While Texas Tech and Ole Miss look like a pretty even match-up, both teams enter the game with soft spots. Which of those spots is the softest will probably be the determining factor in the game.
Let’s start with Tech’s.
While the Red Raiders are known for an “Air Raid” offense, Kliff Kingsbury’s team enters this season without an experienced quarterback and trying to replace four wide receivers that are now in the NFL.
Three quarterbacks have been competing for the starting job, and Kingsbury says he won’t name the starter until that guy actually takes the field against Ole Miss on Saturday.
Inexperience at quarterback and wide receiver should create an opportunity for the Ole Miss defense, but it could also spell its demise. More on that later.
Thanks to a prolific offense, the Rebels probably won’t need a complete shutout thanks to an offense that averaged nearly 33 points per game last year, but the defense will need to make some stops.
Which brings us to the Ole Miss soft spot…defense.
While optimism for this unit has been pumping out of Oxford throughout August, one of the inescapable facts that has been sad but true about the Ole Miss defense the last two seasons is its tendency to make an otherwise average or below average offense look really good. The easiest path to Offensive Player of the Week in the SEC has been to play offense for a team that faced Ole Miss that week. Those are just facts.
You can bet that Kingsbury is going to want his new QB to hand the ball off early and often until Ole Miss proves it can stop it. Until I see it happen with my own eyeballs, I’m worried.
If the Rebels have improved defensively, they should be able to slow an Air Raid offense filled with a bunch of newbies at quarterback and wide receiver. If Ole Miss hasn’t improved…expect either the quarterback of the running back to be named the Big 12’s Player of the Week early next week.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss will face a Texas Tech defense that returns 10 starters from a year ago, and in a strange turn of events, has gotten most of the preseason pub out in Lubbock. That means new Ole Miss running back Scottie Phillips will get his first collegiate carries against linebackers that actually know how to fill gaps, which could be troublesome for the Rebel offense if it struggles to find rhythm early.
On the flip side, Texas Tech did give up 443 yards per game last season, including 161 yards rushing and 282 yards receiving. Those aren’t exactly defensive juggernaut numbers. Jordan Ta’amu and NWO should be able to experience success.
It should come as no surprise to anyone when I write that this game will likely come down to the Ole Miss defense. Will it be improved from a year ago? If not, Ta’amu and NWO may not be enough to save it.