EL PASO, Texas - When you think of Ole Miss football, you think about, Archie Manning, Chuckie Mullins, Eli Manning and most recently Michael Oher who was made famous by the movie The Blind Side.
Ole Miss plays in the SEC and in quite possibly the toughest conference in all of college football. To finish last 2-10 overall and 0-8 in the West division last year was a disappointment. The Rebel's saying "We may not win every game, but we've never lost a party," started to lose a little of it's luster after the last few years and even more so last year.
No. !: Who's the new head coach of the football program? It was time for a coaching change and Houston Nutt had run his course in Oxford. In comes Hugh Freeze. You may know Freeze from his days at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Tennessee.
If you think that name sounds familiar it's because Freeze was Michael Oher's high school coach. In his 3 years as a college head coach, Freeze is 30-7. But let's be honest, coaching at Ole Miss is not like coaching at Lambuth University or Arkansas St. The pressure to win in the SEC may be greater than anywhere else.
Will this year be just as difficult for the Rebels as last year? You would think after coming off one of the worst years in school history, the powers that be in the SEC would go easy on the Rebels when it came to set this years schedule. Think again. Ole Miss plays in the SEC West. That means LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi St, and now Texas A&M are all on the schedule, every year. Throw in Georgia and Vanderbilt from the East (this year), add the Texas Longhorns for good measure and you have the toughest schedule in the SEC. And let's not forget UTEP in week two.
No. 3: Who will be the starting quarterback for the Rebels? A big question mark heading in to this season is the offensive side of the ball and who will be named starting QB come opening day? There are two fighting to win the job, West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti and JUCO transfer Bo Wallace. At last word, neither have been that impressive but from the sound of things after last Saturday's scrimmage, Wallace has the inside track to get the nod. For now though, Freeze insists he is not naming a starter until next week and still claims both could see significant playing time until a starter immerges. Stay tuned.
No. 4: How is their defense shaping up after the fall camp? The defensive side of the ball got a huge boost last week when in coming freshman and Rivals 4 Star prospect DE Channing Ward was cleared by the NCAA Clearing House to play this year for the Rebels. This could prove to be huge for a defense that is lacking depth mainly due to the loss of CB Nickolas Brassell to academic eligibility.
Cornerback Wesley Pendelton is nursing an MCL sprain. This will sting for sure but with sophomore DE CJ Johnson opposite Ward, a good pass rush can make up for a lot of deficiencies elsewhere.
How will UTEP fair in this road game? This is not going to be a year like coach Hugh Freeze is used to having. With all of the changes on both sides of the ball it could be a while before this Rebel squad starts to get any continuity going. Even if they do, they will be in the heart of their schedule and way over their heads.
I am a very optimistic person but for the life of me I do not see Ole Miss winning more than 2 games again this season. Once again the Rebels will finish 2-10, with one of those 10 losses coming September 8th , to UTEP.
Hey, I told you, I am an optimistic person.
Chad Middleton, also the producer for KROD's SportsTalk, can be reached at [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter at @600chadESPN. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.