It’s installment number two of wild blind dart-throwing predictions of Alabama opponents. After this matchup was unusually set up as Game 10 last season, the Black Shark Rebel ManBearPigs are back as an early opponent for the Tide - this time as the first conference game of the year.
GAME 4, SEPT 23: vs OLE MISS REBELS
Coach: Lane Kiffin (23–13, 14–11 in three seasons at Ole Miss; 84-46 in college career at Tenn, So Cal, FAU! and OM)
2022 OM record: 8-5 (4-4 SEC; T–3rd in the West Division; Texas Bowl loss)
CB969 2022 Prediction: 8-4; “The first half of the schedule is pretty frickin’ lame. But after that... Woof!”
Looking back: As expected, Ole Miss reeled off seven straight wins to start their 2022 cottony softness schedule. Then the SEC West slate kicked in and the Rebs lost four of their last five regular season games. A 17-point Texas Bowl loss to Texas Tech left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth in Oxford.
Returning starters: 5 defense, 6 offense, punter
Key losses: WR Jonathan Mingo (Round, 2 Panthers), OLB Tavius Robinson (Round, 4 Ravens), RB Zach Evans (Round, 6 Rams), OG Nick Broeker (Round, 7 Bills), DB AJ Finley, WR Malik Heath, OL Mason Brooks, LB Troy Brown, S Otis Reese, NT KD Hill, S Tysheem Johnson (to Oregon), DT Tywone Malone (to Ohio State), CB Davison Igbinosun (to Ohio State), QB Luke Altmyer (to Illinois).
Top returnees: RB Quinshon Judkins, LT Jeremy James, DT JJ Pegues, C Caleb Warren, RG Eli Acker.
Top newcomers: DC Pete Golding, 22 transfers including QB Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State starter), QB Walker Howard (LSU) WR Tre Harris (935 yds, 10 TD with La Tech last season), WR Zakhari Franklin (1,137 yards and 15 TDs at UTSA), 6th-year LB Monty Montgomery (Louisville), 6th-year CB Zamari Walton (Georgia Tech).
Names you need to know: For once in a long while, the top running back in the league may not be wearing crimson and white. Quinshon Judkins had a breakout season in 2022, gaining 1,567 rushing yards and scoring 16 touchdowns as a freshman. The Alabama native did so while sharing the carries with now departed Zach Evans (936 yards). Ulysses Bentley had two productive seasons at SMU before transferring to OM before last season. He spent most of the season on the bench nursing injuries but is back this year and should be a productive No. 2.
Weaknesses: 22 incoming transfers to go with 18 last year. Of the projected defensive starters, all but senior DE Cedric Johnson originally signed with another school. Point is, how can a roster with so many new faces every year find a way to gel?... Judkins was the only Rebel named to the three-team 2023 Preseason All-SEC list released last week. In other words, not a lot of superstars on this team... Lost top two receivers... Secondary issues... You think Alabama has QB troubles? None of the signal callers of Ole Miss really move the needle... Installing a new and intricate defense with a bunch of new players... Consecutive games of Bama-LSU-Arky...
Strengths: Despite being transfer heavy, OM has a great deal of juniors, seniors and super-seniors in the starting lineup... Obviously, depth is a good thing and OM has it for once... Running game... Passing game if these new receivers are for real... Golding should improve a bad defense that allowed 35 points per game over the final seven contests...
Outlook: Ole Miss has gone through a good deal of head coaches over the last quarter century - often with the NCAA handing down sanctions that wiped away team victories. It’s Year 4 for Kiffin in the Land of Eternal Bowl Ties. If he can get through a full season, it will be the longest job he has ever had in his life. The administration and fans would like to see their charismatic rascal of a coach stick around a long while. He has gone 5–5, 10–3, and 8–5, and could probably be forgiven for a meh season this year. Yet, you have to wonder if Kiffin’s act - and his wandering ADD mind will start getting a little stale if the losses start piling up.
The defense will take some time to get going but should improve under former Bama DC Golding. Kiffin offenses are always dynamic but he doesn’t really have the best arm(s) to make it tick. The Rebs could lay the burden on the shoulders of Freshman All-American Judkins. But how did that work out for Auburn and Tank Bigsby?
Win Total Odds*
Over 7.5 -115
Under 7.5 +105
Sat, Sep 2 vs Mercer - W
Sat, Sep 9 @ Tulane (on TU campus) - W - Star quarterback Michael Pratt and the Green Waves will be no pushovers. But OM should be able to outscore them.
Sat, Sep 16 vs Georgia Tech - W - GT rebuilding once again.
Sat, Sep 23 @ Alabama - L
Sat, Sep 30 vs LSU - L
Sat, Oct 7 vs Arkansas - W - The Rebs likely split these next two. Give them the win at home and loss on the road.
Sat, Oct 21 off week
Sat, Oct 21 @ Auburn - L - See Arky above.
Sat, Oct 28 vs Vanderbilt - W
Sat, Nov 4 vs Texas A&M - W - The Aggies are still a mess.
Sat, Nov 11 @ Georgia - L
Sat, Nov 18 vs UL Monroe - W
Thu, Nov 23 @ Mississippi State - W - MSU is an unknown quantity under unproven new coach Zach Arnett (a questionable and lazy hire IMHO). Kiffin will open up the playbook in another wacky Egg Bowl.
Alabama, LSU, and UGA look like losses to these eyes. To get over 7.5 wins, the Rebels would have to go 8-1 against the rest of their schedule. Think they can do that? Some of those challenges include Arky, at Aubie, TAMU, at MSU, and even Tulane is no gimme. Keep your ten foot pole. I’m not touching this one.
Regular season wins for Ole Miss in 2023:
10 or more (popcorn is ready!)
5 or less (popcorn is ready!)
2023 ALABAMA SCHEDULE:
Sat, Sep 2 vs Middle Tennessee
Sat, Sep 9 vs Texas
Sat, Sep 16 @ South Florida
Sat, Sep 23 vs Ole Miss
Sat, Sep 30 @ Mississippi State
Sat, Oct 7 @ Texas A&M
Sat, Oct 14 vs Arkansas
Sat, Oct 21 vs Tennessee
Sat, Oct 28 off week
Sat, Nov 4 vs LSU
Sat, Nov 11 @ Kentucky
Sat, Nov 18 vs Chattanooga
Sat, Nov 25 @ Auburn