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Ask the Expert: Ole Miss

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We connected with our friends at Red Cup Rebellion to get some opposition insight on the game Saturday.

Mississippi v Mississippi State Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

It’s 2018, summer has ended, and the boys of the fall are back! Yes, Red Raider fans, after roughly an eight month hiatus we can finally get excited for another season of Texas Tech Football. Although, I’d caution everyone to temper their excitement a bit because we draw a tough matchup with the Ole Miss Rebels (Landsharks?) in Week 1. I’d like to thank our friends at Red Cup Rebellion, and specifically “Juco All-American” for answering a couple of questions.

One quick note before we dive into the content though - isn’t it fitting that we’ve landed yet another 11am kickoff? Specifically, Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech have 11am kick-offs and we’re three of the more compelling games this weekend. What a joke the Big 12 has become to the TV people. Anyway - digression over - let’s get into the Q/A.

It felt like Matt Luke wasn’t choice #1 for Rebel fans, but given the NCAA troubles you couldn’t have a better leader. How are Rebel fans handling the sanctions and are people bullish on the Matt Luke era?

I’d say fans are already pretty divided about the hire. There are three relatively distinct segments. Segment A, who we’ll call “the delusionals” think Matt Luke is incredible and will be wildly successful, seemingly because he went to Ole Miss and that somehow makes him want to win more. Those delusionals were, unfortunately, heavily involved in the hiring process.

Then there’s the “moderates” who think Luke is fine but are taking a wait and see approach. I’d say most of the fanbase falls into this category. They’re not “bullish” on Luke but think there’s an alright chance he could succeed on some level here.

Lastly, there’s the group of “defeatist nutjobs” who think the hire was quite bad and found themselves in a very dark place around Ole Miss football for the first half of this calendar year. This group includes yours truly. While there’s going to be a portion of the fanbase in a category like this no matter who is hired, this portion seems to be a lot larger after the Luke hire than it was after Nutt or Freeze.

We’re all familiar with the elite wide receiver group Ole Miss has, but we don’t hear about the running back group much. Tell us how those guys might affect the game and what should we expect?

Last season, Ole Miss had a 1k yard rusher and fourth-round draft pick Jordan Wilkins carrying the ball. He is, of course, gone. The offensive line that paved the way for him returns mostly in tact, but there was a question heading into the summer about who would be the lead back.

That job has fallen to junior college transfer Scottie Phillips. Word out of camp has him as a reliable back who can do some nifty stuff sometimes. He’s not an elite runner, but people are saying he should be good enough. I have my doubts about any junior college player (part of the reason for my pen name), so I guess we’ll see.

The guy who was supposed to be second in line for carries, Eric Swinney, got mono. Past him, there are two true freshmen in Isaiah Woullard and Tylan Knight. The coaches have raved about the diminutive Knight’s ability to make plays in space, but I worry that neither may be all that capable in pass protection. This is certainly the largest (some might say ONLY) question on offense.

The book on the Ole Miss defense has been that it’s an average group this year. How will they stack up against a traditionally strong Red Raider offense?

To call the defense “average” is a courtesy you don’t owe me. Last year, they were very, very bad. 124th in rushing defense and also not too good at stopping the pass. Since that time, two defensive linemen were drafted, so it doesn’t seem like much good stuff is going on over there.

I will say that the biggest issue last year was at linebacker, and the most recent depth chart has three brand new starters (if you count our safety/linebacker hybrid) there this year. While normally brand new starters would be a bad thing for a team, that’s not really the case at linebacker for Ole Miss.

The defensive line should still be alright, especially against the pass, and the secondary has some sneaky potential. If you’re smart, you’ll run between the tackles and dare the linebackers to make plays in space. Last season, they were hilariously bad at it.

Are there any key injuries or suspensions to note?

Other than Swinney (who wasn’t expected to get more than 8-10 touches), everyone is healthy. No one is suspended (as of now).

Score Prediction, and why?

Tech by a touchdown or so.

I just can’t count on the defense to stop your run, and until the Ole Miss running game proves me wrong, I think the Rebels will be a little too one-dimensional on offense. While the passing game could be very elite, without a viable threat to run the ball, I think Tech can sort of work around that. As you mentioned in your answers, Tech’s defense is built around putting themselves in takeaway situations, and a few of those going against Ole Miss could be really problematic.

BONUS: What’s up with the Landshark deal? Do people actually like this?

You’re asking the wrong dude. I think mascots are foam costumes for kids. I don’t care.