As a way to preview tomorrow’s big game against the Rebels of Ole Miss, here are nine questions will we get answered (partially in some cases) during the game.
1. What effect will the weather have on the game?
The forecast is 96 degrees with moderate humidity. It will be hot on the field, and though the Rebel players are more acclimated to that, it’s not like it’s been 65 in Utah. Still, the hot conditions favor Ole Miss. Look for several players on both sides to suffer for dehydration.
2. Will Brandon Doman’s new offense hit the ground running?
I am a huge fan of Brandon Doman dating back to his days as the back-up QB. He’s extremely smart and passionate, and I think he will bring a level of smart creativity to the Cougar offense that we have not seen in years. Still, I think there will be growing pains, though I’m not sure Ole Miss has the defensive chops to expose anything too big. This will be our first chance to check out the new offense and either get even more enthusiastic or grow a little nervous.
3. Is the speed of Ole Miss too much for the Cougars?
Matt and I talked a lot in the most recent podcast about ‘SEC speed.’ I don’t really know what that means. If we were playing Florida or Auburn, would I be worried about the speed of those teams being overwhelming for the Cougars? Absolutely, but I’d be more scared about the overall skill. Is Ole Miss ‘faster’ than BYU? Likely, but the Cougars have good speed at key positions and last time I checked, there is not extra credit for who wins pre-game sprints.
4. Can Ross Apo and Cody Hoffman live up to the hype?
Probably not tommorw, though I think they will eventually. I expect them to play well and be targeted often by QB Jake Heaps?
5. How will Jake Heaps play on the road?
Heaps started two roads games against ranked opponents last year, at TCU and at Utah. Those were not his finest games (though he did OK against Utah). Playing well on the road at this level is difficult. It’s likely we’ll see 2-3 big mistakes by the young signal caller, but I am extremely optimistic about him having a good day.
6. Will the Ole Miss offensive line just be too big (and too good) for the Cougars to handle?
You may have heard about the Rebels’ massive offensive line. It reads like the weight chart for an NFL line (or a contestant list for ‘The Biggest Loser’): 320-320-315-335-315. They’re also experienced. Senior Bradley Sowell is a monster, and this is a unit that led the SEC in fewest sacks allowed and fueled a powerful running attack last season. This really is the strength and heart of the Mississippi football team.
7. What tight end will emerge as a difference maker?
Austin Holt looks like the guy, but will Richard Wilson or any of the others make a big impact in the game? I think it’s very possible, especially since the Ole Miss defense will be highly focused on the talented trio of Apo/Hoffman/Di Luigi.
8. Is Ole Miss any good?
It’s difficult in college football to know who’s going to be any good year in and year out. Ole Miss was not a very good team last season — the defense was bad, finishing 81st in the country in total defense. But they made bowl games the two seasons previous to that (they were 21st in total defense in 2009), and the offensive line (see above) and running attack are good.
9. How good are the Cougars?
I don’t think we know. The last ranked team BYU beat was Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl in December 2009. So much has changed since then with both the players and the coaching staff that it seems like a lifetime ago. The Cougars finished strong in 2010 by beating up on lousy teams, and by losing a tough one to a ranked Utah team. If BYU sputters against Ole Miss, it may leave us all wondering if this season is going to go south (no pun intended) very quickly.
I made my prediction on the podcast, but I will repeat it here: I think BYU is a lot better than Ole Miss, and I think Heaps will play well after some early mistakes. The Cougars will roll over the Rebels, 21-10.