Our friends from Oxford come to town Saturday having just stopped a 3-game losing streak with a win over Louisiana-Laffalot last week. At 4-5, the Rebs (Bears? Black Bears?) need wins in two of their remaining three games to become bowl-eligible. After meeting the Vols in Knoxville, there is a game at LSU and then the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State in Oxford. Thus, Ole Miss will be playing Tennessee this week for the very right to breathe, as the Vols are the runts of the remaining litter, and a loss would likely end the Rebels’ bowl dream. But, who knows – LSU and Miss State are fully capable of throwing themselves under the bus.
Losing home games this season to the likes of Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt has made the mascot madness in Oxford a welcome diversion for the Mississippians. Giving up an average of 33 points a game hasn’t helped their winning aspirations; however, they are scoring points at exactly the same per-game rate, so at least the football has been entertaining for the average fan.
The Rebels have lost some of their seasoned folks to injury. Thus, everybody at The Grove has been leaning on Jeremiah Masoli, the mercenary QB let go by the Oregon Ducks for his involvement in a burglary before heading to Dixie. Masoli was suspended by his head coach, Chip Kelly, for the entire 2010 season and sentenced to 12 months probation and 140 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to a felony second-degree burglary charge. A plea agreement was reduced to a misdemeanor.
Ole Sticky Fingers eventually was granted eligibility for his transfer to Oxford where he has been plying his trade (at least the quarterbacking – who knows about his other talents). Jumpin’ Jeremiah – three schools in his four years of eligibility – has a QB Rating of 130, which ranks him 7th in the SEC of QBs with at least 100 passing attempts. A 57.3% completion rate is just behind Matt Simms’ 58.2% (way down the totem pole below Bama’s Greg McElroy’s 69.3%). His other stats are equally ordinary, but he’s proven his capability to bust out for a big game once in a while: 327 yards passing (3 TDs and 0 INTs), including 98 rushing yards on 15 carries, in a loss at Arkansas was probably his zenith so far. So it is understandable that a concussion he suffered during the first quarter of last week’s game leaves many a Reb holding their breath.
If the concussive cobwebs are too much for Mr. Masoli this week – backup Nathan Stanley is OK but he ain’t no Masoli-level talent – the Rebs will surely be relying more than usual on their fairly fine running attack comprising juniors Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis. Thank God Dexter McCluster is now Eric Berry’s teammate in Kansas City; the little man’s utterly dynamic destructive display of running prowess against the Vols last season in Oxford all but killed the hope of a January bowl appearance for Tennessee.
If Masoli is cleared by the doctors to play Saturday, and that looks likely at this point, this week’s tilt along the banks of the Tennessee River – named The Back-Against-The-Wall-Bowl by my good friends at Red Cup Rebellion – just might be one for the ages (if you like lots of points, that is). We’ll wait with bated breath to see the roster sheet that Houston Nutt unveils later this week. Until then, a game prediction is a most unwise offering. A healthy Masoli is that big of a deal for the fortunes of the Rebs in their march toward a chance at December football, which is almost as desperate as Tennessee’s present situation. It’s three-for-three or nothing for Vols.
Let us win this one, Colonel Reb, and we’ll pull for you in your final two so we both can go hand-in-hand, both six-and-six, into December.
Colonel Reb? Colonel Reb!?! Are you listening?
Musta got shot by Dan Jones… Or, eaten by a Black Bear.