Oh Oxford! Land of Bourbon, Beauties and Books. You who still teach the Marching Band to play Dixie and still call yourselves the Rebels. If I wasn't a Bulldog, I can see how I could be proud to be an Ole Miss Rebel. Such tradition! Such magnificence!!! It's been a tough time to be a Rebel fan lately. But the winds of change have come to the Magnolia State.
Head Coach: Hugh Freeze, 0-0
Location: Athens, GA
Mascot: Rebel, The Black Bear
2011 Record: 2-10 overall, 0-7 SEC
SB Nation Affiliate: Red Cup Rebellion
Houston Nutt is out and Hugh Freeze is in after last year's 2-10 record over without a single SEC win. Coach Freeze has never actually been the head coach at an FBS school and so is a rather unexpected choice for the Head Coaching job at an SEC school. From 1995 to 2004 he was the head coach at Briarcrest HS in Memphis, TN. That is, Coach Freeze was Michael Oher's head coach in high school before becoming the Tight Ends Coach & Recruiting Coordinator at Ole Miss from 2006 to 2007. If you don't know who Michael Oher is, or why this is of any significance, stop reading here and go watch the Blind Side. It's ok, I'll wait.
Once Ole Miss selected Houston Nutt as Head Coach, Freeze became the head coach at NAIA (aka Div II) Lambuth College for the 2008 & 2009 seasons before landing at Arkansas State as OC for 2010 and then Head Coach for the 2011 season. What's really important is his 30-7 college record and Championships in the Sun Belt Conference (2011), Mid-South Conference West (2009). He's known for quickly turning around struggling programs, and by quickly I mean nearly instantly. Upon arriving at Arkansas State as OC he took their office from 95th to 43rd in total scoring offense and as head coach took them from a 4-8 record the year before to 10-2 and Sun Belt Conference champions. Both as OC & as HC, he runs an up tempo, spread offense and has since he was Oher's coach.
Offense: If you subscribe to the notion that college football is a game of matchups, instituting a spread offense might not be a bad idea. For that matter anything the coaching staff can implement that the rest of the SEC doesn't usually see is a good thing for Ole Miss. Sadly, after the last two seasons, talent is depleted. There's no clear starter at QB and they are considering starting two early in the season. The new up tempo offense is a struggle for the O line to get comfortable with so expect them to make mistakes early in the season but settle down later on. We won't see them until the first week in November so they have a chance to be settled in. I still don't think they'll be able to get past our defense.
Defense: Two new defensive co-coordinators are expecting to play freshmen on the line. This does not bode well. However, after last season's dismal defensive performance, there's really nowhere for the Rebels to go but up.
Special Teams: Ole Miss has the most experience on special teams. Conversely, we're breaking in new punters & kickers. The good news is, this game won't come down to solid kicking.
Biggest Question Mark: Pretty much everything, but especially Coaching. By the time the Rebels visit Athens, they will hopefully have established their identity and we'll know exactly what it is. At this point, it's too soon to tell what they will look like. But it's not likely that with all the changes and without much in the way of top talent that Ole Miss will be SEC West champs this year. But next year may be another question entirely.
Preseason prediction by the popular kids: Still #7 in the SEC West and hoping to win 2 SEC games, neither one of which is likely to be provided by the Bulldogs.
Podunkdawg's prediction: The Rebel Black Bears won't catch the Bulldogs hibernating this November. UGA by double digits in a show of Good Richt mercy.