5. More. Days! The countdown to kickoff is down to one hand. Speaking of, this guy was pretty good with one hand on the ground, haunting opposing QBs while wearing the 🔴 and 🔵. No. 5 @Thelegendmerlyn pic.twitter.com/BUdBtapDIH
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) August 27, 2018
Ole Miss opens the season against Texas Tech in Houston in a match-up that teases the promise of a pre-Labor Day fireworks show. The combined score on most betting sites sits around 67.5 points, with 99 percent of betters putting their money on the over. Most expect both teams to reach the low 30’s on the scoreboard, if not more.
Texas Tech’s offense will be wet behind the ears as they break in new starters across the field. The losses include their starting quarterback, their most productive wide receiver, and their starting running back. Keke Coutee out wide and Justin Stockton out of the backfield accounted for 203.8 yards per game in 2017. Meanwhile, Nic Shimonek tossed 33 touchdown passes.
That’s one hell of a learning curve to return to a top offense in the country. Kliff Kingsbury is known for his incredible offensive mind, but if he is able to churn out something resembling a top 25 offense in 2018, then he might be in consideration for coach of the year.
Red Raiders Unicorn Defense
How rare are unicorns? They’re as rare as Texas Tech’s defense being better than its offense. Now take this with a grain of salt, as they finished 104 in total defense a year ago, but they do return almost everyone on that side of the ball.
The defensive backs will most likely be improved, as most are junior college guys in their second year. The linebacker core is a salty group with Dakota Allen and Jordyn Brooks. Against Texas last year, Brooks and Allen were around the ball on almost every play. Defensive line play will most likely not determine games as they lose one of their more productive lineman in Mychealon Thomas who almost led their lineman in tackles, but return almost everyone else.
I don’t see any of their defensive backs being able to contain A.J. Brown or D.K. Metcalf one on one, which means they will have coverage decisions to make in the secondary. That should lead to favorable matchups for Lodge, and Knox, and the rest of Jordan Ta’amu’s weapons. It should also help clean out the box for Rebel newcomer Scottie Phillips to have favorable rushing situations.
Texas Tech’s defense is more stable than the offense, but it may not be any better than last year because simply returning the same faces from a bad defense is highly likely to just equal another leaky defense.
This game comes down to the basics: A middle of the pack SEC team taking on a middle of the pack Big-12 team. Ole Miss is more talented in almost every category outside of linebacker and running back (seems to be a common theme), and the former is still a close talent gap. Ole Miss committed to, and thus established, a significant power-run game down the stretch in 2017 with Jordan Wilkins, and they will be keen to replicate his success with a group of fresh faces. Phillips is an unknown but has drawn rave reviews from spring and fall practices, and I’m a believer in the Longo offense, so I think the run game will be succesful. Longo has had success with every different variant of his air raids, but he has always found ways to have the threat of a capable ground attack, whether they hand the ball off 8 times or 48 times. Everyone knows the receivers are elite, and Ta’amu at quarterback is more than capable of getting the ball to the difference makers outside.
The Ole Miss offense overpowers the veteran Red Raider defense, and the Rebel defense steps up against an uncommonly anemic Texas Tech offense. Ole Miss will put up 35 plus while Tech struggles to get 21 points, and everyone will credit the SEC for being a superior conference top to bottom and go about their day.
If you frequent the betting sites, bet the under on this one. The only way these two teams get to 67.5 points is if Ole Miss scores 47, which is a possibility, but unlikely.