Researching Ole’ Miss is a bit like observing a distant planet. 1562 miles, two time zones, a bunch of humidity, almost zero history, and a complete lifestyle difference are between Boise and Oxford.
The old (probably) drunk guy dancing though, that is universal.
The year that Idaho became a state, Ole’ Miss was just forming their first athletic department. Boise wouldn’t field a football team for another 39 years after Mississippi boys first touched toe to grass in 1893. A storied program for sure, but the game coming up next Thursday has nothing to do with pedigree, conference affiliation, tenure, recruiting rankings, political leanings, or anything else outside of the 2014 Broncos and Rebels. The only people who know exactly who that is are with the programs, and the rest of us are left to wonder, wait, and fret. The Rebels are counting on tempo and speed to win this game. They love to throw nice little short passes, and a whole lot of them. Here’s their returning QB Bo Wallace’s stats from last season:
Set school records for total offense (3,701 yards) and completions (283) in a season … Completed 283 of 437 passes for 3,346 yards (third-most in school history) with 18 TDs and 10 INTs … Ranked third in the SEC and 26th nationally in both total offense (284.7 ypg) and passing (257.4 ypg) …
Yanno, just setting school records for total offense and completions, completing a good-but-not-that-good 65% of his passes for 18 TD’s. This is 7 yd per attempt though. They also scored 30 ppg last season. So, Boise’s D must be ready to defend the corner and not be afraid to hit somebody or fight for position coming over the middle to be able to intercept a few of those passes. The Rebel’s defense could be ridiculous, or it could be overblown SEC hype. There are 5 Rebel’s defenders on the All SEC watch-lists, the most notable being Pre-Season 2nd team All American Robert Nkemdiche. Or, as Broncos fans have seen before, this could be a bunch of SEC bluster and hype and the boys in orange could run them ragged and confused before halftime.
All of this remains to be seen, and exactly what we’ve all been waiting an entire off-season for. Rebels fans are apparently excited for the match-up, but talking a great big game as well. Both teams have pros and cons. Ole Miss has had strong recruiting classes recently and is coming off a reasonable performance last season, and Boise’s team is an unproven commodity with all the uncertainty in the program. Everything changed for the Broncos in December, and while those inside the program are telling us all the correct things it’s scary to not know what to expect. On the other hand, Ole Miss has some questions in their run game – the guy listed at the top of the depth chart, I’Tavius Mathers, started exactly one game for the Rebels last season. Boise State will likely be deepest on defense, with a ton of experience in the secondary and a whole bunch of big, strong defensive linemen who are learning from what might be the best combo of knowledge, personality, and moustache on the coaching staff, Steve Caldwell. Boise State is of course going to live and die on the legs and ball control of Jay Ajayi and Grant Hedrick, but with the return of a fast paced, extend the field throwing game, this whole thing is going to be about which team can exploit the other’s weaknesses and really control the time of possession. Both teams can score prolifically in the correct defensive conditions, and both defenses look like they could be tough, at least on paper. Dead Center Dan Goodale needs to be as accurate as ever, and special teams had better be ready to go right off the bat. We might have a track meet on our hands next Thursday. We might also have a defensive battle.
I don’t doubt that Boise can put at least 28 points on the board, but can the guys hold the Rebels under that total? Vegas has Boise as ten point dogs, and while there are a few outlets calling for a return to the kind of winning everyone remembers out of Boise, most of the national consensus is that Boise is going to fall back to obscurity very quickly due to a whole bevy of excuses that Boise State fans are dutifully slicing and frying into Bronco Nation Brand Shoulder Chips.
Now available in Dill Pickle flavor.
There are a few things I need to see out of this game to be happy. First, I need to know that the Boise offense is unpredictable, prolific, and accurate. I would like to see a working, nasty blitz. Would love to see lots of tight end participation in the offense, and just one nice deep ball to a flying orange blur of Dallas Burroughs. I need Matt Miller to make a one handed catch in the back corner of the end zone. I need interceptions from the safeties and jarring hits from Jeremy Ioane. Antoine Turner needs to get a sack so I can be irrationally happy for him for a while.
This game could be the return of the sense of balance in the universe that Bronco Nation has been missing, or a tipping point where the bandwagon gets much lighter. Ole Miss has a lot to prove too. Recruiting rankings and conference affiliation can only carry a team so far, eventually the wins have to come or Coach Freeze is going to have to answer some questions. Their team seems like the type that could have discipline issues and leave a mass of flags and fan’s broken dreams in their wake. While this may not be the marquee game of the night, it certainly is the most intriguing. Hotty Toddy indeed, Rebels. Put on your blazers, ties, and sundresses, sip your bourbon, and get ready to watch that cute little team out of the Mountain West give you the fight of your team’s figurative lives opening weekend. Oh, and if Ole Miss happens to lose? It would be nice if they wouldn’t turn around and lose horribly to Vandy the week after. Strength of Schedule and all that.
Isn’t football great? I missed football. Let’s never have an off-season like that again.