Welcome to Prediction Thursday. I am on the road today checking on home folks before heading down to New Orleans tomorrow.
The hopeful among most Ole Miss fans looked at the 2012 schedule and immediately could see a path to 3-1.
The Rebels are almost there. What comes to mind this week as the Rebels visit Tulane is the well-used phrase, “That’s why you play the game.” You hear that sort of thing after big upsets, and the Rebels are the big favorites in New Orleans.
Under first-year coach Curtis Johnson, who coached receivers with the Saints last year, Tulane – which has had a winning season just twice in the 2000s — has shown no early signs of rapid improvement. Johnson has had to deal with off-season issues and injuries, and while the Green Wave has had two weeks to prepare for the Rebels, this game still has the look of a third win for Ole Miss, perhaps in a big way.
The biggest injury has been to senior safety Devon Walker, who suffered a cervical spine fracture on the last play of the first half at Tulsa. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has used that injury to point to adversity and distraction for Tulane then, but Walker’s injury came on the last play of the first half, and the Green Wave already trailed 35-3.
Tulane has also dealt with an injury to fifth-year senior Ryan Griffin at quarterback. He missed the second half of the Tulsa game with a shoulder problem. His status for Saturday remains unclear, and signs point to freshman Devin Powell, who made his college debut when he relieved Griffin in the second half at Tulsa. Powell guided the Green Wave to its only touchdown in the game, which by the way could make Ole Miss folks a tad nervous since it came on a 66-yard pass.
The Green Wave has been terrible on the ground without injured running back Orleans Darkwa, averaging just 7.5 yards a game on the ground. Not surprisingly, that ranks Tulane last in the nation in rushing offense. There’s some sack yardage figured in there, but you have to almost try to average just 7.5 yards on the ground. That’s not all about running backs. There are some line issues in there. And you have to want to run the ball too. The Green Wave has attempted just 15 non-quarterback runs through two games.
Freeze likes the idea of getting on the road after a disappointing loss, getting alone with your players and regaining focus. This will be the first road game for many Ole Miss players, but the home crowd feel they’ll have from Ole Miss fans in the Superdome, where Tulane receives very little support, will hardly prepare them for the road atmosphere the following week at Alabama.
The bottom line is Tulane is rebuilding just like Ole Miss but with less talent.
Ole Miss put up 31 points – three touchdowns by the offense – against a much better Texas defense. You would think the Rebels could put up points against Tulane. Three interceptions thrown by Bo Wallace marked the first time he’s had real turnover struggles in a game and were reminiscent of the problems he had in August practice.
I think he’ll be OK against Tulane, but that does make one wonder how Wallace will react the next time he faces Texas speed, because he will face it again.
For now, Wallace and the Rebels should handle the Tulane speed and improve to 3-1.
Prediction: Ole Miss 39, Tulane 20