To learn about our foe in Mississippi, we asked our friends over at RedCupRebellion to answer some questions we had about the program and the game. One Man To Beat graciously answered all of our questions for us!
Which player on offense should Cal fans know about?
It all starts with running back Scottie Phillips in my opinion. When he was stymied against Memphis, it greatly affected the Rebels ability to get up and down the field. When he ran for more than 100 yards and a couple touchdowns against Arkansas, Ole Miss looked to be a bowl eligible level team. Phillips runs effectively and opens up the passing game plus the RPO options for quarterback Matt Corral.
Which player on defense should Cal fans know about?
Benito Jones at defensive tackle or nose guard is a space eating, cow wrangling, enormous football player. He’s a senior who stuck around when he probably could have gotten drafted in the fourth or fifth round, maybe better with a solid combine appearance. For me, he is the quiet leader of the defense, and when he notched an interception against Memphis, it seemed to spark the entire team and get Ole Miss back into a game it was losing badly.
Who’s one under-the-radar or X-factor player who could swing this game for you?
Freshman RB Jerrion Ealy took a kickoff 94 yards to the house last week against Southeastern Louisiana, and he set the freshman all purpose yards single game record in the process with more than 270 yards of total yards. He gets touches out of the backfield, he lines up in the slot, he returns kicks - he’s a special kind of athlete who can change the momentum of the team in open space.
What does Ole Miss need to do to win the game?
We need 55,000 people to be ready to scream and yell and give us a true home field advantage. Also, we need to get off to a fast start in my opinion, and if the Rebels can score first and then expand that lead to 10-0 or 14-0, our running game and conservative play calling matched with the inconsistent Cal offense may be enough to make a comeback very difficult.
What does Cal need to do to win the game?
I think Cal has got to have a +2 turnover margin, rattle a relatively inexperienced quarterback and get the crowd out of the game. It’s going to be kind of hot, but it won’t be too oppressive that fans will avoid the game. Cal is in the top 25, so Ole Miss fans are going to be hoping for an upset. If the Rebels are down at the half and haven’t looked good, you may start to see some empty bleachers by the third quarter and a diminished home field advantage.
How do you see the game going?
It’s going be a game of blocking, tackling, and not a ton of offense. I would honestly be shocked if either team cracks 30. The last time these teams played, it was 27-16, and I don’t feel like it will be that great of a margin either way. I’m picking the Rebels by 3 mainly for home field advantage reasons and just how little we’ve seen from Cal’s offense relative to how well Ole Miss’ defense has improved from last season.
Whom do you most want to punch in the face?
Probably whoever caused Popeye’s to make a chicken sandwich and subsequently cause people to lose its collective mind, completely run out, etc. There’s a marketing or product manager somewhere to blame for all these shenanigans, and as an ardent Chick-fil-A supporter, I just want them to go away.
Sophomore Elijah Moore has already hauled in 18 receptions this season. How can defenses attempt to slow him down?
Moore is going to get his touches as he is put into motion and used in different ways on this offense. I would think if you have a very agile linebacker or a larger corner who can just spy him everywhere he goes, then it would potentially limit his receptions. The key is that he has a great ability to make defenders miss, so if you overcommit to him, it could lead to an explosive play for the Rebels.
It’s been two years since we’ve last seen Ole Miss. What’s changed? What’s stayed the same?
I think expectations are much lower. Shea Patterson is now with Michigan, and Matt Luke is no longer our interim coach. We also no longer have the big play WR threats DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, and Demarkus Lodge to hold us together offensively. We’re more of a run oriented team or at least a run to open up the pass kind of team. We’re still a borderline bowl team and expect to be somewhere around 4-6 wins at season’s end, but to say we’re more blue collar and defensive minded than two years ago is absolutely accurate.
This is the first year for your offensive and defensive coordinators, who were former Pac-12 head coaches. Do you think their experience and talent level as former head coaches is paying off? As head coaches, they’re 2–1 against Cal’s Justin Wilcox; does that make you feel more confident about this game and is there any truth to the rumors that they were hired just because Ole Miss wanted to beat Cal?
i mean, all due respect to Cal but I don’t believe that at all. I think the university wanted as much head coaching experience to support Matt Luke as possible, and if anything, they felt they could sell these coordinator hires to fans to help season ticket sales and have it be a great positive for the program. To me, the past games against Wilcox don’t matter a ton, because it’s different programs in different seasons under completely different circumstances.