Ole Miss (3-3, 1-3) is now slipping deeper into its hideous 0-3 Mr. Hyde personality, which unceremoniously surfaced after Dr. Jekyll concocted a brilliant 3-0 start to the season. The ugly personality change is in large part a result of, ironically, the big uglies.
Through the Rebels’ first three games, the offense was grinding out lots of yards on the ground, averaging 250 rushing yards per game. In the last three games, however, Ole Miss’ running game just hasn’t been as productive, averaging just 101 yards per game without any touchdowns. Losing offensive guard Aaron Morris in the season-opener didn’t help, but the o-line has to get a lot better.
With the running game struggling, QB Bo Wallace has taken on a heavier load. He’s attempted at least 30 passes in each of the last three games and has thrown five touchdowns to three interceptions. The problem isn’t just that he’s having to do more, it’s that he’s usually under an extreme amount of pressure while trying to do it. Ole Miss is tied for last in the SEC with 16 sacks given up so far this year.
On the other side of the ball, things haven’t been much better up front. Ole Miss hasn’t generated much pressure on opposing quarterbacks, ranking second to last in the conference with only six sacks. Likewise, the Rebels have been getting gouged in the running game lately. In the last three games, Ole Miss has yielded more than 240 rushing yards in each for an astounding average of 259 per game. Compare that to the first three games, in which the Rebels only gave up an average of 114 rushing yards, and it’s not too difficult to see why they’ve gone from 3-0 to 3-3.
What to look for in Week 8: Can Ole Miss physically hold its own with LSU in the trenches? Alabama and Auburn both dominated the Rebels up front, racking up tons of rushing yards and getting lots of pressure on Wallace. LSU is coming off a dominant physical performance against Florida in which the defensive line wreaked havoc on the Gators offense and the offensive line helped the Tigers put up the most rushing yards allowed by Florida this season.
If Ole Miss has any shot at ending its losing streak this week, it will have to start with tough, physical play by its offensive and defensive lines. The kicker: the Rebels will have to do it without star freshman defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, who suffered a hamstring pull last week.