Know the Opponent: Georgia

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Georgia (10-5, 2-1)

KenPom ranking: 61

Best win: at No. 103 Auburn

Worst loss: at No. 79 Oakland

Ole Miss has an opportunity to get back to even in SEC play as well as pick up a nice win on Wednesday when Georgia visits the Pavilion. The game will feature a matchup of two of the best big men in the league with Sebastian Saiz and Yante Maten facing off in the block. 

Georgia on Offense: The Bulldogs do most of their damage on the inside on offense. Nearly 80 percent of Georgia's points have come on shots from inside the arc or at the free throw line.

Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier offer a potent inside-outside combination. Maten draws more fouls per 40 minutes than anyone in the SEC and leads Georgia in scoring. While he's extremely productive on the inside, shooting nearly 60 percent on 2-point shots, he also has hit 12 from beyond the 3-point line. Frazier is shooting just 27 percent this season from 3 but showed last season he's a much better shooting than that. 

Georgia on Defense: Georgia's defense is the strength of their team and one of the best in the conference. Teams don't shoot the ball well against Georgia, hitting only 32 percent of 3s while barely shooting 40 percent from the field. 

The Bulldogs have two anchors inside in Maten and Derek Ogbeide that turn away shots at a high rate. Both have more than 20 blocks this season. 

Know the Opponent: Auburn

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Know the Opponent: Auburn (10-4)

KenPom ranking: 105

Best win: No. 28 Texas Tech

Worst loss: No. 172 Boston College

Both Ole Miss and Auburn are after their first win in conference play. Ole Miss has had arguably the toughest open of any team, drawing Kentucky at home followed by back-to-back road games. 

Auburn on Offense:  Auburn plays fast. The Tigers average fewer than 15 seconds per possession, the 14th-fastest pace in the country. However, Auburn is below the national average in both 3-point and 2-point shots. Ole Miss hasn't been good at defending 3s this season, but Auburn hasn't shot them at a high rate. Because of that, Auburn ranks just 164th in offensive efficiency. 

Auburn does get to the line though. Mustapha Heron ranks 17th in the nation in drawing fouls. Heron runs the show, taking more than 1/4 of the shots when he's on the floor.  

Auburn on Defense: Auburn's defense is the strength of the team. Teams have not shot the ball well against the Tigers. Auburn also forces teams to turn the ball over at a high rate. That's an issue that has plagued Ole Miss this season. Ole Miss can't let what happened in the first half at Florida in regards to turnovers happen again and have a shot to win. 

Auburn has been susceptible to offensive rebounds though, and that's an area where Ole Miss can thrive. The Rebels rank 24th in the nation in offensive rebound percentage while Auburn's defense ranks 280th in the same category. 

Longo Named FCS Coordinator of the Year

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Football Scoop - Ole Miss' new offensive coordinator Phil Longo was named the FCS Coordinator of the Year by The award is selected by former winners of the award, which shows the respect other coaches have for Longo's coaching ability.

Sam Houston State was able to run through the regular season undefeated and reach the FCS Quarterfinals in large part due to Longo's offense. The Bearkats averaged nearly 50 points per game while racking well over 500 yards per game.

It's one thing to move the ball from the 20-yard line to the 20-yard line, but Longo's Bearkats excelled at finishing drives in the red zone. More than 80 percent of drives that made it to the red zone ended in a touchdown. 

Sam Houston State was dynamic through the air, finishing ranked second in the FCS in passing offense (368.3 ypg). However, the Bearkats rushing attack was not to be discounted. Longo's squad ran for nearly 200 yards per game as well. Sam Houston had more than 4,500 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in 2016. No FBS team accomplished that.

While working inside of Longo's offense, nine Bearkat starters received All-Southland honors. 

Freeze to Join Finebaum Film Room During Peach Bowl

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ESPN is providing fans multiple ways to view the College Football Playoff, and Ole Miss head coach is playing an integral role in one of the options. During the Peach Bowl between Alabama and Washington, Freeze will join Paul Finebaum along with Booger McFarland and Jordan Rodgers on SEC Network during the game.

It will provide SEC fan-centric point of view where they will take calls as well as provide instant analysis of the game. It makes sense that Freeze would be a coach to turn to for an Alabama game as he has provided the Tide with two of their three losses over the past three seasons. 

Know the Opponent: Kentucky

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Know the Opponent: Kentucky (10-2)

KenPom ranking: 4

Best win: No. 3 North Carolina

Worst loss: No. 13 UCLA

Ole Miss opens up conference play by being presented the best team in the SEC. The Wildcat do essentially everything well. Their athleticism makes them extremely difficult to guard, but they are also one of the best defensive teams in the nation to go on top of that. Outside of their three matchups against top-15 teams, Kentucky has won every other game by at least 21 points. This will be the first time this season that Kentucky has left the state of Kentucky for a true road game.

Kentucky on Offense:  Kentucky averages 118 points per 100 possessions. That is really, really good. The fourth-best mark in the country. Adding to that, they play at a break-neck pace, averaging fewer than 14 seconds per possession. That leads to many, many points. The Wildcats have broken into the triple-digits four times this season. Despite playing at such a high pace, Kentucky doesn't turn the ball over. The Wildcats rank in the top-10 in turnover percentage.

When Kentucky gets inside the 3-point line, they make their shots. They hit 55 percent of 2-point shots, good for 29th in the country. What adds to that is few teams get as many offensive rebounds after the sporadic misses. The Wildcats rank 13th in the country in offensive rebound percentage. 

If they have a weakness, it would be that the Wildcats have shot the ball poorly at times. They rank 214th and 228th in free throw percentage and 3-point percentage, respectively. 

Kentucky on Defense: Kentucky's offense is dynamic, but the Wildcats don't give passes on the other end of the court either. Kentucky's defense is the 9th most-efficient in the nation. It's not surprising given the Wildcat's length and extreme athleticism. Teams don't shoot well, making fewer than 30 percent of 3s. 

Kentucky ranks 12th in the country in blocked shot percentage and 40th in opponent's turnover percentage. Ole Miss can't let mistakes pile up against a defense that is so good at forcing them and expect to stay in the game.

Know the Opponent: South Alabama

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Know the Opponent: South Alabama (7-5)
KenPom ranking: 218 
Best win: at No. 187 UNLV 
Worst loss: at No. 303 Stetson 

Ole Miss has one final tuneup before conference play begins and it comes in the form of South Alabama. 

South Alabama on Offense: South Alabama's average possession length is just over 16 seconds, so they move pretty quickly on offense. However, the Jaguars have not been every efficient at that pace. South Alabama ranks 293rd in offensive efficiency. That's due in part to their abysmal 3-point shooting. South Alabama is shooting just 29.5 percent from behind the arc. Georgi Boyanov leads the team in scoring and is shooting 15-for-22 from deep. The rest of the team combines to barely break 26 percent on 3-point shots. It's important to not leave Boyanov open to shoot, but the rest of the team hasn't proven the ability to beat you shooting outside.  
The Jaguars only shoot 64 percent from the free throw line and rank outside of the top-200 in turnover percentage. The Rebels held Bradley to under 50 points in the last game, and this one also gives the Rebels to build confidence heading into conference play on that side of the court. 

South Alabama on Defense: While the Jaguars have struggled on the offense, their defense has been much more solid this season. South Alabama ranks amount the best in the country at forcing turnovers. For Ole Miss, that could be a problem. The Rebels rank 251st in turnover percentage on offense. 

Adding to that, South Alabama is better than the national average against both 3-point and 2-point shots. An advantage for Ole Miss is on the offensive glass. The Rebels enter ranking the top-25 in offensive rebound percentage while the Jaguar defense ranks outside of the top-200 in the same category.

Know the Opponent: Bradley

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Know the Opponent: Bradley (5-6) 
KenPom ranking: 235 
Best win: at No. 222 Eastern Illinois 
Worst loss: No. 253 Delaware 

Ole Miss faces Bradley in the second-to-last nonconference matchup before SEC play begins. 

Bradley on Offense: Bradley has not been great this season on the offensive side of the court, ranking 271st in adjusted efficiency. The Braves also rank poorly in the bottom 100 of teams in offensive rebound percentage and free throw percentage. 

While Bradley has struggled to make free throws, they're good at getting to the line. Nearly 23 percent of their points come from the free throw line, ranking 66th in the nation. Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye draws nearly seven fouls per 40 minutes, ranking among the highest marks in the nation. It's possible that this game could become foul heavy as both Ole Miss and Bradley are adept at getting to the line. 

Bradley on Defense: While Bradley gets to the free throw line with good regularityity on offense, they let opponents do the same while on defense. Adding to that, they rank 296th when it comes to forcing turnovers. 

Bradley is better than the national average at defending both 2-point and 3-point shots, but many times they allow second chances. Opponents' offensive rebound percentage against Bradley is higher than the national average. That's definitely a place where Ole Miss could hurt the Braves, as the Rebels rank 16th in the nation in offensive rebound percentage.

New Coordinators Help Address Critical Areas

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Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze had specific deficiencies that he wanted his coordinator hires to address. On offense, he wanted to improve the rushing attack, third down efficiency, and red zone scoring. On defense, Freeze wanted his new coordinator to have a record of stopping the run, limiting explosive plays, and keeping teams out of the end zone in the red zone. Phil Longo and Wesley McGriff were hired because they fit those criteria. 

Ole Miss' offense has been dynamic in many categories since Hugh Freeze arrived in Oxford. Longo will look to continue that success while also filling some voids that have hampered the high-powered Rebels from being a truly great offense. 

The Rebels struggled to find balance on offense, many times leading to drives stalling out in the red zone. Since Longo took over as Sam Houston State's offensive coordinator in 2014, only one team in all of Division 1 football scored more red zone touchdowns. The Bearkats found the end zone in the red zone 145 times. 

While Longo runs a variant of an "Air Raid" offense, he's not bashful about running the football. Sam Houston had more than 4,500 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in 2016. No FBS team will accomplish that in 13 games this season. 

Sam Houston State converted on 47 percent of opportunities this season on third down in 2016. In the FBS, that would have ranked 19th in the nation. Ole Miss ranked 65th this season on third down at 40 percent. The best way to help out a struggling defense is to keep the offense on the field, and that was something Ole Miss didn't do enough of this year.

As for Wesley McGriff and the defense, it's easy to see how Freeze decided to go in that direction. Ole Miss' defense really struggled in 2016, and McGriff brings a track record of limiting some of the weaknesses. 

In 2015 before McGriff arrived, Auburn's defense struggled in the areas Freeze mentioned as wanted his defensive coordinator to improve. 

McGriff Effect

Auburn Defense Before and With McGriff

        2015 2016

YPG         405.2 348.4

Rush YPG 182.7 124.8

Plays of 10+ 190 144

Red Zone TD % 51.0 34.2

Check, check, check. While McGriff doesn't have prior coordinator experience, every big name on the defensive side of coaching has to get an initial opportunity. Ole Miss' defense needed new energy after the poor 2016 season, and it seems like McGriff will bring just that.

Know the Opponent: Murray State

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Know the Opponent: Murray State (5-5) 
KenPom ranking: 162  

Ole Miss returns home to face Murray State in its first home game in nearly two weeks in a matchup of two strong offenses.

Murray State on Offense: Once again, Ole Miss faces an above-average offense that can shoot. The Racers score 37.8 percent of their points from behind the arc, the 39th-highest percentage in the nation. Four players on the team have already made double-digit 3s on the season. Ole Miss' 3-point defense will have to be better than it has been this season, as opponents are shooting nearly 43 percent against the Rebels. 

Junior guard Jonathan Stark is shooting 46 percent from 3 and is the player to watch on offense. He takes the most shots on the team, but he's also extremely talented at finding an open teammate. His assist rate is just outside of the top-50 nationally. 

What makes Murray State so efficient on offense is how careful the Racers are with the ball. Their turnover percentage is one of the best in the nation. However, due in part to their 3-point reliance, the Racers don't get to the free throw line with great regularity. 

Murray State on Defense: While the Racers are efficient offensively, the same can't be said about them on the other end of the court. Teams have shot the ball very well against Murray State, and Ole Miss enters the game ranked 68th in 3-point percentage nationally. The Rebels need to take advantage of that and put up a big number to counter Murray State's offense. 

While Murray State doesn't turn the ball over on offense much, the defense doesn't force many either. Ole Miss needs a clean game in that department. The Racers have also let opponents get to the free throw line frequently. Drawing fouls and getting to the line is already a strength for Ole Miss, so the free throw disparity could be a deciding factor in the game if both teams continue their trends.

Haynes' Return a Boon for Ole Miss Defense

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Ole Miss' defense will look for 2017 to be very different than 2016, but the Rebels will return a very important piece to make that happen in Marquis Haynes. Haynes announced on Wednesday that he will return for his senior season. 

"After talking with my parents and Coach Freeze, it's best that I return to school and play my senior season as an Ole Miss Rebel," Haynes posted on Twitter. 

Haynes has been a constant presence in opposing backfields during his first three seasons, racking up at least seven sacks in each of them. The only other Power 5 players that can say the same since 2014 are likely first-round selections in this year's NFL Draft Myles Garrett (Texas A&M) and Derek Barnett (Tennessee). 

Even if the standard is lowered to five sacks in each of the last three seasons, Alabama's Jonathan Allen is the only Power 5 player to join the club. Haynes has been as consistent as anyone at getting to the quarterback. 

With Haynes returning, the Ole Miss defensive line looks to again be a strength for the team. D.J. Jones and Fadol Brown are big losses, but Haynes, Breeland Speaks, and Benito Jones are a very experienced, talented core for the new defensive coordinator to build around upfront. 

While the Ole Miss defense had issues in 2016, the defensive line was a consistent force. Ole Miss ranked 10th among Power 5 schools in pressuring the quarterback. Obviously, Haynes was a big part of that as the Rebels' best pass rusher. 

Haynes had three fewer sacks this year than last season, but sack numbers don't really tell the story. Ole Miss faced nearly 200 fewer pass attempts in 2016 than in 2015. And now, Haynes has one more season of making life difficult for offensive tackles and quarterbacks.

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Recent Comments

    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

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