I’ve heard that Ole Miss is a “football school.” I’ve wondered who defines that. Most SEC schools would say the same thing I suppose. Maybe not Kentucky.
Football raises the money and drives the bus.
So if Ole Miss fans had been presented two choices last June and had to pick between a baseball super regional win at Louisiana-Lafayette – and the coveted College World Series trip – and a non-conference football home win over the Cajuns, how would that voting have gone?
If picking the super regional win meant guaranteeing a loss in Saturday’s home opener what would most have chosen?
Fortunately for Ole Miss fans it doesn’t work that way.
Ole Miss isn’t guaranteed a loss to Lafayette because it spoiled the party in baseball when the Cajuns were the No. 6 national seed.
The Rebels also aren’t guaranteed a win.
People who have been paying attention know that it’s been not only Arkansas State but also ULL as sort of “co-dominant” teams in the Sun Belt Conference the last few years.
They know also that former Mississippi State assistant Mark Hudspeth has put together a nice collection of athletes in a spread offense that has put up a lot of points.
Last week wasn’t one of the Cajuns’ better weeks, however. They lost 48-20 at home to Louisiana Tech, turning the ball over three times in the process.
I wouldn’t read too much into that.
On paper it looks like Lafayette has a nice running game with a mix of power and speed at tailback. The Cajuns have a 6-1, 238-pound senior in Alonzo Harris and a 5-11, 198-pound sophomore in Elijah McGuire.
While Boise State’s Grant Hedrick was involved in the run game, ULL’s Terrance Broadway will be the fastest dual threat quarterback the Rebels have faced this young season.
McGuire is averaging 7.2 yards per carry, Broadway 6.3.
Through two games the Cajuns are averaging 213 yards a game rushing, but it’s that time of year where the numbers can be skewed a little bit. Most of the Cajuns’ success came against SWAC member Southern in Week 1. They never got rolling they way they would have liked against Tech, finishing with 178 yards on 34 carries.
Defense overall has been a strong suit for Ole Miss but especially the front. Last week against Vanderbilt Ole Miss missed some fits early, and the Commodores were able to reel off some nice gains.
The Rebels needs to fit better out of the gate this week and also need to use their speed to the edge to keep McGuire from breaking off a long run. It’s not just about getting to the edge. It’s about sure tackling once you’re there. The Rebels’ tackling was better against Vanderbilt than it was against Boise.
I think the Cajuns get more done against the Ole Miss defense than either of the Rebels’ first opponents because of the embarrassment factor.
What Boise did to Colorado State – 676 yards in a 37-24 win – showed the kind of offense that Ole Miss contained in Week 1.
ULL will have some players. They’ll also have some experience, and they’ll have the motivation of trying to prove they’re better than they showed against Tech.
They also have a coach whose name gets tossed around for a lot of job openings, the abrupt vacancy at SMU being the latest.
What a lift Hudspeth would receive in those conversations if he went to Oxford and beat a top 15 team on the road.
While the Cajuns will have some success on offense so will Ole Miss.
Lafayette’s defense gave up some big plays against Tech, including a 99-yard run and a 78-yard pass. That suggests the Cajuns have their own issues with being in position.
The Rebels were better running the ball in Week 2 than in Week 1. Tech ran for 238 but had just 139 after the near end-to-end touchdown run. Ole Miss will show more run game improvement this week as the line shows some growth, and there may be big-play opportunities provided by the ULL defense.
Broadway will be a threat in the run game, but he may throw a ball or two to the Rebels’ defense. He’s thrown three interceptions already this year. He threw 12 last year, and 12 interceptions in the Sun Belt likely would equate to a few more in the SEC.
Interceptions, as always, are a big deal, and Bo Wallace needs another turnover-free game to further distance himself from his first half against Boise and prove that he is more mature, ready to protect the ball while still making plays and help Ole Miss take a step up in the SEC.
Prediction: Ole Miss 37, La-Lafayette 15