After getting their second win of the season over Southeastern Louisiana last weekend, the 2-1 Rebs return to the Vaught to take on Pac-12 foe California. Two years ago, the Golden Bears handled Ole Miss’ offense in Berkley and won a hard-fought game 27-16 on the back of their defense.
This year, expect more of the same from Justin Wilcox’s bunch. The Bears bring in a nasty defense led by “The Takers” in the secondary and linebacker Evan Weaver. The aforementioned secondary is 14th in the country in pass success rate and will test Matt Corral early and often with mixed coverage looks and aggressive man-to-man. Their linebackers, led by Weaver, are 14th in the country in havoc rate so the Bears will also test the Rebel offensive line and running backs, two units that have gotten better each week despite youth and inexperience.
Offensively, though, yeesh. Chase Garbers and the Cal offense are quite frankly bad. Last week against North Texas, Garbers ran for 70 yards but was sacked six(!) times. They were out-gained on the day by the Mean Green per play (4.6/4.0) and had two of their first four drives start at the North Texas 22 and 33-yard lines respectively. The lone bright spot for Wilcox’s offense is running back Christopher Brown who has run for 324 yards and two touchdowns this year, including 80 yards on 16 carries in a huge road win at Washington.
This game is going to come down to who can limit the mistakes. Plain and simple. Both teams have outstanding defenses and will test the offensive lines all day. Ole Miss is dealing with youth and a struggling o-line unit and Cal is still unsure if three of their starters up front will line up to try and handle the Landshark defense.
Whoever can limit the turnovers and avoid having to defend short fields is going to come away with a win Saturday afternoon.
And if that isn’t enough to help you make a prediction, here are a few interesting tid bits from ESPN’s Chris Fallica:
Since 2015, there have been 25 instances in the pre-bowl season where a team ranked 20th or lower entered a game against an unranked team as an underdog. Ranked teams are just 4-21 SU during that span.And since the start of last season, unranked favorites against teams ranked 20-25 are 8-1 SU and ATS.
Red Cup Panel Predictions
Bob Lynch — Cal 19, Ole Miss 12
I dunno do y’all think this is going to be anything other than really weird? Think turnovers, a couple safeties, maybe a wild special teams touchdown? I just don’t expect some Pac-12 team to come to Oxford and have that result in anything resembling a normal football game.
One Man To Beat — Ole Miss 20, Cal 17
Explosive running plays break up a monotonous offensive start as the Rebels come back from a 14-3 halftime deficit for the win.
whiskeywednesday — Cal 20, Ole Miss 14
The offensive line is still extremely bad and Matt Corral gets frustrated and forces a few throws. The defense looks really good for like 95 percent of the game, but a couple of wacky things happen, because of course.
TwoYardsandaCloudofEnricky — Ole Miss 17, Cal 10
Cal’s defense is as good as advertised, but even they can’t shut down Scottie Phillips (75 yards rushing and a score) and Elijah Moore (90 yards receiving and a score). Corral still makes mistakes and no other receivers step up, but our defense bounces back and holds them to one touchdown from a short field and a field goal. Sam Williams gets the Landshark Turnover Chain Doohickey after knocking the piss (and the ball) out of Chase Garbers’ hands, who I assume without looking it up looks like Sunshine from Remember the Titans.
Ben Woodhouse — Ole Miss 23, Cal 21
Ole Miss runs for 275 yards and wins it with a game-winning field goal.
Gray Hardison — Cal 22, Ole Miss 11
Through three games against not great defensive fronts, the Ole Miss offensive line hasn’t shown any ability to hold it together consistently. The running game is heavily dependent on explosive plays, which just so happens to be a thing Cal’s defense does not allow. Throw in a suspect Ole Miss passing game and the accompanying protection breakdowns, I foresee a rough morning/early afternoon for the offense. Cal’s offense, while gross, probably strings together enough against an Ole Miss defense that is slowly coming back to earth.
Zach Berry — Ole Miss 20, Cal 17
This is a weird one. It’s going to be a rock fight. Cal’s offense is meh, but their defense is really good. Ole Miss’ offense has yet to truly be unleashed in my opinion but their defense has made significant strides. The Bears have a lot of injuries on the offensive line and Chase Garbers can’t really throw the ball downfield. I think Scottie Phillips gets going and Mike MacIntyre’s defense forces some turnovers. Take the under. Give me the Rebs in a tight one.
Juco All-American — Ole Miss 27, Cal 17
I’m just not convinced that the defensive problems we saw last week were anything more than an inability to get up for SELA. I know it was close there, and I was really disheartened by the performance, but what we saw was entirely counter to what the defense showed against better teams in Memphis and Arkansas. Cal’s offense is also not good AND has suffered a rash of injuries.
Offensively, I’m also going to assume last week’s strategy of “up the middle, up the middle, pass, punt” was a product of going vanilla in a game with superior athletes. I don’t think this team will be “good” this year on offense, and against plenty of defenses, they’ll be bad. I just think that they’ll get it together for this one, even facing a tough secondary. I suspect this game will see Matt Corral run a lot more than he has through three games.
Michael Borkey — Ole Miss 14, Cal 10
Cal’s offense is abysmal and is dealing with the injury bug. Ole Miss has more dynamic playmakers on offense and that will end up being the difference. Key to the game for the Rebs is to not turn it over or make mistakes. Play clean football and you win. Can’t afford to do otherwise in this one.
Christoph Ludwig — Ole Miss 17, Cal 14
It’s strength against strength as two good defenses battle it out, but the Rebs come out on top as Rich Rodriguz and Matt Corral are able to work around another shoddy offensive line performance.
Nicholas Carr — Ole Miss 24, Cal 13
Cal can’t get the offense going and gives Ole Miss short fields all day.
Grayson Weir — Ole Miss 30, Cal 13
Ole Miss linebackers force Chase Garbers to make ill-advised throws, and the secondary bounces back. After a slow start, Matt Corral, Scottie Phillips, and Rich Rodriguez beat the Bears’ Pac-12 defense at its own game and run the option all over a weak front-line.
How to watch:
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Miss.
When: 11 a.m. CST
Online streaming: WatchESPN