Ole Miss vs. Southern Illinois University Preview

The Rebels will be looking to get the taste of last week's defeat out of their mouths this week against our regularly scheduled FCS-regional school This week, we take on FCS-Midwest, or Southern Illinois University. While Oregon State suffered an all-too-familiar fate last week against an FCS squad, I have a hard time thinking the fellas will take this game lightly.

SIU defeated Southeastern Missouri last week 38-10 in a game that saw the Salukis put up 494 yards of offense. Defensively, they blitzed on over half their plays, though I'm not sure how much that will change against us.

When the Rebels are on Offense
This will actually be more difficult than opening week because of the flux that our entire backfield is in currently. With Brandon Bolden out for several weeks with a broken foot, and Enrique questionable (would he have started over Jeff Scott anyways?), #3 should get the lions' share of the carries. Mixed in should be Devin "Spring MVP" Thomas, who has all of 11 carries in his career. I'm excited about him getting a chance and not watching Enrique Davis get 15 carries for 41 yards. Korvic Neat, Chelarvez Brown (I'm never going to call him 'Chief' because his real name is way too good), and Cody Prewitt also moved to RB to add some depth to a beleaguered unit. I really expect Scott and Thomas to get most of the carries, with either Neat or Brown picking up a couple here or there.

At quarterback, I see two potential scenarios play out. Either Zack Stoudt starts and stays in, becoming "the guy" this week, or we have a fair-opportunity rotation. For that reason, our first three drives will be especially important in terms of determining the future of our offense this season. If we have a rotation system, I'd expect Stoudt to get the first drive, and from there, I know not. Personally, I hate rotating quarterbacks and want us to settle on the guy who is best early in this game. Because that position isn't settled, I'd expect the coaches to go straight ahead with the running game early. We don't need to dick around with reverses and sweeps and gimmicky runs. We need to come out and be authoritative from the outset. I think we have adequate receivers, with Ja-Mes Logan establishing himself as the go-to-guy. Donte Moncrief continues to impress and is a physical specimen. Nick Brassell will have plenty more opportunities to prove himself. The guy is a talent and has speed to burn, but has to get some confidence and has to get used to catching the ball, ASAP.

Mike Markuson, in my opinion, is an excellent line coach who won't let them get lackadaisical. The OL didn't play poorly as a unit last week, but we have to open up more running lanes, especially against a defensive line that averages 260 across the front. If we're averaging 3.2 YPC early in the game, I'd be very concerned about how "over-hyped" our OL may be.

When the Rebels are on Defense
They say a week in politics is like a year, but that also applies to college football. In week 1, our defense performed much better than any game last season. What was our biggest concern-defensive backs-should be eased a bit after last week's performance. I'm not sure if we'll still be in a 5-DB look as SIU is a little less likely to spread the ball out as much as BYU, though that is entirely based off of 2 news articles I read about their first game.

What I am concerned with and want to see is our defensive line's performance. They didn't perform poorly last week, but we had trouble getting pressure when we only rushed 4 down lineman. Moreover, BYU had way too many lineman getting hands on our linebackers, which often resulted in 5, 6 and 7 yard runs on first down. We have to limit early-down carries to minimal gains, or they will be able to open up their playbook much more. I think our linebackers, especially Mike Marry, look solid last week and should hold up well against a relatively small offensive unit for SIU.

Overall
If we can limit early yardage from SIU while establishing our offense in the first quarter, last week will dissolve into WAOM. I'll be able to look back at that loss like I do with the Wake Forest '08 game, as a loss based on instability and youth. However, if SIU comes out and puts up 300+ yards and/or 21+ points, I'll be especially concerned about our defense. Offensively, I expect us to get the ground game going early with Jeff Scott savoring his time as the featured back (oh, Dexter McCluster, where are you?). For what it's worth, J Scott's facebook photo is him running down the sideline with a caption saying "Dex who?".

Prediction
I think we come out swinging and put up a touchdown on one of the first 3 drives. Whoever quarterbacks that drive will get the second half to himself. I think Devin Thomas and Jeff Scott both rip off some nice runs as our offensive line starts living up to some of the hype they've received thusfar. I think we get up early and by the third quarter, have a three or four-touchdown lead. The Rebels cede a few points as SIU brings the score to 31-10...but the defense buckles down to propel Ole Miss to its first win of the 2011 season. Ole Miss, 31-10.

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