye on.
Charles Sawyer A native of Miami, the 5-11 safety is one of the top defensive backs in the SEC, and was named to several preseason All-SEC lists. On a defense that was nothing short of awful a season ago, he was one of the few bright spots.
How Ole Miss Can win this game
What a venue for A&M’s first ever road contest in the SEC. I’ve already talked to several Aggie fans making the trip to check out “The Grove,” the famous tailgating area in Oxford. But even though Ole Miss is as known for what happens outside the stadium as what happens inside it, this is a game that the Rebels are going to have circled on the calendar.
With a first year coach and an entirely new system (with a first year quarterback), Ole Miss doesn’t expect to win many games this year, but they could win this one, and here’s why.
Both teams are going to be running similar offensive systems, so I expect this game to possibly break all kinds of SEC offensive records. Both teams will have seen the system in practice, which should help them out, but neither defense is proven coming into the year. The weakness of A&M’s defense is probably at the safety position, exactly where Ole Miss is going to look to exploit.
In addition, the Aggies will have a first year quarterback of their own, and even though this game will be halfway through the season, turnovers could still be a problem. But that’s the big key for Ole Miss. They’re going up against a team in A&M that plays a similar game, and has better athletes doing it, so their biggest chance for victory is if the Aggies turn the ball over.
If they don’t, then A&M should beat Ole Miss. There aren’t any free games on the SEC schedule, but this one is about as close as you’re ever going to get.