JUCO All American from Red Cup Rebellion and I got together to preview tomorrow's game. Here's what he had to say in response to my questions. My answers to his questions are here. Stay tuned today for more Q & A with Ghost of Chucky.
1. The Rebels have yet to square off against any truly dangerous competition. Do you feel that that gives you an advantage or disadvantage heading into this game?
I’m going to take the cheap way out on this one and say a little bit of both.
First, the negative. The fact that we haven’t seen anyone the caliber of several players on your team is quite scary. We rely on two first-year starters at key positions (LT, RG), and they haven’t set the world on fire against inferior talent. I’m worried about how unprepared they will be against a legitimate line. I’ll go into more depth about that in question four.
On the other hand, the fact that you’re our first test could also be a great thing. In our first two games, we haven’t had to show anything. In each game, our gameplan has been unbelievably vanilla. South Carolina’s lack of film could be the difference in the game this year. The Rebels have run the Wild Rebel maybe four times all year. Each of those times has been the same generic jet sweep that every other team does now. Nutt and Austin have a few wrinkles up their sleeve that could win the game for the Rebels.
2. Most of us haven't gotten to see much of Ole Miss on TV yet. What have you learned about the Rebels so far? How are you doing vis-a-vis expectations?
Well, first of all, we’re winning big. The Rebels boast the #1 scoring offense and the #2 scoring defense in the conference.
The problem is that most of the great stats end there. The Rebs have done a great job of capitalizing off of the mistakes of Memphis and Southeast Louisiana, but will those mistakes continue? If they don’t, there could be trouble on the horizon for the Rebs. We’re sixth or seventh in most other major team categories, and that’s against two teams that we really have no business playing.
Expectations are a funny thing. I think that at least 80% of our fan base (and 100% of our bloggeurs) don’t believe we deserve our ranking. We have done nothing to prove that we are the #4 team in the country. It’s just the nature of the beast though I guess. When media pollsters want to seem "cool" or "different" by putting a non-perennial power in the top ten, they run the risk of being forced into moving that team up the rankings when teams above them lose. With the losses being handed to USC, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech, the Rebels are moving on up based on position alone.
So since there’s still an unanswered question up there, let me try to answer it in just a few more sentences. We have learned that the Rebels have talent. Jevan Snead is still good (although half our fan base disagrees), and our defense is stingy. Our offensive line is struggling.3. I hear the Rebels are playing well so far defensively, albeit against weak competition. What's the story there? The question mark coming into the season was the secondary. How are they holding up, and how will they perform against a South Carolina passing attack that has played well the past two weeks?
We’re all holding our breath on the secondary. They look like a totally different group from last season, which is excellent. Still, we remember last year, and realize that these are basically all the same players from last year, other than Jamarca Sanford, a safety who we used to stack the box more than actually play coverage (although he was a starter).
We’re playing close to receivers, making plays on the ball, and generally being badasses. Ole Miss is tied second in the SEC in interceptions with 4, and that’s in only two games. I know we’re playing against bad teams, but last year, we couldn’t even defend bad teams through the air. We’re also second in the league in pass defense efficiency and seventh in the league in pass yards per game, up from twelfth last year.
So in short, we’re excited about the pass defense, but I think we’re going to hold off on getting too excited before we play legitimate teams.
4. The Gamecocks hope to return some defensive linemen from suspension and injury this week and will hope to have a strong pass rush. How will the Rebels inexperienced offensive line hold up against Eric Norwood and company?
All of us over at the Cup are scared to death of Eric Norwood. He’s a freak of nature. I certainly don’t think it will be easy against the South Carolina defensive front seven.
If we want to win, we’re going to have to adjust to that and try to get the ball away quickly. Luckily, Jevan has a very quick release. The fact that we often pass from under center should make it difficult for us as well.
Honestly, I’m not going to sugar coat this one. I’m not excited about having to trot out our offensive line versus your defensive line. It’s going to be very difficult.
The one thing I will say is that where our offensive line struggles a little bit in pass protection, they seem to excel in run blocking. They’re relatively good at pushing defenders out of the way to open holes for Brandon Bolden. I’m not sure they will effectively do that with Norwood in the box, but it won’t be as easy as I once thought for Norwood to totally rough up the running game.
5. Who will win this game, and how will it go down?
I mean… I write for an Ole Miss blog. While we try hard not to be homerish (I’m predicting that freaking Arkansas will beat us), there will always be a slight bias. I’m going to say the Rebels win one that’s closer than the ranking would say.
Snead outplays Garcia, but only slightly. Bolden does the same to Giles, who I think is emerging as your feature back. Sure, Maddox is fine, but Giles gives you the extra pop you need at halfback.
Eric Norwood gets at least one sack, but our defense also manages to pick off Garcia and strip at least one ball away from you.
The Rebels by 7.