Off and running? Why Ole Miss appears to have given the keys to QB John Rhys Plumlee
Ole Miss finds itself in a position it hasn’t been in since 2015: a chance for postseason play on the horizon. The Rebs (3-3, 2-1 SEC) will take a big step in reaching a bowl game on Saturday if they can go on the road and beat a Mizzou team that had an early wake-up call against Wyoming, dropping the opening game 37-31.
Since then, the Tigers (4-1, 1-0) have reeled off 4 consecutive wins.
If Ole Miss is going to be successful at a place it has never won, it will have to lean on freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee.
By the way, Ole Miss is 1-6 against Mizzou, the lone win coming in 1974. They have only played once as SEC members. The Tigers won in 2013 in Oxford, 24-10.
Here are 3 keys to Saturday’s game.
This is the John Rhys Plumlee show now
If anyone had any questions, those were answered this past Saturday in the Rebels’ convincing 31-6 win over Vanderbilt. In fact, it appears this will be Plumlee’s team moving forward, with a few caveats. He will have to improve throwing the football. While he has been fantastic in orchestrating the Rich Rodriguez offense, the passing game has not been one of his bright spots.
Let’s be honest, when you rush for 413 yards as a team and dominate defensively like the Rebels did, there is no need for a passing game.
I expect that to change Saturday, as Mizzou houses the No. 2 ranked defense in the country in total defense. With the Tigers making it a priority to sell out and stop the run, Plumlee could be running for his life. Should he improve his vertical passing game, it would loosen up the defense and provide an interesting offensive scenario for the Rebels.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ole Miss QB Matt Corral if things get squirrely for Plumlee. While Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said Corral couldn’t go last week, he was seen on the sideline running and throwing quite well late in the 2nd quarter.
I fully expect to see a package for Corral this week, especially if Plumlee struggles throwing the ball.
The wide receiver group has been a disappointment
The Rebels lost 3 vital wide receivers to the NFL last season in DaMarkus Lodge, DK Metcalf and A.J. Brown.
Many, including myself, failed to realize how big of a void that would leave, figuring Ole Miss’ touted recruits will fill the roles. Elijah Moore has been the only steady receiver thus far. Moore, who has 36 catches for 460 yards and 3 touchdowns, has been terrific this season. The downside is freshman Jonathan Mingo is next with just 9 receptions.
Simply put, the wide receiver room has not stepped up for either QB, which has led to some of the criticism of Corral and Plumlee.
Bottom line: The wideouts have not been able to get separation, therefore creating a difficult situation for the Ole Miss coaches and quarterbacks.
To make matters worse, preseason starter Braylon Sanders has been hampered with a hamstring injury for weeks and is still fighting it. Secondly, Moore is also dealing with a groin injury but looks to play this Saturday.
It’s time for names like Miles Battle, Dontario Drummond, Demarcus Gregory and Dannis Jackson to step up. This Saturday if no one does, it could be a long day for the offense.
Octavious Cooley and Jason Pellerin have done nice work at tight end, combining to catch 12 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Look for both to have an impact early Saturday night in the intermediate passing game.
The weather will take some adapting to
In Mississippi, it has been one of the hottest seasons on the record. In early games against Memphis and Southeastern Louisiana, the temperature was well over 90-degrees. That won’t be the case in Columbia, Mo., Saturday night, as temperatures will dip into the lower 40s during the game.
The 50-degree drop from the “Long Hot Summer” in Mississippi is something to monitor if you are an Ole Miss fan.