One would like to think that Coach Paul Petrino spent last week’s bye week looking back at the first seven games of the season and evaluating where to go from here. Sitting at 1-6, the Vandals have maybe three more games in their schedule that could end in a win, but injuries at just about every position has posed problematic and could have long-standing effects with red-shirts being burned at the turn of every corner. This week, Idaho will head south to take on the Ole Miss Rebels for the first time in school history and their third SEC opponent in three years.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT OLE MISS:
Don’t let their 4-3 record deceive; Ole Miss is playing their best football in years right now. Coming off a big 27-24 win over LSU, the Rebels could have easily been 6-1 going into this game if close calls against Texas A&M and Auburn would have went differently. Idaho will be only the second opponent this season that Ole Miss has faced that currently has a losing record, the first being FCS opponent SE Missouri State.
Offensively, the Rebels boast the 35th ranked pass offense and 60th ranked rush offense in the nation while averaging 28.7 points per game. While their points per game does seem a bit on the low side (72nd in the nation), one has to remember that they have essentially played four straight ranked opponents. Junior QB Bo Wallace leads the offense with 1,790 yards passing with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. The running game is backed by a combination of RBs Jeff Scott and Jaylen Walton, who have combined for 669 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, Ole Miss is giving up about as much as they are scoring. Allowing 27.3 points per game, the Rebels have recorded just nine sacks this season and eight interceptions this season. To put it in perspective, that is two less sacks and one interception more than Idaho. Ole Miss’s defense is very much a “bend, not break” style, which has allowed them to hold their opponents fairly well.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR IDAHO:
With QBs Chad Chalich and Josh McCain out with shoulder injuries and other assorted Vandals falling victim to the injury bug, Idaho needs to get out of this game without losing any other players, especially QB Taylor Davis. Davis is the last man standing in between Coach Petrino having to make the tough decision on whether or not to burn true freshmen Matt Linehan’s redshirt. Petrino has already said that he won’t make the move unless something cataclysmic happens (aka Davis getting injured) and that Austin DeCoud won’t be brought back into the QB fold to fill that spot. Don’t be surprised if the Vandals take this into consideration and end up playing a very conservative game.
Offensively, the Vandals have the perfect opportunity here to work on basic fundamentals and build upon some of the progress they have made this season. It would be nice to see the running game get a little more attention, allowing the Vandals to keep the offense on the field as much as possible and possibly take advantage of Ole Miss’s fatigue.
Defensively, Idaho just needs to make stops. Ole Miss’s offense isn’t the best, but then again, the Vandals have been allowing teams all season long the rare opportunity to feel what it would be like if they were the Oregon Ducks. If the Vandals could avoid allowing their seventh 40+ game of the season, that would be a moral victory that any fan would enjoy at this point. Stopping the passing game will be the biggest point and making sure that Wallace doesn’t get the chance to find his wide-outs.
When the schedule for this season was originally release, this game looked like one where not only the Vandals may have a chance, but could win based off of Ole Miss’s inability to stay consistently successful in the last ten years and the idea that their schedule leading up to this game would leave them emotionally crushed as a fellow one or two win team. That all went away with their win against Texas and reality began to set in.
Now seven games down, this is going to get ugly fast. Chalk it up to the injuries or the youth, but this one will probably get out of hand fast. With Chalich out, this offense probably won’t do much. Davis had his moments against Arkansas State, but there was a reason why he was third in the depth chart. The offense will sputter and cause a lot of grief for our own defense. Watch for this one to be over by the end of the first half and for a lot of Vandal fans to be tuning into any of the more competitive games.
NCAA 14 Prediction: Ole Miss 45 Idaho 14
My Prediction: Ole Miss 70 Idaho 10