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3 Things that Worry Me About Ole Miss

“The best 2-loss team in the nation!” is hosting UGA this weekend in the drunken but lovely and hospitable confines of Oxford, Mississippi. A program riding almost unprecedented recent success with a prolific offense, an incredibly stout defensive line, and a bear dressed as frat-boy mascot facing the Georgia Bulldogs who still have many questions unanswered. What, me worry?

Nicholls v Georgia
Run blocking... rarely seen in 2016.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Here are the three things that I’m NOT worried about Saturday:

1. Jacob Eason handling a hostile SEC crowd on the road. The freshman showed his chops last weekend against Mizzou, and has been instrumental, if not primarily responsible for, leading two 4Q comebacks in his young collegiate career. As long as UGA stays within striking distance, Eason won’t shrink in the spotlight. He might make mistakes, but it won’t be nerves.

2. The NCAA announcing a ruling concerning Ole Miss violations. Where this seemed a distinct possibility throughout the summer, it’s obvious that the NCAA will continue to wring its collective hands instead of announcing any findings. Operative phrase: “any findings”.

3. The Ole Miss golf team. They’re ranked #68 in the country compared to UGA’s #8 national ranking. Even though they just beat UGA this weekend in Oxford, I’m not worried. Okay, this is not related to the football game in the least. But if you follow Dawg Sports, you know I post frequently about golf. And I’m really, really worried about the football game.

Speaking of which, here are the three things that I AM worried about Saturday:

1. Withstanding the inevitable first half offensive barrage. Ole Miss has scored 28, 24, and 24 points respectively in the first half of the 3 games so far this season. They know how to build a lead quickly. Co-Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner has his troops on script for their initial possessions, and the Ackbars are well-versed in early execution.

The only good trend I see is that Ole Miss gives up almost the same amount of points (slightly over 24 pts on average) in the second half. It may be because Ole Miss is ranked 126th nationally in Time of Possession (22:10 per game), due to their big play offense and thus the defense sees a lot of field time. While Georgia is fairly evenly distributed in scoring, we’ve successfully achieved 3 second half comebacks. I expect we’ll have to prepare to do the same this week, and hope we can stay within sight during the first 30 minutes.

2. Ole Miss defensive line penetration. I haven’t studied any tape to see if these guys are executing their gap responsibilities; or are just large, angry, aroused, disease-ridden ReBears with tons of talent. But they have consistently put pressure on opposing offensive backfields.

They list 10 different players with at least 1 tackle for loss, and average 6 TFLs per game. Only 4 sacks so far, but they definitely have disruptive results. Their defense is only giving up 216 yards per game in the air, and only 2 TDs passing, so we’ll see if the Georgia OL can give Eason the time he needs. Then again, we have “2nd and 17 Catalina” at left tackle (h/t leedawg).

What gives me hope is that this same defense has succumbed to over 240 yards per game rushing. To be fair, those rushing statistics were behind Alabama’s road grading line; FSU’s rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook; and Wofford who rushed 57 times, and is a triple-option run-first style offense. It would be nice to think UGA could achieve some of this same success, but our shrinking violet run blocking quells much of the aforementioned hope. And I can’t believe they won’t take a page from the Nicholls and Missouri playbook and load 8 in the box every time.

3. Scary Ole Miss Receiving Corps. This is what I’m most afraid of: big, physical receivers high-pointing passes down the sideline, or catching balls in in rhythm on deep slants as our secondary chases them from behind.

Evan Engram leads the Mississippi Frisbee-catchers at over 100 yards per game. Is he a tight end? A wide-out? Don’t care, and it doesn’t matter – he’s just 6’3” and 235 lbs of very good (and brother to UGA Women’s Basketball junior Mackenzie Engram). They have 5 other players who have receptions of 30 yards or longer, and all of them are at least 6’2”. They sure sounded a lot taller on the radio.

We saw what the big Missouri receivers did for the entire first half, and most of the second. We could be in for the same depressing scenario this Saturday. Paired with a mobile quarterback who extends plays, waiting for a secondary to break down… this is why I don’t sleep well.

There is no enlightenment or wisdom imparted in my words above, you’ve heard it all before. It’s merely the response to my proctologist when he asked yesterday “What seems to be the matter?” We’ll see what the Bulldogs’ response will be Saturday afternoon, but no matter what I’ll still be yelling….