With the memories of the 2010 season opening loss to Jacksonville State still fresh enough to cause significant apathy and pessimism out of the Ole Miss Rebel fan base with regards to this season's opening game against an FCS opponent, we at the Cup would like to reinforce our conviction that our Ole Miss Rebels will win tomorrows game and, yes, we will enjoy watching it.
It may not be a blowout. It may not even be all that pretty. But it will be Ole Miss Rebel football and, under new head coach Hugh Freeze, there will be a bit of a "givin a damn" factor seen in this program that was lacking towards the end of the preceding regime.
That alone, of course, isn't a convincing enough argument as to why we're confident in an upcoming Rebel victory, so let's take a look at who the University of Central Arkansas Bears are and what they return off of a successful 2011 season.
The Bears (not the Old Piss/TSUN Webel Black Bears, the other bears) went 9-4 last season, going 6-1 in the Southland conference. They did this behind UCA record setting quarterback Nathan Dick (yes, one of those Dicks) who threw for 3,275 yards and 32 touchdowns, who is now gone to the CFL or something. Replacing him is Wynrick Smothers (pictured here) who, in mopup duty last year, threw for 374 yards on the season.
He will look to former Rebel Jesse Grandy and Dominique Croom out wide, and will rely on Jackie Hilton, who last season totalled 673 yards and 4 touchdowns rushing, to set the pace on the ground.
Still, with such experienced talent returning at the skill positions, the Bears are breaking in not only a new quarterback but also four new starters on the offensive line. Considering this, I fully expect Dave Wommack to send a lot of blitzes towards Smothers... with hopes to smother him with sacks (!!!) and keep the UCA offense in trouble.
On defense, UCA returns some skilled talent in end Markeith Gaines, linebacker Seth Allison, and safety Jestin Love, but again they are replacing significant experience here, losing starters at every level of the defense after last season.
For an Ole Miss victory, the Rebels will have to control the tempo of the game and not lose the turnover battle. Do that, and the Rebels should win by double-digits. Still, as we've seen with Jacksonville State, even an FCS team can get its come-uppance on a haughty, unmotivated SEC team, so the Rebels will have to bring and maintain their intensity throughout the contest.
If newly pegged starter Bo Wallace can minimize mistakes and make enough solid plays to set up Randall Mackey, iTavius Mathers, and others on the ground, the Rebel offense will be able to score early and often. If the Rebel D, especially C.J. Johnson and Issac Gross up front, can make their way into the backfield, setting up plays for the secondary, then the defense should serve as a nice counterpart to the offense by keeping Bear touchdowns to a minimum.
I know this is all very straightforward stuff, but this is a very straightforward game. Ole Miss is an SEC team. Yes, we are a bad SEC team, but we're an SEC team nonetheless. UCA is an FCS team. Even if they were a great FCS team, they still have no business beating any team in the Southeastern Conference. The gaps in talent, coaching, and resources between these two levels of the game should simply be too much for UCA to overcome. If the Rebels play simple, mistake-free football while basically out-muscling and out-running the opposition, as they should be able to do, then they'll win easily.
If not, then it's Jacksonville State all over again, and the lot of us are all on suicide watch.
Hotty Toddy and try to stay dry out there, y'all.
Prediction: TSUN Webel Bares - 38, UCA Bears - 13