DCT takes a look at an intriguing matchup this bowl season: Rebels vs. Raiders.
The aftermath crash of Armageddon ‘Bama’s loss to Florida in the SEC Championship was unprecedented. Waking up each day since, simmering face, cake-glued to the living room carpet with chewed clumps of Little Debbies mixed with Schweppes and some musky, ought-to-be-outlawed Scotch. The rebuilding process has been arduous.
Heading in to the final period of that game, and pretty much up to “The Facemask,” The Tide looked like it would be finishing the pre-bowl slate undefeated and visiting its first national championship game since the ’92 season.
Tim Tebow, once a hero but now known as The Grinch, was jealous of all the happiness in Tuscaloosaville. So he crushed it. Tim, why did you do that?…poop…poop mouth…get all the poop outta your mouth. There’s gotta be something everyone’s overlooking with this guy…an expunged criminal record…a dead hooker in his basement…something. But Ole Miss defeated The Grinch, shoving that gigantuan sack of stolen presents down his throat – on 4th and short at the end of the game:
So the finale for Alabama this year has lost some luster – that’s not to say Utah isn’t a formidable opponent (12-0, #6 in the BCS), and the Sugar Bowl isn’t as badass a venue as ever. But let’s take a little time to focus on a wonderful SEC-Big 12 contest that doesn’t involve Gators or Sooners:
What: #25 Ole Miss vs. #7 Texas Tech
Where: Cotton Bowl — Dallas, Tex.
When: Jan. 2nd, 2009 — 2:00 p.m. (CST)
The Texas Tech Red Raiders have enjoyed a remarkable year – one that includes a stunning last-second thriller-win over Texas – one that also includes an all-quarter meltdown loss to Oklahoma.
Some Raider fans in Lubbock and elsewhere feel their team was snubbed by the Bowl Championship Series, and a non-BCS Cotton Bowl bid to play the SEC’s 4th-best team is a slap in Mike Leech‘s cheeky face. Well, no disagreement here, as we feel the BCS’s allowance of Ohio State and Utah to be placed in two of its top bowls is abominous.
Again, nothing against Utah, but Tech played better teams during the season. Ohio State – you deserve to be in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.
However, no matter what almost any “analyst” in the country will say about the Jan. 2nd Dallas matchup, Houston Nutt‘s Ole Miss Rebels from the SEC are dangerous. Wildcat Dangerous.
Here are the seemingly relevant statistics:
Texas Tech Defense vs. Ole Miss Offense:
* TT Rush Def. (133.5 ypg – 45th in nation) vs. OM Rush Off. (183.42 ypg – 31st in nation)
* TT Pass Def. (238.08 ypg – 91st in nation) vs. OM Pass Off. (215.3 ypg – 58th in nation)
* TT Scoring Def. (26.3 ppg – 66th in nation) vs. OM Scoring Off. (30.83 ppg – 32nd in nation)
Ole Miss Defense vs. Texas Tech Offense:
* OM Rush Def. (83.9 ypg – 6th in nation) vs. TT Rush Off. (118.92 ypg – 96th in nation)
* OM Pass Def. (209.83 ypg – 60th in nation) vs. TT Pass Off. (417.3 ypg – 1st in nation)
* OM Scoring Def. (17.8 ppg – 14th in nation) vs. TT Scoring Off. (44.58 ppg – 4th in nation)
At first glance, the most glaring stats (and the ones those “analysts” are howling about each time they discuss the upcoming Cotton Bowl) are Ole Miss’s #60 passing defense vs. Tech’s #1 passing offense.
Of course there’s the “Big 12 defenses suck” argument that SEC fans whittle out each time an ESPN announcer pitches a tent about the Almighty Big 12 Offenses. In reality, however, the Rebels’ biggest weakness (and only weakness when they’re at the top of their game) is passing defense. It has been, at times, atrocious – see SC’s Chris Smelley slashing the not-so-Hotty d-backs for 327 air yards back in October.
Some more interesting statistics, however: the Ole Miss defense has only allowed 29 redzone attempts (7th best in the nation). Texas Tech has managed 72 redzone attempts on offense (3rd best in the nation).
The Texas Tech offense is like a meticulous wooden bird sculptor, carefully chipping, carving, skinning away, feather-by-feather, as it marches down the field. A three-yard hook pass here, a four-yard curl completion there. Tech is used to reaching the redzone. The closest it has come to facing a defense as apt at keeping opponents outside the 20-yard line is Texas (39 RZ attempts). In that game, the Red Raiders reached the redzone four times, managing two field goals and two touchdowns.
Tech was also aided by a defensive safety and a HUGE interception return for a touchdown vs. the Longhorns.
Kendrick Lewis and the Mississippi D is not the best defense in the SEC, but it is the only squad to stop the Florida Gators when it counted.
Ole Miss has allowed 10 less RZ attempts than Texas this season. Add to all this that, of the 41 TDs Raider QB Graham Harrell has tossed this season, only 12 of them have been over 20 yards – four of which were against horrendous SMU (101st-ranked passing defense in the nation).
*Notable special teams stats:
– Texas Tech has used three different field goal kickers this year.
– Between those three, the Raiders have missed six extra points, attempted only 13 field goals, making seven of those (.538). Furthermore, the trio is 1-6 from beyond 40 yards.
– Opposing kickers are 13/16 against the Ole Miss defense, and the Rebels have blocked one extra point – THE extra point that would’ve allowed Tebow and the Gators to tie its game vs. OM, 31-31. Instead, the Mississippi D came through and blocked it, making way for a 31-30 victory, Florida’s sole blemish this season.
Of course, none of this points toward a sure Ole Miss victory. The Rebels still must contain Harrell and the aerial onslaught from Tech. Any rushing attack the Red Raiders have will be shut down by the SEC-tried Mississippi D. And if Jevan Snead, the general on OM’s offense, is on, the Rebs will put up a ton of points.
Tech will no doubt get a few big plays on the semi-permeable Mississippi defense…and a bunch of little plays. However, if Snead keeps his head on and throws one INT or less, and the rest of his offense can hold onto the ball, Ole Miss will score more points.
Also, the line for the game is about 4.5 points, favoring the Red Raiders. That’s mighty close, considering how much most folks are building up a Tech rout. Accuscore, the computer that simulates games 10,000 times based not only on statistics but also player attributes and certain conditions, such as the weather, has the Raiders beating the Rebels by an average of nine points. Something is rotten in the state of Texas.
The 2009 Cotton Bowl will be a great on-the-field ruling on the SEC vs. Big-12 oral argument.
Ole Miss 31
Texas Tech 26
Oh, and Big-12 defenses suck.