1. Ole Miss started the season with a lot of hype and presictions of greatness. Has the season lived up to expectations? Why or why not?
If you had asked this question of me a month ago, I would have answered with a resounding "no." However, our offense has averaged over 450 yards per game since then, and our defense looks to be crushing opposing ballcarriers.
Before the season began, I predicted that the Rebels would go 10-2 with losses to Alabama and Arkansas, placing them second in the West. Assuming that we take care of business against MSU this Saturday, we will have fallen only one win short of that and still place second in the West.
As the fan of a team from Mississippi, it's foolish to be dissatisfied with nine regular season wins.
2. Dexter McCluster is obviously the centerpiece of the Rebel offense. If you were Carl Torbush, how would you try and limit his success in the game?
Honestly, I know this would be crazy, but I would move a fast safety into your linebacking corps and spy Dexter with him on every single play in which Dex is in the game. If you try to do what LSU did, getting Chad Jones to spy McCluster out of a traditional safety spot, Snead will simply pick on that safety's side of the field. The key is having someone with Dexter McCluster's speed whose only job is to take care of McCluster.
Still, Dexter's best quality is his ability to make something out of nothing. Plenty of times in the last few games, opposing defenses have had players in the right place only to see Dexter switch directions or simply outrun said defenders. He's lighting in a bottle, and there's no true way to stop him.
3. Aside from McCluster, what other weapons does Jevan Snead have available.
Well, I don't know if you have ever heard of Shay Hodge. He leads the SEC in receiving yards. Hodge is obviously Jevan's favorite target, and it has shown. Shay catches many many more balls than any other receiver, and Jevan appears to stare him down sometimes.
But we have some other receivers and backs worth noting.
Tailback/Fullback/H-Back Brandon Bolden has soft hands and can make something happen after he catches the ball out of the backfield. He's a devastating runner who can level players in the secondary.
Our only tight end of note in the passing game is Ferbia Allen, a freshman who may not have many catches but has made his touches matter. Against Tennessee, Allen had an incredible catch for a first down on a ball that was poorly thrown and required a lay-out grab.
The other receivers of note are Markeith Summers, a balanced receiver who has a little trouble bringing the ball in sometimes, Lionel Breaux, a speed receiver who also has trouble bringing the ball in, and Patrick Patterson who has no trouble holding onto the ball but can't get separation to save his life.
4. Give me the run-down of your best players on both sides of the ball.
I'm going to assume you meant along the lines since I've essentially already discussed all the skill players on offense.
On the offensive line, John Jerry was a decent right tackle. Then true freshman mammoth Bobby Massie was moved to the starting job at RT allowing Jerry to move to right guard. It turns out that while Jerry was only an adequate tackle, he's a fantastic guard. Baby J has been able to open countless holes for the running game, and Massie has also played well. The late-season line adjustment is just what the doctor ordered.
On the defensive line, our best pass-rushing defensive end is done for the season in Greg Hardy, but the line is still full of stars. In fact, the two best return (fingers crossed) next season. Juniors Kentrell Lockett (DE) and Jerrell Powe (NT) are phenoms who get after the quarterback as well as they bring down the ball carrier. It's a pleasure to watch them both play as they both specialize in disrupting the backfield and busting plays.
5. How do you see this game playing out and what will the final score be?
I don't think it's just the Rebel in me that's calling this a win for Ole Miss. MSU has nothing for which to play, and the Rebels are shooting for a Capital One Bowl berth with this win. Sure, it's a rivalry, but, much to the surprise of many fans, the better team has usually won for the past decade or so. Here, Ole Miss is the better team.
I imagine that we'll have trouble containing Anthony Dixon, but the defense has come up strong against some great backs, and I can't imagine Dixon having a day like he did against Kentucky. We'll be keying in on him, and neither Tyson Lee nor Chris Relf have the arm to beat our secondary.
On offense, I imagine we'll just continue to let McCluster run wild, but if State keys in on him too much, we'll use him as a distraction like we did against LSU. Your defense can't overcommit to McCluster, or you're toast.
Rebels win 31-17.