Aug 20, 2012

2012 SEC Previews: Ole Miss with Red Cup Rebellion

We’re previewing the upcoming season with help from SBNation. Today, Red Cup Rebellion looks at the Rebels.

Ole Miss’ 2012 schedule is daunting. Texas, Auburn and rival Mississippi State highlight the Rebel’s home slate. It gets even more brutal for the Rebs away from Oxford, as they must travel to No. 2 Alabama, No. 10 Arkansas and No. 1 LSU.

2011 Record: 2-10

2011 Bowl: N/A

2012 Bowl Projections:

History in Orlando:


Q&A with Red Cup Rebellion

Describe the 2011 season in two words.

Can I say “awful” twice? Or, better yet, let’s say “what happened?!” Rebel fans were expecting a few headaches last season, but nothing quite as bad as what we saw. The first game of the season, a home opener against BYU, saw the Rebels squander a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose late, and from there it all seemed to tumble downhill. Sure, there were hard-fought nailbiters against Arkansas and Georgia, but there were also things like a 23-point loss to Vanderbilt, a 17-point loss to Kentucky, a 20-point loss to Louisiana Tech, and a 28-point loss to Mississippi State. That’s not just bad; that’s downright atrocious.

What’s the single biggest change we’ll see between Houston Nutt and Hugh Freeze in the makeup of this team?

Hugh Freeze said at a recent press conference that he would “throw to set up the run.” That statement does betray the balance of play calling Freeze has demonstrated elsewhere in his career, but as far as football philosophy goes it couldn’t be any more different from Houston Nutt’s. He has described his ideal offense as “basketball on grass,” even though he readily admits that the personnel at Ole Miss right now aren’t readily suited for that offense at its full potential.

This all leads me to conclude that, generally, we will see a faster paced offense which more closely resembles the spread-option schemes used at West Virginia, Oregon, and Auburn.

Overall, I think you’ll see this team play harder and with more dedication and enthusiasm, but that is typical with programs in the first season of a new coaching staff. The players seem excited in a way that we did not see over the past few seasons.

Which defensive unit needs to improve the most to help right the ship on that side of the ball?

Without any reservation whatsoever, my answer is the defensive line. The Rebel defense is largely thin and inexperienced up front, and could struggle significantly against some of the SEC’s more accomplished offensive lines. Still, there is reason to think that this season’s defensive line should be able to improve upon their performance last fall.

At nose tackle, Ole Miss is working senior Gilbert Pena – who has shed thirty pounds this off season and is noticeably quicker as a result – in front of sophomore Carlton Martin. Next to him at tackle is what appears to be a rotation of sophomore Bryon Bennett and true freshman Issac Gross. Gross was an Underarmour All-American selection and, while undersized, may be too athletic up front to keep off of the field this Fall, especially in passing situations.

At the end positions, sophomore C.J. Johnson, a converted linebacker, should be working opposite of veterans Cameron Whigham and Jason Jones. This group, while athletic, could use some significant help, something it hopes to receive as soon as freshman Channing Ward – considered the top prospect in Mississippi last year – is declared NCAA eligible.

On paper, what looks like the toughest game this season?

LSU, easily. They return so many starters off of an SEC Championship winning season that it’s foolish to not think of the Tigers as a legitimate BCS National Title contendor at this point. The Rebels do tend to play them rather well in Baton Rouge, as odd as that may seem, but they are, as far as I can tell, the most talented team the Rebels will face.

Best case/worst case scenario for the postseason.

Ole Miss’ best case scenario is simply bowl eligibility. After losing ten games last year, and in the face of one of the nation’s most difficult schedules, it’s tough to imagine that Ole Miss will be able to work its way into the postseason. Ole Miss would have to either win all of its out of conference games – a tall task when considering a September 15 date against Texas – and two SEC games, or win three or more SEC games. Coming off of a winless in-conference season, it is tough to see any such scenario taking place.

A worst case scenario is, honestly, a repeat of last season. When put that way, the “worst case scenario” does not seem all that bad.

One Question In The Other Direction

How important are the Big Ten and SEC tie-ins to the Capital One Bowl? I can easily say that the SEC is happy to be associated with the bowl, and I would hope that feeling is reciprocal.

Answered by Director of Digital Media Matt Repchak: We can’t say enough about our match-up. The Big Ten and SEC pairings have been in place since 1993 and have given us so many great games over the past two decades; I’d name names but that’s the subject of a question in a future preview. Ours the best conference pairing in the country and it keeps us atop the list of non-BCS bowls (though our payout probably doesn’t hurt, either).


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