Last week, I wrote another one-score game was in play against the Aggies, and Ole Miss’ perfect record in those games was not sustainable. Well, guess who is now 4-0 in one-score games in 2023.
I bring this up again because I am reminded of a 2022 team that was involved in roughly 1 billion one-score games on its way to a 13-1 record and an appearance in the national title game. If one or two things broke differently in those games, last year’s TCU team would’ve been an 8-4 team instead of a 13-1 team that lost to Georgia by 58 points.
The point here is not that Ole Miss is on the same lucky heater track as 2022 TCU, but that the Rebels could be in for a dose of a 6-3 team playing the top-ranked team in college football. Now, this year’s Georgia is not the Georgia of last year, but it’s unclear how big the gap is between those versions.
If it’s a large gap, then maybe Ole Miss makes things a little SPICY. If it’s more of a narrow gap, we may find out Ole Miss is closer to a 6-3 team rather than an 8-1 team that caught the breaks they needed in close games.
What We Know
If you are not a broke boi offense, the Ole Miss defense will struggle to contain you
Last week, I posed this question:
Can the defense continue its performance against non-LSU offenses or will that be amended to garbage offenses only?
The answer now is any offense that’s middle of the pack and higher will have success against the Ole Miss defense. The Aggies, who were ranked 60th in overall offense last week on Parker Fleming’s site, did some damage after spending the first quarter and a half doing nothing.
In their last 6 possessions, Texas A&M had 408 yards of offense and averaged 6.7 yards/play. Those drives ended with:
- Interception (thrown on the Ole Miss 5-yard line)
- Blocked field goal
Credit the Ole Miss defense with giving them nothing on the first 4 possessions, but the only things that stopped the Aggie offense after that were a miscommunication between Max Johnson and his receiver and time running out.
I mention this because notice the gap between the Georgia offense and those Ole Miss has played so far:
Defensive issues, to put it mildly, could abound.
The Ole Miss offense opted out of its semi-funk
After three straight pretty blah showings against Arkansas, Auburn, and Vanderbilt, the offense dominated one of the SEC’s best defenses. BEHOLD:
- 38 points (and should’ve been more!)
- 7.8 yards/play (518 total yards)
- 11.7 yards/pass attempt (Matt Corral stuff)
- 4.0 yards/rushing attempt (respectable)
- Touchdowns on 5 of 7 red zone possessions (71.4 percent)
- 5.4 points/possession inside the A&M 40
Outside of the rushing numbers, which were fine, excellent work from our touchdown-scoring sons.
Finally, per standard operating procedure in this space, when I make an observation that turns out well, you people are gonna hear about it. This is what I wrote about Miami, the one good offense A&M’s defense played prior to this past weekend:
It should be noted that the Hurricanes’ offense scored 41 points (team had 48 total, with 7 via a kick return), though they did get some help via turnovers. They also threw for 374 yards.
Again, we don’t know if this has any value on Saturday, but it is of note.
YOU KNOW IT IS OF NOTE.
For the record, Ole Miss threw for 387 yards.
Lane Kiffin/Charlie Weis Jr. dialing up a wrinkle
One of Ole Miss’ standard running plays is called bash counter toss. In this play, the right tackle and guard pull in an attempt to get the defense flowing to its right. However, Jaxson Dart tosses the ball to Quinson Judkins going the opposite direction (bash = backs away from pullers).
This can be a difficult play to defend due to linebackers seeing the guard and tackle pull, which causes them to pause for a beat, leaving the defensive end as the only player who can make a play.
Against Texas A&M, the offense made a little tweak to that look on the game-winning touchdown drive. The first difference is tight end Caden Prieskorn is lined up right behind left tackle Victor Curne rather than being in the slot like the example above.
Instead of pulling the left tackle and left guard, Ole Miss:
- Has Curne loop around the defensive end to block the linebacker
- Prieskorn looks for a defensive back to block
- The left guard and center double team the nose tackle
- The right guard gets on the other linebacker
- The right tackle takes out the other defensive end
Ole Miss still leaves the defensive end unblocked (as they did above), but Dart treats the play more like an option, running at the defender before pausing and pitching it to Judkins. It’s a two-against-one situation, and Dart holds the defensive end long enough that he can’t make a play on Judkins.
Same result as in the LSU game, but it’s a different look and way of putting a defensive end in a no-win situation.
What We Kinda Know
The Georgia defense bleeds?
As noted earlier, this Georgia team is not the Georgia team of 2022, primarily because their defense is not a group that kills everything it sees. In fact, the Bulldogs’ defense ranks just 16 spots above Ole Miss’ in overall rankings in the chart above.
Even more interesting, like Texas A&M, Georgia has only played one good offense in the form of the Missouri Tigers. Granted, they held Missouri to 5.7 yards/play and generated two turnovers, but the Tigers ran for 4.4 yards/carry, which is good for not a wildly successful rushing team.
That is of note in a few advanced stat categories.
WEEK 11 ADVANCED STATS PREVIEWS— parker fleming (@statsowar) November 7, 2023
OLE MISS @ GEORGIA pic.twitter.com/trA5aageII
These are the categories of interest when talking about the Ole Miss offense against the Georgia defense:
- Ole Miss is very good at generating explosive run plays, while Georgia is slightly above average at preventing those
- Ole Miss is elite at creating good possessions and Georgia is elite at preventing those
- When Ole Miss creates a good possession, they are almost always coming away with points
- While Georgia doesn’t give up good possessions often, when they do, the opposing offense gets points
Early Downs EPA
- Ole Miss generates plenty of explosive plays on early downs, while Georgia is mostly average in preventing those
The point of all this mumbo jumbo is that there are cracks the Ole Miss offense can exploit. They especially need to punish Georgia on first and second downs because PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT 3RD/4TH DOWN BLOOD RED SUCCESS NUMBER.
What We Don’t Know
Brock Bowers returning?
Georgia’s best offensive player hasn’t played since October 14th after suffering an ankle injury that required surgery. As of this writing, he hasn’t been ruled out for Saturday, which is a significant improvement for him.
If he does play, will he be on a snap count? How limited will he be when he is in the game? Or will he set some single-game record because that feels right in Ole Miss’ football history wheelhouse?
What does playing with house money look like?
Kiffin said on Monday no one expects Ole Miss to win, which opens the door to the freedom of playing with house money. How he approaches that remains to be seen, but given his tendencies this season, he probably doesn’t come out firing from the hip.
My guess is before he makes the first high-risk/high-reward decision that either keeps Ole Miss hanging around or accelerates their demise, Kiffin reads the room, which will be based on whether the defense is holding its own or slowly (maybe quickly!) drowning.
I, for one, look forward to the overreaction from some Ole Miss fans if that decision goes south, as if the Rebels can stand in the middle of the ring and trade punches with Georgia.