Big thanks to SB Nation’s Ole Miss Rebels blog, Red Cup Rebellion, for informing myself and fellow Georgia Southern Eagles on what to expect at this weekend’s game.
What follows are five questions I asked of RCR writer Juco All-American, followed by his answers. If you’re interested in some cross-blog reading, check out my answers to his questions on the matchup as well.
Haisten Willis: This has been a bit of a tough year for Ole Miss, with five losses and an NCAA investigation looming. Are fans sticking behind Hugh Freeze for the most part or is there some thought about a potential move?
Juco All-American: The fans are definitely sticking with Hugh Freeze. I think most fans recognize that while this is a down year, Freeze still has the Rebels positioned in a good place.
We don’t know what the NCAA investigation will bring, but one down season isn’t going to cause many rational fans to turn on the guy. The primary faults appear to lie in an unwillingness to let go of assistant coaches who aren’t getting the job done on the field or in recruiting. I assume we’ll see a change to that this offseason. If not, the seat will get very hot very quickly.
I guess this is a good place to mention that signing a top-ten recruiting class this past February extended the leash on Freeze a good bit in the eyes of fans. The No. 1 quarterback recruit in the country is redshirting. There’s young offensive talent everywhere. Now… the defense on the other hand. Yikes.
HW: Aside from quarterback Chad Kelly, who any self-respecting college football fan is familiar with, who are some offensive and defensive players to keep an eye on? Actually, go ahead and talk about Kelly too.
JCAA: Kelly has regressed some this season, but he’s still capable of making any throw. His deep accuracy is usually elite, though he has struggled a bit in the last few games. He’s an adequate runner as well.
The best wide receiver on the field will be Damore’ea Stringfellow. He’s incredible and would demand tons of targets a game were it not for tight end Evan Engram, who has already set the Ole Miss record for receiving yards in a season by a tight end. Those two form major matchup problems with any defense, since they’re huge but also quite fast and athletic.
Defensively, um… I dunno. Marquis Haynes is an elite pass rusher, though I’m not sure that’s what the Rebels need this Saturday. This team has tons of trouble stopping the run. I could see safety Zedrick Woods or junior Demarquis Gates having a stat-filling day though.
HW: How would you attack the Ole Miss defense?
JCAA: Yeah. Run at the them. Pretty much run wherever you want. They can’t stop the run up the middle or to the outside. The defensive line has been pretty abysmal this season after tremendous hype in the offseason. The linebacker play is comically bad. To give you some perspective, LSU averaged 7 rushing yards before contact. Yeah.
But the secondary isn’t that great either, so there’s that.
HW: What are some tailgating and food/drink recommendations for traveling Southern fans? Is The Grove really as awesome as they say?
JCAA: I wish I had some insider tip that was a better option than the Grove on a Saturday in Oxford. I’m just not sure that exists there. The Grove is an exceptional experience, and my advice would be to just walk around until someone invites you to have a drink and some food in their tent. It will happen. If it doesn’t, just go up and introduce yourself.
The Ole Miss tailgate is all about bourbon. There’s beer too (though it’s technically illegal to have beer… not bourbon though), but it’s not prevalent. Most people drink it straight, but if you get cheap stuff and add a mixer to it, we won’t hold it against you.
As for food, I’d recommend either Taylor Grocery (a drive and a wait) or Ajax on the Oxford square. Both are incredibly unique to the town, and neither is all that pricey.
HW: Who would you take against the spread and the over/under?
JCAA: It looks like the spread is currently 27.5. The over/under is 63. I’ll go with Georgia Southern ATS and the over. Ole Miss isn’t going to stop the run very well, even considering the difference in perceived talent.
I do think the Rebels will be able to pass with relative ease though and should distance themselves after halftime, but 27.5 points is just a little too much given the struggles on defense.
So it’s official, traveling Eagle fans: You need to go to the Grove (like you were already planning to do) and if imbibing you need to drink bourbon, not beer. And to get the full experience you need to drink it straight.
Let’s hope this is not a trap.