Well, Week 1 of college football is in the books, and what do we know about the Rebels?
There are some positives to be taken from a 76-3 win over Tennessee-Martin, but much of the success has to be considered with an asterisk because of the level of the opponent.
We saw a commitment to the run, and we saw 338 yards, but we saw 402 rushing yards against an FCS team last year with an Ole Miss run game that was often inconsistent many other times during the season.
At the end of the day, Ole Miss did what it needed to do and did it well. The Rebels scored 76 points. They hadn’t done that since 1938, and there were a lot of other FCS games in that time span.
I’m a proponent of one game against an FCS opponent. I think it’s helpful when that game comes later in the year.
While you can’t get too excited about piling up statistics you can look at how a team executes.
On that score the Rebels executed very well on offense with blocking, running, throwing and catching.
Defense was a little more sketchy with missed tackles and occasional missed assignments. This had to do with substituting freely throughout the game and playing as many people as the Rebels played. There were a lot of down-the-depth-chart guys who got a lot of action.
The competition will increase this week, but Ole Miss will win handily if it executes on offense like it did in Week 1.
There’s not a whole lot to be known about Fresno State right now for all the same reasons. The Bulldogs also opened up against an FCS team, Abilene Christian, who is only a provisional member of the Southland Conference right now as it transitions into that league.
Fresno won 34-13. It played two quarterbacks and turned the ball over three times. The Bulldogs averaged 5.8 yards per rush but gave up only 1.2.
You may learn more about Fresno right now by looking at last year’s numbers.
In NCAA stats with 125 FBS teams ranked the Bulldogs were:
No. 96 in Red Zone defense.
No. 98 in Rushing defense.
No. 99 in Scoring defense.
No. 118 in Passing Efficiency defense.
No. 108 in Total defense.
No. 65 in sacks (2.14 per game, fifth in the Mountain West)
No. 61 in tackles for loss (5.9 per game, fourth in the Mountain West)
The pressure part of that equation is real. Fresno had five sacks against Abilene, and it’s the ninth time in just over three years it has had five or more sacks in a game.
That’s something to think about with a bit of restructuring going on along the Ole Miss offensive line.
Clearly the Bulldogs need to make strides on defense. How much they have is open for debate after they opened with an FCS foe.
Their numbers last year on offense were better, but not mind-boggling.
Fresno has a very good running back in Marteze Waller, a 5-11, 215-pound senior. He’s No. 7 on the FBS list of active rushers and ran for 154 yards on 20 carries against Abilene.
Fresno won the Mountain West West Division last year with a 5-3 conference mark. The Bulldogs were 6-8 overall. Only two of six teams in the West Division had plus-.500 records, and San Diego State – which shared the title with Fresno – and Nevada exceeded the mark by only one game.
Fresno lost 28-14 to Boise in the championship game.
The guess here is Ole Miss run the ball effectively again. I expect Chad Kelly to have another solid day though I’m not sure all three quarterbacks will look as good as they did against Martin.
Not sure the receivers run open and free as much as they did last week, but I thought the group as a whole really played well given the fact that they were called out for inconsistency by Hugh Freeze last spring. Didn’t hear much of that in camp. I think they got the message, and they played like it in Week 1.
The question everyone wants answered is when will Laremy Tunsil return. There is no answer for that right now.
If someone at the NCAA comes back from lunch on Friday feeling benevolent it wouldn’t be shocking to think they pick up the phone around 5, call Ross Bjork and say, “Hey, that Tunsil kid is swell. Let him play.”
If that happens Tunsil jumps into the lineup immediately. If it doesn’t Freeze will have to weigh risk and reward and decide if Tunsil will play a week from Saturday at Alabama.
That’s when the Rebels will need him a lot more.
Prediction: Ole Miss 42, Fresno State 17