Column: Ole Miss football’s bye week progress report

Posted on Oct 26 2018 - 5:50am by John Macon Gillespie

With eight games of the football season behind us, the Ole Miss Rebels sit at 5-3 and 1-3 in     SEC play. Although the Rebels have a winning record, the five wins haven’t come easily, the injuries are piling up, and there are questions that need answering on both sides of the football.

With this week being a bye week for the Rebels, we have the opportunity to grade them on how they’ve performed thus far. Let’s take a look at Ole Miss football’s progress report to this point in the season.

Offense: B

The offense is supposedly the strength of this team, but Phil Longo’s unit has sputtered and stalled in SEC play this season. In their three SEC losses, the Rebels have scored a mere 39 points and have had next to no production in the red zone, especially last week against Auburn.

What saves the offense’s grade is its performance against lesser competition. The Rebels set a school record for total offense against Louisiana-Monroe with 826 yards a few weeks ago and have looked like one of the best units in the country against teams like ULM, Southern Illinois and Kent State.

What can bump this unit up to an A? Better red zone production and better performances in its remaining games, all of which come against SEC opponents.

Defense: D

The defense’s D grade is really close to an F. I mean, like a 60 in the gradebook. It’s been bad.

What makes me give the defense this barely passing grade (instead of an F) is its performances against Arkansas and Auburn. Sure, the first half against Arkansas was ugly, but the second-half performance was a large part of why the offense was able to string together a comeback against the Razorbacks.

While the second half against Auburn saw too many explosive plays, the performance in the first half would have been more than good enough for the Rebels to escape with a win if the offense had shown up. Holding a team to 10 points in a half has been unheard of from the Ole Miss defense this season, but that’s exactly what they did on Saturday. Just a poor performance from the offense cost the team the game.

Special teams: C

The loss of Jaylon Jones against Texas Tech with a torn ACL hindered this special teams unit. The return game has not been the same since Elijah Moore, Tylan Knight and Braylon Sanders have received kicks, and the Rebels have lost a spark in their offense as a result.

Take into account Luke Logan’s missed field goals, which nearly cost the Rebels the game against Arkansas, and his two blocked field goals. Special teams is an important part of football, and the Rebels just haven’t been sharp there this season. Still, the production on special teams has been better than the production on defense, so I give this unit a C. C’s get degrees, am I right?

Overall: C

After averaging the grades from the individual units, I give Ole Miss football a C at this point in the 2018 football season, which would be a semester GPA of 2.0. So, not terrible, but there’s noticeable room for improvement. There is, however, room for collapse and disaster, and the final four games of this season will largely determine how we remember 2018 when we look back on it.