Knowing the Enemy
Record: 7-3 Overall, 4-2 SEC
Always a Johnny Reb..
The Purple and Gold travel to Oxford, Mississippi Saturday to play an Old Miss team which has been waiting for them for the past two weeks. Like the Tigers, the Rebels are no longer in contention for the national title. Unlike the Tigers, Old Miss still has a shot at the SEC West and SEC championship. The recent history of these two teams suggest they still are the polar opposites in offensive philosophy. The Tigers love to run, the Rebels love to pass.
At the beginning of the season, the quarterback position was a mystery for Old Miss. This is no longer the issue. Junior quarterback, Chad Kelly, a well-traveled lad, is the 10th leading passer in the nation. He is the leading passer in the conference. Kelly has thrown for 3224 yards for the campaign. He has tossed 23 touchdowns. He has also thrown 12 interceptions, which indicates he can self-destruct at times. Kelly has rushed for 272 yards. He is not afraid to run the ball.
The Rebels run for show, to keep teams honest against the pass. They, so far, have not shown the desire to build a consistent running game between the tackles. Their leading rusher is senior Jaylen Walton, who has rushed for 582 yards on the season. He averages 5.2 yards per carry, and 64.7 rushing yards per contest. The 64.7 rushing yards per game is tops on the Old Miss team. The Rebels have capable runners. The mystery this Saturday will be if they do something differently with them.
Passing is another matter. Kelly has many threats at his disposal in their passing attack. One of these threats is SEC leading receiver Laquon Treadwell. The junior has 1002 yards in receptions this season. He has caught 68 passes this year with seven touchdowns. Treadwell averages 14.7 yards per catch. Treadwell is one of 13 Rebel receivers who average double figures in yards per catch. Junior Quincy Adeboyejo has 483 yards in receptions, averaging 14.6 yards per grab. Senior Cody Core has 500 yards in receptions, and averages 17.9 per grab. Junior tight end Even Ingram averages a paltry 10.7 yards per catch.
The Rebels average 348.8 yards per game through the air. They average 40.8 points per contest.
The offensive line is led by junior tackle Laremy Tunsil who has helped the Rebel running game immensely since his return from NCAA suspension. Redshirt Jordan Sims is the starter at right guard in a line that has been battling injuries.
The Rebels are not a good defensive team. They are eighth in the SEC in total defense. Old Miss gives up an average of 248 yards per game through the air. The Rebels allow an average of 126 yards per contest on the ground, which is really not that bad.
The important thing to remember about the Old Miss defense is they have playmakers who can sometimes mask its weaknesses. One of these players is junior Robert Nkemdice. At 6’4, 300 pounds, Nkemdice is as quick as a cat. He can play any position on the defensive line. It is extremely important for the opposing team to know where he is on every play. Nkemdice has 53 total tackles on the season, 36 unassisted, including 6.5 tfls, tackles for losses. This leads the team. His real value to the defense is he is a disrupter. He can destroy an offensive scheme by himself if the opponent is not careful. Junior defensive lineman D.J. Jones has 3.5 tfls on the year.
Another playmaker is sophomore Marquis Haynes who plays defensive end. He has 8.5 sacks on the season and he is fast off the edge. Teams tend to see him in obvious passing situations.
Yet another playmaker is senior defensive back Trae Elston. He is the second leading tackler on the team with 52, 37 solos, 4.5 tfls, and four interceptions.
The igniter for this Old Miss team is Kelly. He is fearless, and will try anything once, twice, or as many times as it takes to work. If the Purple and Gold allow him to zero in on his receivers, it may take six hours to play the game.
The Purple and Gold need a win to try and salvage what was once a promising season. Oxford would be a good place to get off the skids, but it is going to be a tough place to get off the skids.