And so it begins.
We at Red Cup Rebellion talked - or, rather, emailed each other a lot - about what we felt Ole Miss Rebel football fans should expect for this season. The result of this roundtable are below. We encourage you to share your prognostications, whether they be specific or broad, long or short, with us in the comments thread.
One Man To Beat: I haven't heard one analyst, columnist or reputable source predict the Rebels anything better than 6-6. Honestly, the universe would have to align perfectly for a bowl year this season.
Bo Wallace is the best QB option on the team, and he isn't a world beater unless our run game is improved from last season. The idea of Wallace passing 30+ times per game doesn't get me excited in any way. I'd predict a 16-34, 267 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT kind of performance in SEC play.
The defense may keep us in a couple big games. If we battle injuries, we may only win two or three games.
Whiskey Wednesday: What a horrible year for this tough schedule...
A large part of me wants to be optimistic about this team. I think we could be better at literally every position group than last year, but we're essentially replacing BYU, Fresno, LaTech, and Kentucky with Tulane, UTEP, Texas, and A&M. This is the first season that I can remember where, in the blindest of optimism, I wasn't able to find 7 wins on the schedule. It's frustrating to know going into a season that we'll have to work constantly to keep our expectations low to keep from giving up on this team. We'll have to be happy with better effort, better execution, better schemes, while still coming up short on several weekends. That said, I'm still excited to see some young stars emerge, as well as some upperclassmen get one last shot to improve themselves as players and set a foundation for the future.
Sir Francis Drank: The best news for Ole Miss this season is that we have nothing to lose. Expectations--including those of our usually over-optimistic fan base--are as low as they've ever been. We're an unproven team, with a brand new coach and a brand new athletic staff, playing the most difficult schedule in the country in the hardest division of the toughest conference.
I hope Hugh Freeze can use that to his advantage. He's a new coach, and our fans are excited about him. Try something interesting. Go for it on 4th and three. Fake a field goal. Run the Statue of Liberty, for all I care. We're flat out not talented enough to win more than a handful of games; our best chance to surprise someone is to well, surprise them. Our offense--with the possible exception of our running backs--is going to be bad. Our defense may be able to keep us hanging in a few games, but I'd be surprised if the Rebels win more than four games. I fully expect wins versus Central Arkansas, UTEP, and Tulane, and to go 1-2 against State, Vandy, and A&M.
Ghost: Houston Nutt's "leadership" of the Ole Miss football program last season rendered me nearly apathetic towards Ole Miss football. Instead of being upset or embarrassed that we were thrashed by our opponents while our team played listless, uninspired football - not to mention the whole telegraphed playcalling bullshit - I focused on winning the party and my life in general outside of football.
That is how bad it was. I damn near stopped caring about Ole Miss football.
But things seem to be heading in the right direction now, and there's enough cause for optimism for me to reinvigorate my Ole Miss fandom. Gone is Pete Boone and his legion of good ol' boy hangers on, and in is Ross Bjork, a young and enthusiastic athletics director who, so far, seems to "get it" as far as his roles and duties. Gone is the product of Pete Boone's laziness and lack of imagination, Houston Nutt, and in is, admittedly, another good ol' boy hire but one who, at least, wants to be here.
Hugh Freeze may have a short resume, but it is a successful one, and he truly seems thrilled to be the head football coach at Ole Miss. That may not amount to any wins and losses on the field, but I do believe that it will result in a greater level of effort and intensity out of our football team this fall.
We will probably win four games. Five if we're lucky, and six if we catch some tremendous breaks. We simply are not talented, deep, or experienced enough to compete week-in and week-out in the Southeastern Conference. There are some talented players on the Ole Miss roster, but there aren't enough. It will take time for this program to show signs of respectability again, but I can confidently say it will show signs of life right away.
Juco: I remember literally laughing at our coaching staff's futility last season, and that was before they began holding up signs with the name of the player who would get the ball on any given play. While I'm sure we will take our lumps this season, it appears that Hugh Freeze, all things being equal, knows a thing or two about the actual game of football. I often wonder how Houston Nutt would have fared at a school like Lambuth or Arkansas State. Would he have taken them to the heights Freeze did in such a short time? Maybe thinking that way is worthless now. Maybe I should just think about the future.
The future at some positions is bad. We're going to struggle at quarterback, receiver, linebacker, and along the offensive line. Those are tough positions in which to be bad. On the other hand, I have solid hopes for our halfbacks, secondary, and pass rush. Those three things could keep us in games we're probably not supposed to be in. In modern football, the most important things to be able to do are pass and stop the pass. We're unlikely to hit goal number one, but if we can make teams beat us by running, we stand a chance. In that case, we get a lot of chances to stop them. If a team can pass at will against you, they move down the field very quickly.
I'm hesitant to give an exact number, since I'm off every season, but I'll go with four. In that scenario I would think we will win three out of conference games and win an SEC game (please let it be Alabama). If we do that in Freeze's first year, we've been successful. Anything fewer than four wins, and I think people start wondering if we've made the wrong choice. It's tough to say that in year one, particularly with our lack of talent, but a great choice finds a way to win a game or two he isn't favored to win.