Hope for the best, but…

As predicted, Ole Miss let Auburn run all over it on Saturday.

I wish there was something positive I could write here, but when a defense can’t stop anyone, it’s difficult to predict a win over the next four games. Even over the four mediocre teams that remain.

The playbook for South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State is just writing itself now:

RUN OFF RIGHT TACKLE

RUN OFF LEFT TACKLE

RUN UP MIDDLE

SEND IN SPECIAL TEAMS UNIT FOR EXTRA POINT

And now there’s this from defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff:

“Tackling is 90% desire,” McGriff said at the Monday press conference. “At some point we have to make up our minds as to whether we want to stop the ball carrier, especially after that initial contact. You can’t have missed tackles.”

I’m not questioning the accuracy of this statement, but now that the coach has resorted to simply challenging the manhood of the players on defense, I’m not growing in confidence that things are going to get any better. Isn’t that just another way of screaming “Fix it!” like you did in August, coach (as seen on “The Season”)? How did that work out for you?

Not that the offense looks much better against a team with any kind of talent on defense.

Things are looking pretty bleak.

There are those of us in this world who have been Ole Miss fans since we were old enough to say the words. We will endure these next four games, and we will hope for the best. Just like we always do.

But it’s getting hard not to expect the worst.

The Ole Miss defense is the medicine Gus Malzahn needs

In our last episode, Ole Miss narrowly escaped Arkansas only after the Razorbacks lost their starting quarterback and top two running backs to injury.

The Rebels may be the most unconvincing 5-2 football team I have ever seen.

Defensively, Ole Miss was still letting Arkansas do almost whatever it wanted. It took injuries to the Razorbacks three best offensive players for the Rebs to have a chance. Seven games in, it’s safe to say Wesley McGriff’s unit is not likely to change this season.

Which brings us to Auburn and Gus Malzahn’s $32 million buyout. Ole Miss may not be bowl eligible but the Rebels have the rare opportunity to cost Auburn $32 million with a win over the Tigers this weekend.

Auburn’s problem is that Malzahn’s offense doesn’t work without Cam Newton or Brandon Marshall at QB. Or so it seems. After losing to Tennessee, Auburn fans are sick and tired of watching it flounder. If Malzahn’s offense is in any way hindered by one of the worst defenses in the country (Ole Miss) then that will undoubtedly start the hat passing in Alabama.

Malzahn is not a stupid man. He has seen Ole Miss film. Auburn doesn’t have to be cute. Just run the ball off right tackle four out of every five plays and the SEC Network will be calling Malzahn an offensive genius by halftime. Sad to say, but the Ole Miss defense is exactly what Malzahn needs right now.

Just like every other Ole Miss game, for the Rebels to have any chance of winning Jordan Ta’amu will have to light the dadgum offensive record book on fire. I just don’t see that happening against Auburn.

I guess what I’m saying here is…Ole Miss is about to be 5-3.

Ole Miss loses to Arkan…wait…what?

There is no way anyone that watched the first three and a half quarters of this game thought Ole Miss was leaving Little Rock with a W.

And let’s be honest. The Rebels were destined to lose even in the 3rd quarter, because the Razorbacks were knifing through the Ole Miss defense like soft butter. The starting running back (Boyd) had 109 yards on 7 carries. But then Arkansas lost that same running back and his backup to injury. And then Ole Miss safety Zedrick Woods laid the Wood to Arkansas QB Ty Storey and knocked him out…literally. And suddenly a defense with no chance had a chance.

Arkansas’ bad fortune shouldn’t take away from a masterful performance by Jordan Ta’amu. A running Ta’amu is an absolute killer, and Ta’amu ran a lot. He ran for 141 yards and passed for 387 more. Arkansas was helpless to stop him. (MORE TA’AMU RUNS PLEASE)

And somehow what seemed so unlikely for most of the game happened – Ole Miss won.

Maybe the why doesn’t matter. Ole Miss won and moved to 5-2.

The Basement trophy belongs to Arkansas.

We should be ecstatic to be 5-2, but the Ole Miss defense is still appallingly bad. The Rebels won by the hair of their chinny chin chin against a now 1-6 Arkansas that lost to North Texas a lot worse than this.

The fact that we are celebrating barely surviving Arkansas feels wrong, but I guess that’s just where Ole Miss is as a program right now. It’s not great. Even though it’s 5-2. That’s ordinarily a really good start for Ole Miss.

It’s complicated.

Life is weird.

Arkansas presents good test case for how Ole Miss will look against bad to mediocre SEC competition

As an Ole Miss fan, a 4-2 record in early October normally feels pretty good. The post-season is just two wins away (for teams that are eligible for that kind of thing), and that seems doable with six remaining.

But this 4-2 record doesn’t come with the usual optimism, and that’s mostly due to the defensive struggles we’ve witnessed and because the offense has looked sub-par against the likes of Alabama, LSU and even in that first half against Kent State.

But after a complete annihilation of Louisiana Monroe, maybe the offense has found the secret sauce.

We’ll find out on Saturday. That’s when Ole Miss takes on 1-5 Arkansas.

For the Rebels to win this game, the offense is going to have to be positively on point. I shouldn’t have to write that about a game against an opponent that’s 1-5 with losses to Colorado State and North Texas, but because of the defensive issues it’s just the truth. Even after the win over ULM, the Ole Miss defense is still 123rd in Total Defense.

Arkansas will score.

Jordan Ta’amu and NWO will have to bring their A-game for the Rebels to win. I am genuinely curious as to whether Phil Longo’s offense will be good enough against a bad SEC team for that to happen. Here’s hoping. Otherwise, 4-2 will erode to 4-8 over the next two months.

Burrow’s performance at Florida is a bad yet unsurprising sign for what’s to come from the Ole Miss defense

One of the most disturbing things about the Ole Miss defense on Saturday didn’t take place at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. It was hundreds of miles to the south down in Gainesville.

That’s where LSU quarterback Joe Burrow looked very, very average (19/34 191 yards passing, 10 carries for 22 yards rushing) in a loss to the Florida Gators.

Burrow had been the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Week after playing Ole Miss just one week prior. Against a real defense he didn’t have much to offer.

My point is simply that the Ole Miss defense is so inadequate that I’m afraid we will see quarterbacks and running backs from the remainder of the SEC schedule also enjoy career games against the Rebels.

Happy Monday.

Ole Miss moves to 4-2 and sparks hope for Arkansas

Ole Miss looked like a dadgum title contender on its way to a 70-21 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.

Jordan Ta’amu was firing lasers. The receivers were unstoppable. Running backs ran free. It was a sight to behold.

And then the defense held ULM to 21 points. Not perfect, but what more can be asked from a unit struggling to find confidence and so low on depth that it had guys who were running backs a week ago playing safety?

Of course we know that Ole Miss isn’t a title contender. The Rebels aren’t even bowl eligible. Improvement is the name of the game this season, and it could be argued that Ole Miss improved this week.

It could also be argued that this game was nothing more than another non-conference mirage. The defense still allowed Caleb Evans to pass for 297 yards and that’s a lot. And we’ve seen this amazing offense become ordinary against better teams.

But the Rebels were dominant enough offensively against Monroe that it makes me once again hope that this performance is a sign of what Ole Miss might look like against SEC competition starting with Arkansas next weekend. Maybe just maybe Ta’amu has broken through the issues that stymied the offense against Alabama and LSU. Maybe the defense has gotten just a bit more feisty.

With Alabama as the common denominator (or dominator), the Razorbacks and Rebels look like a pair of fairly evenly matched football teams. I’m expecting a barn burner. Both teams will likely score many points and we will probably be reaching for calming elixers in the 4th quarter. Just like the Ole Miss – Arkansas games to which we are accustomed.

If Ole Miss can beat Arkansas it will kindle some hope for the remainder of the SEC schedule. Hope is all this blogger really wants right now. Today I have a little.

Ole Miss defense paves way for Joe Burrow to get an SEC offensive honor

As I said in my podcast today, some of the Ole Miss defensive woes can be pinned on the offense for making them be on the field so dang long. However, lest anyone mistakenly believe the Ole Miss defense is improving, let’s take a look at Joe Burrow’s stats leading up to the Ole Miss game.

Miami: 140 yds passing, 14 yds rushing
SELA: 151 yds passing, 20 yds rushing
Auburn: 249 yds passing, 22 yds rushing
Louisiana Tech: 191 yds passing, 2 yds rushing

Even against the Louisiana directional schools, Burrow’s numbers are pedestrian at best.

Now, let’s take a look at what Burrow did against Ole Miss!

292 yards passing. 96 yards rushing. 

Somebody give this man the SEC Player of the Week Award!

Unfortunately, Burrow is the first of many that will enjoy career games against Ole Miss this season.

Another note:

SELA held the Tigers to 31 points while Louisiana Tech allowed 38. The Tigers scored 45 against Ole Miss.

I think you get my point here.

There’s just not much to say for Ole Miss right now

It would be easy to beat up on Ole Miss after another blowout loss to an SEC team, but that’s a waste of time at this point.

If you’ve watched Ole Miss play the last four games, you knew the Rebels didn’t have a prayer against LSU.

The real test is in two weeks when the Rebels travel to Arkansas. If Ole Miss can’t beat the Hogs then go ahead and write down 0-8 SEC.

Also, prepare yourself for the worst, because the Ole Miss defense made Joe Burrow look like the second coming of Lamar Jackson on Saturday night in Baton Rouge. There’s no reason to think it won’t do the same for the QB from Arkansas.