Yesterday, Shawn previewed Ole Miss’s explosive offense, and today I’m going to preview Ole Miss’s equally explosive defense.
There’s really no reason to mince words here. Ole Miss has an awful defense. Eight of the Rebels’ ten opponents this season have managed at least 476 yards of total offense, and seven of ten have averaged at least six yards per play, and both of those lists include Southern Illinois, an FCS team that’s currently 2-8 on the season. The Rebel defense ranks 110th in Defensive S&P+, and unlike a lot of bad defenses that are solid in one spot with one specific, identifiable problem area, this defense is problematic across the board. They rank 112th in success rate and 107th in IsoPPP — in other words, it’s a bend-don’t-break defense that frequently breaks. The one thing they’ve been marginally decent at has been in points per scoring opportunity, where they rank 57th. Basically everybody gets a ton of scoring opportunities against Ole Miss’s defense, but occasionally the UL-Monroes of the world have been unsuccessful at converting those (UL Monroe’s offense scored 14 points on seven scoring opportunities.)
That has been about the only thing preventing this defense from being a raging tire fire rather than a merely smoldering tire fire. Ole Miss’s defensive line is actually okay, with a couple of fairly strong tackles in Benito Jones and Josiah Coatney and a pair of decent ends in Charles Wiley and Qaadir Sheppard. Behind that are a lot of recruiting misses and inexperience. Before I looked at Ole Miss’s depth chart, the only player I’d heard of in Ole Miss’s back seven was junior DB Jaylon Jones and he’s a guy who is out for the season. They have a true freshman starting in the linebacking corps and their defensive backfield frequently gets burned for big plays.
In short, there’s a reason why SEC offenses are averaging 42.8 ppg against the Rebels. If Vanderbilt is losing on Saturday, it will be because the Commodores can’t stop the Rebel offense. If Vanderbilt can’t manage to score on this defense, we might as well shut down the program.