Opening weekend turned into a disaster for the Ole Miss Rebels. Does the loss to Jacksonville State mean that the Rebels are destined to have a miserable season? Not necessarily. The stars all lined up perfectly for the Gamecocks on Saturday, but this team has experienced success over the last two years. Don't expect these guys to roll over and throw in the towel.
I predict that Rebels fans will be feeling much better about their team by this time next week. It would be very short-sighted to believe that Ole Miss will be hanging their heads and sleepwalking through this game. Here are 10 reasons that the Rebels will rout Tulane on Saturday.
1) The Rebels' backs are against the wall. Nutt said in an interview this week that Tulane is a must win. Both the coaching staff and the players know that they have to come out and make a statement against Tulane in order to save this season, and their pride. There will be no arrogance or overlooking the Green Wave on this week.
2) Ole Miss will now be totally focused on football instead of Kentrell Locket's health or Jeremiah Masoli's status. There are no outside dramas distracting the Rebels this week, with the exception of their embarrassing opening day loss, which should be a great motivator. Look for the Rebels to come out focused and remain focused for the entire game.
3) The defense was embarrassed on Saturday. There is plenty of talent on the defense and they played well below their capability against the gamecocks. The defense has something to prove, both to themselves and to everyone else. The Rebel defense should be playing with attitude and a chip on their shoulder against Tulane.
4) Kentrell Lockett returns. Lockett is one of the leaders on defense. If the Ole Miss defense needs any additional motivation after being pushed around by Jacksonville State, Lockett's return should provide it.
5) Tulane's offense only produced 252 total yards against Southeastern LA on Saturday. This ranks their offense at 95th in the nation - not very good against light competition! This offense will have a hard time against an Ole Miss defense with something to prove.
6) Both Jeremiah Masoli and Nathan Stanley look good on Saturday. Ole Miss is in great shape as far as the quarterback position is concerned. The offense racked up 479 yards against the Gamecocks and should have little problem with the Green Wave defense which gave up 202 yards to Southeastern LA University.
7) The Ole Miss backfield and wide receivers definitely looked good on Saturday. Bolden rushed for over 100 yards, and Davis, Grandy and Jeff Scott all looked very promising. The receiving corps were impressive and very balanced. The Rebels offense was very balanced and despite doing little in the second half, still did enough to be ranked 29th in the nation, with 479 total yards. Look for the offense to explode on Saturday!
8) Jeremiah Masoli experienced this same type of start last year at Oregon, losing his opening game to Boise State. Masoli's experience beginning last season with a very disappointing loss and rebounding to a 10-2 regular season and a trip to the Rose Bowl, should help the Rebels. He has firsthand experience that one loss doesn't have to define a team's season. Look for Masoli to step up and become a leader for his new team this week.
9) Tulane barely slipped by Southeastern LA despite the Lions turning the ball over four times during the game. The game stats would indicate that these two teams were pretty evenly matched. Tulane does not have the talent to stay with the Rebels, especially not against a Rebel team with their backs against the wall and something to prove.
10) In addition to all of these factors, the Rebel's coaching staff have had the opportunity to see what areas need adjustments. The coaches know that they dropped the ball on Saturday and they also have something to prove. Look for the Rebels to make adjustments in the offensive line and across the board on defense.
The Rebels will be playing with attitude and fire on Saturday. The Green Wave is going to be the recipients of the Rebel's pent up anger and frustrations on Saturday, and it will not be pretty. Don't expect Houston Nutt to turn conservative this week. He has to rebuild his team's confidence and will not call off the dogs until very late in the game. The sum of all of these factors equals a big time rout of the Tulane Green Wave Saturday night.