Ole Miss fans would have been ecstatic to start the year if they knew QB Bo Wallace would cut way down on careless, critical turnovers that haunted the team in 2012. Wallace has largely avoided such mistakes this season. However, speculation that his shoulder isn’t fully healed from offseason surgery seems legitimate. Wallace has lacked zip on his passes. Still, he has confidence and poise and has given Ole Miss chances to win every game except at Alabama. QB2 Barry Brunetti’s role varies from week to week, though he is still largely the option quarterback.
Rest of offense: B-
RB Jeff Scott, who has rushed for 434 yards so far, provided the highlight of the first half when he took a handoff 75 yards around left end for the game-winning touchdown at Vanderbilt. However, the finesse-oriented Rebels have not been able to out-muscle teams for tough yards when needed. That’s partly because of an offensive line that underachieved through the first six games. WR Donte Moncrief ranks among the best in the league and Laquon Treadwell is enjoying a sensational freshman season.
Anyone able to stand on Saturday might be asked to start against LSU. Injuries have decimated Ole Miss on defense. Leading tackler Serderius Bryant suffered a concussion late in the game last week against Texas A&M. The Rebels will also be without standout DEs Robert Nkemdiche and C.J. Johnson as well as DT Isaac Gross. When healthy, Ole Miss showed a much-improved defense – especially on the defensive line. Still, the Rebels rank in the middle of the pack of most defensive categories within the SEC.
Expectations were high in Oxford, especially after wins at Vanderbilt and Texas left the Rebels 3-0. Consecutive losses to Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M have left them reeling, however, with LSU looming. Ole Miss still looks good for a bowl game, but hopes of being a darkhorse for the SEC West are finished.
Offensive Spotlight: RB I’Tavius Mathers
Scott will likely be out with a thigh bruise this week against LSU, leaving Mathers to pick up the slack. The sophomore made the most of his four carries against Auburn, but didn’t fare as well against Texas A&M. Mathers provides a more physical running style than Scott. With the defense so beaten up, he might need to help run more clock than usual for the Ole Miss offense.
Defensive Spotlight: LB Denzel Nkemdiche
The undersized linebacker needs to step up with Bryant out of the lineup. Nkemdiche, a breakout star in 2012, has battled injuries for most of the year. Now he’s back and needs to replace significant production. He has the ability to do so, though he has registered just 19 tackles without a TFL this season.