Earlier this week, I was asked to answer a few questions about tomorrow's game by our *friendly (until tomorrow) SB Nation counterparts at Red Cup Rebellion. I happily obliged, but only after firing a few Qs back their way...below are the As.
Q: What's one area that you feel is the biggest mismatch for the Rebels (both for and against)?
A: Well the defensive line is probably a mismatch versus the Boise offensive line. They’ve been dominating the Ole Miss’ offensive line in practice so much that the team had to change up things they did just to get plays off. As I’ll talk about later, Robert Nkemdiche has been hyped up tremendously. The line also features a pass rushing DE who finished second team all-SEC as a sophomore but missed last season due to injury in CJ Johnson. Add freshman phenom DE Marquis Haynes who won the 100m state championship in South Carolina despite being 6’3" 220, and Ole Miss fans are excited about the chances for disruption. I think the toughest task for Ole Miss is going to be asserting itself on the other side. The offensive line breaks in two new starters (though the right tackle, Fohn Cooper, started thirteen games at Bowling Green as a true freshman left tackle). Can the offensive line, which wasn’t very good last season, recover after losing its center and right tackle, both respectable players? Also, there’s really no depth on the offensive line. Houston Nutt left that spot in shambles, and Freeze has had to piece things together for his first three years on the job with juco transfers. Ole Miss is beginning to address that need in signing classes, but obviously very few offensive linemen are ready to contribute right out of high school.
Q: Robert Nkemdiche gets a lot of publicity given his blue-chip recruit status. How good is he and how good can he be?
A: Well, he CAN be the best defensive tackle in the SEC. He weighs 295 pounds and has a legitimate six pack. I’m not kidding. I’ve never seen anything like his body type. It’s frightening. His first step is great, and he can regularly fight through double teams. As a freshman, he made several highlight reel plays, but he didn’t really come on until the bowl game against Georgia Tech. In that game, he was unstoppable.
The problem is that there were too many times in his freshman year when he didn’t even have to be double teamed to be blocked. It simply looked like he wasn’t exerting the necessary effort to make a difference. Word is that has changed this offseason. If that’s true, watch out. If not, he may not be as big a factor as many Ole Miss fans hope.
Q: Laquon Treadwell has to be another big area of concern for the Broncos, especially given their sub-par showing in the secondary last year. What makes Treadwell stand out?
A: What doesn’t? He’s 6’2" 230 and can do amazing things with the ball in his hands. See: this.
He catches everything thrown at him, and he’s an incredible blocker. See: this.
If there’s one flaw to his game it’s that his top end speed isn’t great. He’s not a burner. He’s a physical presence who can at times impose his will. The question Ole Miss fans have is how he will translate to the outside after spending last season in the slot. It could be that his talents don’t translate as well there, though I don’t expect that to be the case.
Q: West Coast types might look at Bo Wallace's TD, INT and sack numbers and think they're somewhat pedestrian, but he's highly regarded in Oxford. Is Wallace an "X-factor" sort of guy and what are his biggest strengths and weaknesses?
A: I can’t really pinpoint a biggest strength. He’s not incredible at anything, but he’s not bad at anything either. His shoulder has only been healthy for a few games of his entire career, so his arm strength has been limited, but people say it’s better this year. His decision making is fine, but he still flings it into coverage a little too often. He runs well but isn’t amazing at it. His decisions in the read-option game may be his strength, particularly with Ole Miss utilizing that so much.
The big thing with Bo is just that he’s pretty consistent. He’s reliable and will hit open receivers (and some who are covered). He has all the potential he needs and follows through on that potential at times. He’s a good quarterback but needs to take a step forward if anyone is to consider him an elite quarterback.
Q: Is "hotty toddy" just some gibberish, or is there a meaning to it?
A: No one really knows how it started. Some suggest it centers around the "hot toddy" drink, though I’ve never seen anyone at Ole Miss drink one. Some suggest that "toddy" was once a slang term for beautiful women, of which Ole Miss has many. At this point, it’s just a uniting phrase that is original, so Ole Miss fans can rally around something.
Q: Yeah, I said five questions, but I'd be remiss without asking how the Rebels see this one shaking out.
A: I think Ole Miss will struggle to feel Boise State out at first, since the coaches don’t really know what to expect. I imagine the Ole Miss defense will be difficult for Boise to work against, and that will ultimately prove to be the difference. I’m saying Ole Miss 30 – Boise 17 (a thirteen point difference, so I guess I take Ole Miss to cover the ten point spread). Still, I’m worried that people may be taking Boise lightly. There’s a very real chance that the Broncos pull this one out, wrecking Ole Miss’ momentum before it even gets started.
* Well, okay...maybe they're not that friendly.