Midseason review: Ole Miss


Record: (4-3, 1-2 SEC)

Raise your hand if you had the Rebels with four wins at this point. Raise your hand if you predicted the Rebels would play Alabama a closer game than either Michigan or Arkansas. First-year coach Hugh Freeze has this program headed in the right direction with his no-huddle, warp-speed offense, and the Rebels are eager to see if they can take it to another level during the second half of the season. The pressure is off now that they got that 16-game SEC losing streak off their backs last week with a 41-20 win against Auburn. The only disappointing thing is that it wasn’t their second conference win of the season. Ole Miss had Texas A&M on the ropes three weeks ago at home, but couldn’t hold on to a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead. Even so, there’s a lot of positive energy around this program right now, and the Rebels are playing a ton of young players. In the win against Auburn, 11 of Ole Miss’ 22 starters were freshmen or sophomores, and two others were first-year players out of junior college. The Rebels have played 18 freshmen this season, including 12 true freshmen. They get a bye this weekend, which comes at a good time. Then it’s on to face Arkansas in Little Rock, a game that will go a long way toward deciding Ole Miss’ postseason fate. The fact that a bowl game is even a possibility says volumes about the job Freeze and his staff have done.

Offensive MVP: Running back Jeff Scott. The diminutive junior has played a lot bigger than his size for the Rebels and already has three 100-yard rushing games. He’s tied for the team lead with six touchdowns and is averaging 6.1 yards per carry. In the win against Auburn, he had 207 all-purpose yards and scored a touchdown on a 55-yard catch and run. He and sophomore receiver Donte Moncrief have been the Rebels’ playmakers on offense.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche. While everybody jockeys for his highly rated brother, Robert Nkemdiche, on the recruiting trail, the elder Nkemdiche has already made his mark on Ole Miss’ defense. The 5-foot-11, 203-pound redshirt freshman is tied for the team lead with 44 total tackles, and leads the team with nine tackles for loss. He’s playing a hybrid role (part linebacker and part safety) and has a knack for always being around the ball.