I love a Thursday game but sometimes it messes with the internal clock. Game Week is condensed, and I forgot, for a time, about a blog tradition.
The Predictions Post is back in business, however, and will be a regular Thursday feature for Saturday game weeks.
Last I saw, for entertainment purposes only, the Rebels were a 10.5-point favorite against the State of Boise.
Indeed, Ole Miss is getting preseason love from a lot of directions and goes into the game No. 18 and No. 19 in the two major polls, the AP and coaches.
In many years I’ve seen more of the Rebels by now and have a better idea of what to expect on game night. Those days are slipping away around most college football programs, so whatever happens with Ole Miss football will be new for everybody at the same time Thursday night in the Georgia Dome.
If I’m counting right we saw 11-on-11 two times during camp. The most recent time was at the end of the first week, and Robert Nkemdiche was absolutely dominant.
There were several reasons for that, one being his obvious talent. Another was the fact that the Rebels were working on the passing game that day. He knew it, and Dave Wommack was lining him up all over the place and no one not named Laremy Tunsil was having much success against him.
Last week I asked Nkemdiche, “Who’s blocked you in camp?”
His response was, “I can’t even say. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I’ve had my fair share.”
Coaches clearly expect big things from the younger Nkemdiche this season. It’s the older one, Denzel, who won’t play this game because of suspension and really could be a wild card that lifts this defense to another level if his head is aptly attached and properly functioning through the season.
Robert Nkemdiche likes the idea of playing in Atlanta near his hometown of Loganville. That’s not what drives him this week, however. He wants badly to live up to his recruiting coverage. It motivates him.
So I like the matchup of Robert Nkemdiche, all of the Rebels’ defensive front actually, against a transitioning Boise offensive line.
The front seven needs to play well because Boise has what Hugh Freeze calls an NFL running back in Jay Ajayi (6-0, 216), a fourth-year junior.
Quarterback Grant Hedrick will also be heavily involved in the run game. He was pressed into action because of an injury to starter Jim Southwick last season. Hedrick wasn’t bad, but Boise was just 3-3 with him. He faced a Power Five conference school – That’s ‘Resource Five’ according to Boise’s game notes – just once but had a good day against Oregon State. The Broncos kicked too many short field goals against the Beavers and ended up losing the Hawaii Bowl 38-23 while outgaining Oregon State.
The thing about Hedrick is he’s only 6-feet tall.
It would seem an excellent opportunity for Wommack to dial up the pressure and present the different looks that he talked about last week.
Disrupting the other team’s quarterback is always a good thing.
Boise returns eight starters on defense, but returning starters are not always good news. There were issues on that side for the Broncos last year. They were No. 75 in total defense last year, No. 64 against the run.
They were better in the Red Zone, an area in which the Rebels struggled a bit. (See short field goals above.)
Ole Miss also has a transitioning offensive line and has other questions marks as well like depth at wide receiver and corner, and special teams. There will be a lot of nervous Ole Miss fans if this game comes down to the Rebels needing a field goal for the win.
At the end of the day, I think Bo Wallace bounces back from his last two regular season games, a process he actually began in the Music City Bowl. I think the Rebels run the ball successfully eventually, but the early parts of the game will be about both teams moving slowly and learning one another. The team that figures it out first will have a big advantage.
I’m going with Ole Miss. Leave your picks and your logic below.
Prediction: Ole Miss 26, Boise State 17