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2019 SEC Football Preview: Ole Miss Rebels

2018 Recap

2019 SEC Football Preview: Ole Miss Rebels
2018 Schedule

2018 Record: 5-7 (1-7)

6th in the West

Some may consider it Matt Luke’s second year, some may consider it his first. Either way, in his first season following the interim tag he managed a 5-7 season in a year with a postseason ban.

The Rebels came out with a bang, dominating a Texas Tech team that was widely expected to be a closer contested game, many with predictions that Tech would win.

A Phil Longo led offense put up huge numbers through the air, finishing second in the SEC. But once again they could not figure out the run game. An offense that had five draft picks taken managed just the seventh most points in the SEC.

SEC Football Preview 2019: Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss’s defense ranked last in points allowed in 2018. (Photo courtesy of sbnation.com).

The defense was once anything but the Landshark Defense that the 2014 and 2015 teams boasted. The 2018 defense gave up the second-most passing yards, as well as the most rushing yards and most offensive yards in the SEC. They also gave up the most points.

The Rebels faced early obstacles with injury troubles. Backup runningbacks Armani Linton and Tylan Knight switched over to defensive back roles early in the season to provide some much-needed help.

In what was the final year of the NCAA sanctions, Ole Miss just missed out on would-be postseason eligibility. Some coaching changes made after the conclusion of 2018, as well as a solid recruiting class, has the fan base hopeful for a strong 2019 showing.

2019 Schedule Breakdown

2019 SEC Football Preview: Ole Miss Rebels
2019 Schedule

Ceiling: 8-4 (4-4)

Floor: 2-10 (0-8)

2019 Projected Record: 5-7 (2-6)

Conference Standings: 6th in the West

  • Week 1 @ Memphis: L
  • Week 2 Arkansas: W
  • Week 3 SELA: W
  • Week 4 California: W
  • Week 5 @ Alabama: L
  • Week 6 Vanderbilt: W
  • Week 7 @ Missouri: L
  • Week 8 Texas A&M: L
  • BYE
  • Week 10 @ Auburn: L
  • Week 11 New Mexico St: W
  • Week 12 LSU: L
  • BYE
  • Week 14 @ Mississippi State: L

Ole Miss may be one of the hardest teams to pin down this year. The additions of Rich Rodriguez at offensive coordinator and Mike Macintyre at defensive coordinator could have huge implications. These are big-name hires, both receiving Coach of the Year honors in their time as head coach.

There’s little doubt that this team’s ceiling is 8-4 with a 4-4 conference record. Beyond that is a grey area. Arkansas has been a toss-up for the majority of the last six seasons. The Vanderbilt rivalry has swung towards the home team in recent years, but remains a game to keep an eye on.

On the other side, the host team in the Egg Bowl rivalry has not won since 2014. The Memphis game being the first game of the year can go either way and is largely dependent on health. Even the LSU game could swing in the Rebels favor. Ole Miss is coming off a should-be walkthrough against New Mexico State. LSU is coming off a road game against Alabama.

This season is largely dependent on the success of the coordinators as well as the health and depth of the offensive line. The conference-worst defense returns 10 starters from last year with a proven defensive coordinator and has the chance to surprise in 2019.

2019 Questions

Redshirt Freshman Quarterback
2019 SEC Football Preview: Ole Miss Rebels
Matt Corral will start his first game at the college level against Memphis to start the season. (Photo courtesy of olemisssports.com).

California native Matt Corral will be taking over behind center after playing in four games a season ago. The only big weapon returning for him will be JUCO running back Scottie Phillips who was injured towards the end of last season.

Cumulative stats from four games last season equal about one full game. Corral went 16-22 for 239 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. He also ran for 83 yards and 2 TDs.

Matt Corral will be under a lot of pressure this year as he is the main highlight for an offense that has been a powerhouse in the last 4-5 years. It is also concerning that the backups for the redshirt freshman will be decided by a battle consisting of true freshmen.

Offensive Line Will Decide Make the Difference

The offensive line is a massive question mark heading into 2019. The Rebels lose three starters, including two NFL draft picks. They’ll see one returning starter in the season in Ben Brown. Veteran Alex Givens will be limited to start the season after undergoing back surgery.

Without a decent offensive line, it will be hard to expect Matt Corral to perform well in his first starts as an SEC quarterback. He will also not have any offensive weapons returning from a solid receiving core which saw three NFL draft picks.

The Rebels signed seven offensive linemen according to 247 Sports to provide some depth. The new faces will definitely be seeing snaps in the 2019 season. An additional concern is top offensive line recruit Darius Thomas’s outlook is unsure due to a developing heart condition that recently developed.

Weapons Available
2019 SEC Football Preview: Ole Miss Rebels
Phillips rushed over 100 yards in four games in 2018. (Photo courtesy of olemisssports.com).

JUCO Scottie Phillips was easily on pace to hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark last season before a season-ending injury. Look for him to be a factor this year. Additionally, top recruit Jerrion Ealy is an adequate option as a backup or even a starter as the season progresses.

Sophomore Elijah Moore may be the lead receiver this season after a 398 yard, 2 TD season a year ago. He’ll be helped by incoming freshman Jonathon Mingo as another receiving target.

Defense Has to be Better

Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff was fired the following day after the season ended a year ago. The defense returns 10 starters from a 2018 defense that ranked near last in several categories from 2018.

Mike Macintyre will have his hands full trying to turn around a defense that has been atrocious in recent years. JUCO defensive lineman Sam Williams and linebacker Lakia Henry will need to have strong showings in order for the defense to make progress.

Recap

There is a lot to be hopeful for Rebel fans this season. It’ll be the first time since 2015 that they are bowl eligible. The sanctions are finally behind them and can move forward towards building this program.

The offensive line and entire defense provide some big question marks, especially early in the season. An adequate offensive line can help propel a capable offense towards six or more wins. The defense returns a lot of experience but has yet to prove themselves capable of stopping offenses in the SEC.

 

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