Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bo Wallace Leaves Big Shoes to Fill

By Tyler Slay @slaytyler

Bo Wallace won't be easy to replace.

Listening to some Rebel fans over the past few years might cause you to think Wallace was the worst quarterback to ever put on the Ole Miss uniform, but that's obviously not the case. Still, only Johnny Manziel had more expletives connected to the utterance of his name in the Vaught Hemingway student section than Bo.

A lot of that frustration stems from unrealized potential. We always knew Bo was better than his mistakes. The Bo Wallace who led the Rebels 61 yards to put Andrew Ritter in position to kick the game-winning field goal in last year's unlikely win against LSU is the same Bo Wallace who threw a game-ending interception in this year's matchup with the Tigers. He threw 5 touchdowns against Mississippi State his first season, and he fumbled away the the potential game-tying score against the Bulldogs the very next year. The list of ups and downs goes on and on.

It has been a mixed bag with Bo, but he'll be more appreciated as time goes by. His accomplishments were many.

Wallace never missed a game. He beat 8 out of the 11 SEC teams he played, beat every team in the SEC West at least once and won 2 of 3 Egg Bowls. He won both bowl games, with the biggest one of all still remaining. And don't forget the individual statistics:
All of this was accomplished during a rebuild after 4-8 and 2-10 seasons prior to his arrival. Chad Kelly, Ryan Buchanan or DeVante Kincade will start off working with much more talent around them than Bo had upon his arrival.

Kelly will probably be the guy next season. There will be a competition, but it seems unlikely that the coaching staff will keep him on the bench to start guys who have taken only a handful of snaps in live games. The matchup against Alabama in Tuscaloosa is scheduled for September 19th. That's the 3rd week of the season. Games against UT Martin and Fresno State probably won't be sufficient to give Buchanan or Kincade the experience they need. Freeze's new guy, regardless of who he is, will have to adapt quickly.

The next quarterback for Ole Miss has the potential to be great, but he won't be Bo Wallace. He won't be a part of bringing the team back from two terrible seasons, breaking a long SEC winless streak or beating Alabama for the first time in 11 years. Bo, despite the ups and downs, leaves some big shoes to fill.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Kelly Raises the Bar at Quarterback

Ole Miss picked up junior college quarterback Chad Kelly for one reason - to give the Rebels the best chance possible to win in 2015, but that doesn't necessarily mean Kelly will be the starting quarterback. 

The former Clemson and current EMCC quarterback will still have to beat out Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade - redshirt freshmen with two years of experience in Hugh Freeze's offensive system. 

The competition this spring and summer will be intense - maybe even cutthroat - and that's exactly what Freeze is looking for in acquiring Kelly. Kelly is a 4-star, gun-slinging, cock-sure QB who thinks he can follow his famous uncle's footsteps all the way to the NFL. He isn't coming to Ole Miss to sit. But the job still must be won, and whether Kelly wins the starting job in 2015 or not, one thing is certain - he will raise the level of play at quarterback, and whichever player wins the position will be better for it. 

With the graduation of Bo Wallace, quarterback is really the only major missing piece in 2015. With all the other weapons returning on both sides of the ball, Ole Miss should be a Top 10 team in August. But once the season is underway the star-studded roster will only go as far as its quarterback will take it. By offering Kelly, Freeze just made the odds of finding the right quarterback a little better. Maybe even a lot better. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Road Rebels

Ole Miss must really love the road.

Just a few days after failing to shoot even 30 percent in home loss to TCU, Ole Miss flew all the way out to Oregon and beat the Ducks 79-73.

Stefan Moody scored 22 points to lead the Rebels, Sebastian Saiz scored 17 more, and the Rebels improved to 6-2.

Ole Miss now has fairly impressive non-conference wins against Creighton, Cincinnati and Oregon, and weird, head-scratching losses to Charleston Southern and TCU.

Which is the real Ole Miss?

Well, it bodes well that the Rebels can play well on the road. Tad Smith will get more exciting in January when the fans finally forget football and turn their focus to SEC action.

Plus, this team still has plenty of time to gel. Moody is obviously gaining confidence. Summers, who oddly only scored a point against Oregon, will generally be good for 10 to 20. If LaDarius White and Saiz continue to improve, I really, really like this team. LINK TO OLE MISS GAME STORY.


Everything Looks Peachy at Ole Miss


The Hugh Freeze era continued its upward ascent Sunday as the Ole Miss Rebels accepted an invitation to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, where Ole Miss (9-3) will meet 6th ranked Texas Christian University (11-1).

The season ended on a really high note for Ole Miss, first with the electric win over Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl and now with inclusion in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. It's really a dream finish considering the three-game conference losing streak in November. That Egg Bowl win now looks even bigger than ever.

This isn't your grandfather's Peach Bowl, or even your father's Peach Bowl. Thanks to the new College Football Playoff, the Peach Bowl took a seat at the big boy's table starting this year as part of the New Year's Six. The Peach Bowl is an elite bowl, and the 9th ranked Rebels are in it, playing a team that arguably should be in the the College Football Playoff. It's a showcase game. TCU will be trying to prove it belonged in the Playoff by beating an SEC West power, and the Rebels will get a chance to show just how good they really are.

Championship Weekend could not have gone any better for Ole Miss.

If Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Missouri or Kansas State had managed an upset the Rebels probably wouldn't have made it to the Peach Bowl.

Now the Rebels can focus on taking the next step toward becoming a truly elite program. A win against No. 6 TCU could easily make Ole Miss a national favorite to begin the 2015 season with a roster laden with returning starters and depth. With a featured time-slot all to itself on New Year's Eve (11:30 a.m.), the entire country will be watching this Top Ten match-up.

This Peach Bowl is just the latest opportunity for Ole Miss to become a fixture on the national college football scene.

With Hugh Freeze (the first coach in Ole Miss history to lead the Rebels to a bowl game in each of his first three seasons) locked in to an extension, and seemingly happy in Oxford after passing up an opportunity at Florida, the fabulous recruiting class of 2013 primed for the junior season we've all been waiting for, and another great recruiting class or two on the horizon, it looks like Ole Miss is headed to crazy new heights.

Happy Bowl Season!

Here's the official Ole Miss release:

No. 9 Ole Miss, No. 6 TCU Square Off In Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
Rebels Make Second Appearance in Peach Bowl

OXFORD, Miss. – For the second straight year, Ole Miss will end its season in the same city in which it began it. The Rebels have accepted an invitation to play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, as Ole Miss continues its rich bowl tradition on Dec. 31 in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.

The ninth-ranked Rebels (9-3, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) will face No. 6 TCU (11-1, 9-1 Big 12 Conference) in the 47th Peach Bowl. Kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m. ET and televised by ESPN. The official Ole Miss fan color is red, and tickets, travel and other bowl information is available at www.olemissfb.com.

“To start the season and finish the season in Atlanta at the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl is a great accomplishment for our football program, players and coaches,” said Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork. “Our goals when we arrived were to establish a football program that was relevant on the national scene, and we are now playing in one of the College Football Playoff access bowl games.  While we will continue working hard to grow the foundation that has been set up, playing on December 31st is a great achievement for our entire university.”
Ole Miss is making its third straight bowl appearance in three seasons under the direction of head coach Hugh Freeze. He’s the only coach in school history to guide the Rebels to bowl berths in each of his first three seasons.

Ole Miss won the BBVA Compass Bowl (38-17 over Pittsburgh) after the 2012 season and the Music City Bowl (25-17 over Georgia Tech) last season. Like this year, the 2013 Music City Bowl marked a return to the location of the Rebels’ season opener, having begun the campaign with a victory over Vanderbilt in Nashville.

This year’s squad won nine regular-season games for the first time since 2003, defeating three 10-win teams and four conference champions along the way. Ole Miss rose as high as No. 3 in the national rankings and finished the regular season with the nation’s top scoring defense, allowing just 13.8 points per game.

Three of the Rebels’ victories came against teams playing in access bowls: Alabama (Sugar), Mississippi State (Orange) and Boise State (Fiesta). The season-opening win over the Broncos took place in the Georgia Dome in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.

“It’s an exciting time in college athletics, and we are thrilled to be one of the teams selected in the first ‘New Year’s Six’ bowls,” Freeze said. “We are honored to accept this great invitation and take on an outstanding TCU team. Atlanta is a place that is very dear to our program, and it’s important to us that we represent our great university.”

Ole Miss bolsters its celebrated bowl legacy with its 36th all-time appearance, tied for 18th on the NCAA Division I list of all-time bowl berths. The Rebels are 23-12 in bowl games, with the 23 wins tied for ninth-most in college football history. The Rebels’ .657 winning percentage is second-best among all schools.

Ole Miss is 10-1 in its last 11 bowl games, including a current streak of six straight victories that is tied with Florida State for best in the country. The Rebels' lone loss since 1992 was in the 2000 Music City Bowl, falling 49-38 to West Virginia.

This will mark Ole Miss’ second appearance in the Peach Bowl, having defeated Georgia Tech 41-18 in the 1971 game.

“The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl staff does a great job of hosting a first-class bowl game and festivities, and I am confident Rebel Nation will take over Atlanta during the holiday season,” Bjork said. “Congratulations to everyone, and We are Ole Miss!”

Ole Miss and TCU have met six times in their history, most recently in 1983, with the Rebels boasting a 5-1 all-time edge. The teams have a pair of postseason encounters, both won by the Red and Blue. The first bout between the Rebels and Horned Frogs was a 13-9 Ole Miss triumph in the 1948 Delta Bowl, and in the 1956 Cotton Bowl, the Rebels prevailed 14-13.

Ole Miss is 13-11 against current Big 12 schools, including a 9-3 mark in bowl games. Six of the Rebels’ last nine postseason outings have come against teams currently in the Big 12.