Now that the first third of the season is in the books, we might reasonably look to the statistics available in the record and draw some conclusions which are not obviously dotty. Accordingly, we have reached that point in the autumn at which I begin breaking down the numbers in search of revelations regarding the Bulldogs' upcoming matchup.
In so doing, I endeavor to give you not a fair amount of information, not a reasonable amount of information, but instead . . . Too Much Information. (Also, evidently, I could introduce a new segment called "Too Little Trash Talk," but that's a separate conversation.)
For all their woes in terms of wins and losses, the Rebels actually are fairly adept at the passing game. Mississippi's Seth Adams compares favorably to Georgia's Matthew Stafford, as the two have identical numbers of completions (70 apiece) and interceptions (three each), Stafford has four more attempts (123, to Adams's 119), and Adams has more touchdown tosses (seven, to Stafford's six) and a higher completion percentage (58.8%, to his Bulldog counterpart's 56.9%). Adams's 240.5 aerial yards per outing place him fourth in the league.
The Rebels' Marshay Green, Shay Hodge, and Mike Wallace each has more than 15 receptions this season and all three rank among the top ten receivers in the S.E.C. in the category of catches per contest. Wallace averages 25 yards per catch, 100 receiving yards per game, and a touchdown every fourth grab.
(Insert obligatory "60 Minutes" reference here.)
Thanks to the likes of Adams and Wallace, Ole Miss boasts the fourth-best passing offense in the Southeastern Conference, tallying 256 yards per game through the air. The 8.2 yards per attempt averaged by the Rebs is the second-best yards-per-pass mark in the league.
Fortunately, the Red and Black have been reasonably effective against the pass. The 'Dawgs allow just 173.2 yards per game through the air and they have given up just one touchdown pass this autumn.
For their part, the Rebels have been atrocious against aerial assaults. While Georgia ranks among the top 25 nationally in pass defense, Ole Miss is not even in the top 100 teams in the country against the pass; in fact, the Rebs rank 105th . . . right behind Louisville. The Mississippi defense has surrendered the S.E.C.'s highest completion rate (67.1%), most passing yards (1,134), most passing yards per game (283.5), most first downs on pass plays (62), and most touchdown passes (8).
It's no wonder that the Rebels rank last in the league in pass defense . . . or that three of Ole Miss's top five tacklers are defensive backs. As long as the Bulldogs steer clear of Dustin Mouzon, one of whose two interceptions was returned 99 yards for a touchdown, Georgia should be all right through the air.
The 2007 Ole Miss Rebels possess the least effective defense against an aerial assault since George C. Scott took on two German planes with a pistol.
The Red and Black are about as effective through the use of the forward pass as are the visitors from Oxford. Georgia's 73 completions for 44 first downs and seven touchdowns mirror almost exactly Mississippi's 72 completions for 42 first downs and eight touchdowns.
The concern for the Bulldogs, of course, is that Sean Bailey is the only Georgia receiver ranked in the top ten in the league in receiving yards per game and he is the only one to have hauled in more than 11 catches on the season. Mikey Henderson appears on the verge of giving the 'Dawgs another genuine threat at receiver and Mohamed Massaquoi has been serviceable all-around at his position (i.e., doing the things a receiver is supposed to do even on plays in which he is not the intended target), but, if the receiving corps is ever going to start living up to its considerable potential, this is the week to do it.
I'll be back shortly with a look at the running game. . . .