Published October 15, 2012 - 2:55pm
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Let’s review the Ole Miss Rebels at their bye week:
Record: 4-3 overall, 1-2 SEC
First-Half Review: The Rebels opened the season with two victories right off the bat and tied last year’s win total in the first two weeks. Ole Miss’ losses came against three ranked teams – Texas, Alabama and Texas A&M. The Rebels arguably should have put the Aggies to bed in the fourth quarter, but Johnny Manziel led the late comeback. Hugh Freeze has brought a different mindset to his team, even though he inherited a mess and a battered program. His up-tempo, run-heavy offense has already produced 229 total points, after only scoring a total of 193 last season. That’s a miraculous turnaround by any stretch at any program. The Rebels snapped their 16-game SEC losing streak Saturday against Auburn 41-20.
MVP: While he’s had some turnover problems through the first half, QB Bo Wallace is one of the few players on offense who was not on the 2011 squad. Wallace has thrown for 1,371 yards and nine touchdowns, completing 63.7 percent of his passes. He’s also rushed for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Saturday against Auburn, Wallace ran for two touchdowns, threw for one and caught one on a halfback pass. He has struggled at times with turnovers, throwing eight interceptions, and he’s been on a short leash. But he’s getting better and more efficient than earlier in the year. Outside of Wallace, Freeze is working with a 2-10 roster. Wallace has been the difference.
Biggest Surprise: While the offense has been a very pleasant surprise, the defense has been even better. As a unit, this squad is not afraid to play physical defense and have major collisions with the best the SEC has to offer. If you watched the Alabama game, you know what I mean. After allowing Auburn to score 17 points in the first half on Saturday, the defense stepped up and made the necessary adjustments to hold the Tigers to just three points in the second half. That was the difference. The Rebels sit seventh in the SEC in total defense, a far cry from last season’s worst defense in the SEC.
Stat to Note: Ole Miss is averaging over 211 yards on the ground per game. Just last season, the Rebels averaged just 129 yards. Interestingly enough, they have five guys over 100 yards, including three of those over 225 yards each. To win in the SEC, you have to run the football, and Freeze is doing just that. And while it’s not a power running game in the least, they are getting it done with the spread offense.
Looking Ahead: Ole Miss continues with two very winnable games against Arkansas and Vanderbilt, but road trips to Georgia and LSU will be tough to win. And the Egg Bowl has a chance to be a special game. Ole Miss theoretically could come into the Egg Bowl against MSU with five wins and needing one more win to become bowl eligible. Both teams will have something to play for, which will be drastically different than the last few years.