Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rick Cleveland looks at upcoming college football season

It is a little known fact that William Faulkner, the most famous Mississippi bard, once played quarterback for Oxford High School, a tall task for someone who stood 5 feet, 5 inches short. This was long before face masks, and Faulkner, history tells us, suffered a broken nose. History tells us a lot more. Wrote Faulkner, ever so accurately : “The past is never dead. It's not even past.”

He was spot-on. We always should heed the past before considering the future, and that's important to keep in mind as we head into the 2016 college football season.


So let's consider the past as we look to the immediate Mississippi college football future and some overarching questions about Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss. To wit: How good is Ole Miss, and how will the NCAA's seemingly never-ending investigation affect the 2016 Rebels?

The Rebels have a chance to be really, really good, but they had better be at their best early. Two of the first three games are against Florida State and Alabama, who are No. 4 and No. 1 respectively in the first Associated Press college football poll.

While both FSU and Alabama likely have superior talent across the top 44, Chad Kelly gives the Rebels a huge equalizer – an experienced, proven winner at quarterback. Kelly was playing the position as well as anyone in the nation at 2015 season's end.

Kelly is why I think the Rebels can win over FSU at Orlando on a supposedly neutral field, and why Ole Miss has a good chance to defeat Alabama for a third consecutive year.

More difficult to predict is how the dark shadow of the NCAA investigation will affect the season. It now appears we will be well into 2017 before any NCAA ruling comes down. Nevertheless, we can expect more leaked stories such as last week's yahoo.com bombshell that the NCAA has widened the scope of its investigation and is interviewing players at rival schools.

Will this whole NCAA deal draw Ole Miss players closer and give them an “it's us against the world” personna or will it become a bigger distraction that in the end draws their eyes from the prize?
It could work either way and maybe both. It has before. I am reminded of when the NCAA lowered the boom on Southern Miss in 1982 prior to the Golden Eagles' late-season game with Alabama. The probation included a post-season ban so USM made Bama its own bowl game and beat Bear Bryant in his last home game. The next week, reality set in and the Eagles lost at home to Louisiana Tech.

Hugh Freeze has to keep the Rebels focused on what they can control. A master motivator, Freeze faces a difficult task. My guess: Ole Miss finishes the regular season 9-3.

How will Mississippi State fare in the year 1 AD (after Dak)?

Most prognosticators expect State to finish last or next-to-last in the West. History tells us that likely won't happen. In the Mullen Era, State nearly always has finished better than predicted. History also tells us Mullen will develop a quarterback to replace Dak Prescott. It might take some time, and we don't know whom it will be just yet.

Dak is gone, but, overall, the talent level is still relatively high. My guess: 6-6, which could get better if a quarterback develops fast.

How much drop off can we expect from Southern Miss, 9-5 last year, in the transition from Todd Monken to Jay Hopson?

Coaching changes are difficult to predict. I mean, who would have predicted USM would go from 12-2 under Larry Fedora to 0-12 under Ellis Johnson? That won't happen with Hopson, who inherits a quarterback, Nick Mullen, who is really good at this game.

So much at USM depends on the season opener Saturday night at Kentucky. The Wildcats are a touchdown favorite, but this is a win-able game for USM. Win, and the Eagles could go 10-2 or even 11-1 (LSU at Baton Rouge). USM and Kentucky have played only twice before (Kentucky winning handily both times), so there is not much history to draw on. But, believe it or not, this is not the first time for USM, with a new coach, to face Kentucky on the road in its opener. In 1949, future Hall of Fame coach Thad “Pie” Vann began his 21-year USM tenure with a 71-7 loss to Bear Bryant-coached Kentucky.

Two predictions: One, this time it won't be 71-7 or anything of the sort. Two, USM will finish 9-3 and play in the Conference USA Championship Game.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

15 comments:

Store Front said...

Please. PLEASE! Retire the phrase 'spot on'.

Anonymous said...

For clarification, Oxford High School didn't exist until the late 60's. Before that, Oxford teenagers went to University High School (the Colonels) on the Ole Miss campus.

Anonymous said...

If the talent level at MSU is still "relatively high", then we go much better than 6-6. the schedule is full of cup cakes including probably the two weakest teams in the conference. The SEC required teams to schedule at least one Power 5 school beginning this season. MSU went out and found the weakest team they could find that qualified. Actually, they are not in a Power 5 conference. We can just show up this season and go 6-6. If we indeed have a "relatively high" level of talent, they we should win 8. I say 8-4 this season.

Anonymous said...

To 3:18. "Relatively high" is, in fact, a "relative" term. State's talent is "high" in relation to CUSA, maybe. But far from "high" when compared to P5 talent. When one inspects that OL "talent" ..... sheesh. Good luck with that, dawgs.

Anonymous said...

Is Coach Mullens related to Nick Mullens?

Anonymous said...

I think they are cousins. Coach Mullens is known as Cousin Eddie.

Clanga Langa Lang said...

How stupid can you be, 7:49?

And speaking of cupcakes, who the hell and where the hell is Wofford College Terriers?

Anonymous said...

Must win game for my Eagles on Saturday. UK is our only shot at a "name win" (yes, they suck but they're still SEC) because we ain't beating LSU.

Anonymous said...

6:21 lmao

Anonymous said...

7:11 Seeing things? There's no 6:21 here.

Drew Freeze said...

Dan and Nick could very well be kin if they had mommas or daddies who were relatives and, of course, if they spelled their names the same. Doofus.

Anonymous said...

If Kelly gets hurt, where does Ole Miss look to bus in some more QB talent since obviously they'll pull from anywhere just to win. If you can recruit qb's yourself, just look for a talented trouble maker that has been kicked out of other programs and need some revered Freezus in his life.


When can we expect a Kelly for Heisman campaign like his predecessor Jeremiah Masoli, the last bus in.

Anonymous said...

OH! Is the correct spelling Nick Mullen?

Anonymous said...

Look it up, Doofus.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't have a problem with Scientology and its followers.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

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This is definitely a Beaver production.


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There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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