2007 Ole Miss Rebels

Posted Jan 21, 2008

2007 Ole Miss Rebels Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

2007 Ole Miss Rebels

Recap: Shortly after going 3-9 and failing to win a league game for the first time since 1982, Ole Miss pulled the plug on Ed Orgeron, a failed three-year experiment with an inexperienced head coach.  The Rebels came close to a statement win in games against Florida and Alabama, but couldn't close either deal, beating only Memphis, Louisiana Tech, and Northwestern State.  In the end, little went right for a wayward program that finished dead last in the SEC in total offense and total defense.           

Offensive Player of the Year: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Greg Hardy

Biggest Surprise: It came in a loss, but Ole Miss was at its best on Sept. 22, putting a scare into the Gators for four quarters before falling short, 30-24.  At least for one day, the Rebels consistently moved the ball on offense, getting 302 yards and two touchdown passes from Seth Adams.  If they played all year the way they pushed Florida on that Saturday afternoon, the Rebs would have flirted with a .500 season.      

Biggest Disappointment: In a microcosm of Orgeron's tenure, Ole Miss couldn't put away Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, squandering a two-touchdown lead in the final quarter of a painful 17-14 loss.  To add insult to injury, the collapse ensured a bowl game for the rival Bulldogs, who desperately needed to lock down win No. 7.    

Looking Ahead: With Houston Nutt replacing Orgeron on the sidelines, Ole Miss is already off to a positive start in the offseason.  The former Arkansas coach knows his way around the SEC West, and could be inheriting the school's best pure passer, Texas transfer Jevan Snead, since Eli Manning left Oxford for the NFL.

- 2007 Ole Miss Preview
2006 Ole Miss Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 3-9

Sept. 1 at Memphis W 23-21
Sept. 8 Missouri L 38-25
Sept. 15 at Vanderbilt L 31-17
Sept. 22 Florida L 30-24
Sept. 29 at Georgia L 45-17
Oct. 6
Louisiana Tech W 24-0
Oct. 13 Alabama L 27-24
Oct. 20 Arkansas L 44-8
Oct. 27 at Auburn L 17-3
Nov. 3
NW State W 38-31
Nov. 17 LSU L 41-24
Nov. 24
at Miss St L 17-14

Nov. 23
Mississippi State 17 ... Ole Miss 14
Adam Carlson connected on a 48-yard field goal with 12 seconds to play to cap a wild comeback in the MSU win. Ole Miss got out to a 14-0 lead with a 14-yard BenJarvus Green-Ellis run and a 13-yard Shay Hodge catch, but then the roof caved in. With only four first downs up until midway through the fourth quarter, the Bulldog defense came through with a fourth and one stop and the offense capitalized going 46 yards in six plays with Anthony Dixon running for a four-yard score. With just 2:38 to play, Derek Pegues tied it with a 75-yard punt return, and MSU won it by going 34 yards in six plays. The two teams combined to convert just eight of 29 third down conversion attempts.
Player of the game: Mississippi State DB Derek Pegues made three tackles, a tackle for loss and broke up three passes, returned four punts for 75 yards and a touchdown, and returned two kickoffs for 23 yards
Stat Leaders: Mississippi State - Passing: Wesley Carroll, 13-28, 130 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamayel Smith, 1-27. Receiving: Anthony Dixon
Ole Miss - Passing: Brent Schaeffer, 10-30, 115 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 29-117, 1 TD. Receiving: Shay Hodge, 2-209, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about never coming through in the clutch, Ole Miss couldn't seem to get a break all season long and it cost Ed Orgeron his job. Of course, it didn't do anything to make its own breaks, but it always seemed like every big play went the other way. If didn't help to be unable to get a key fourth and one that ended up opening the floodgates for MSU, or that Brent Schaeffer closed out his career with a 10-of-30 performance. Let MSU be the guide for Ole Miss. This isn't a much better team, but it got the one or two big plays in key moments to come up with a winning season. Consistency at quarterback might be all that separates the Rebels from a good 2008.

Nov. 17
LSU 41 ... Ole Miss 24
LSU took control of the game when Trindon Holliday answered a 44-yard Marshay Green punt return for a score with a  98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but Ole Miss battled within ten in the fourth quarter on a 38-yard Brent Schaeffer dash, and again on a 33-yard Shay Hodge catch with less than three minutes to play. The Tigers finally put the game away on a 29-yard Charles Scott run on the ensuing drive. Ole Miss outgained LSU 466 yards to 396, but turned the ball over four times, while not forcing any takeaways.
Player of the game: LSU S Craig Steltz made five tackles and intercepted two passes
Stat Leaders: LSU - Passing: Matt Flynn, 17-25, 168 yds
Rushing: Charles Scott, 3-66, 1 TD. Receiving: Early Doucet, 8-58
Ole Miss - Passing: Brent Schaeffer, 13-28, 208 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Brent Schaeffer, 8-94, 1 TD. Receiving: Dexter McCluster, 5-73

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... :
Now that's what Brent Schaeffer should've been doing all along. He's never going to be an efficient passer, but he can make a few big plays here and there, and he has the speed and athleticism to take off and be a weapon to freak out defenses. Against LSU, he kept the Rebels in the game and kept the heat on. This was a stronger game for Ole Miss than the final score might indicate, and while it was fine to lose to LSU like this, is won't be as acceptable against Mississippi State. The offense has to keep the yards rolling, but the turnovers have to stop, or at least slow way down.

Nov. 3
Ole Miss 38 ... Northwestern State 31
BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 120 yards with scoring runs from 31, 25 and four yards out on the way to a 38-17 lead, but Ole Miss had to hang on, as NW State scored 14 points late in the fourth to pull within seven. Green-Ellis was able to run out the final 3:16 to preserve the win. The Demons pulled within three in the third quarter on a 16-yard Adam Varnado touchdown catch, but the Rebels answered with a 77-yard kickoff return for a score from Mike Wallace to pull away until the very end. NW State outgained Ole Miss 499 yards to 387.
Player of the game: Ole Miss RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran 17 times for 120 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Northwestern State - Passing: Germayne Edmond, 22-30, 250 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Byron Lawrence, 20-82. Receiving: Ben Bailey, 7-84
Ole Miss- Passing: Seth Adams, 7-15, 113 yds, 1 INT
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 17-120, 3 TD. Receiving: Shay Hodge, 4-88, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Finally, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was able to get rolling after being held in check for the last second weeks. That's the good news. The bad news is that Northwestern State rolled up almost 500 yards of total offense on the Rebels and once again, Brent Schaeffer proved he can't be counted on as a passer. If he only completed three of 13 passes against Northwestern State, what is he going to do against LSU in two weeks? The time off is a must for Seth Adams to try to get healthy.

Oct. 27
Auburn 17 ... Ole Miss 3
It took Auburn a little while to get going offensively, but the defense made up for it until Brad Lester scored on a one-yard run in the first quarter for all the points needed. Ole Miss got a 51-yard Joshua Shene field goal as time ran out at the end of the first half, but that would be it for the Rebel fun. Rodgeriqus Smith caught a 34-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth to finally put it out of reach, but the defense never let Ole Miss in the game allowing just 193 yard. The Tigers held on to the ball for 36:23.
Player of the game: Auburn RB Brad Lester ran 23 times for 96 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Ole Miss - Passing: Seth Adams, 11-24, 89 yds
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 13-62. Receiving: Mike Wallace, 5-39
Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 16-26, 189 yds, 1 TD
Brad Lester, 23-96, 1 TD. Receiving: Rodgeriqus Smith, 8-111, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
The offense has gone from bad to non-existent. BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn't getting much room to move, while the passing game has gone bye-bye with Seth Adams struggling to get anything working deep. For the second straight game, Brent Schaeffer came in, and for the second straight game, he showed he's not the answer. Fortunately, Northwestern State is ahead before facing LSU. Now will be the time to bomb away with the passing game to get a little confidence.

Oct. 20
Arkansas 44 ... Ole Miss 8
Arkansas ripped off 293 rushing yards and came up with four interceptions of Seth Adams on the way to the easy win. Felix Jones got the fun started for the Hogs with touchdown runs from 38 and 11 yards out, and Casey Dick threw three touchdown passes, on the way to a 37-0 lead before Ole Miss finally got on the board with a 37-yard Mike Wallace touchdown catch from Brent Schaeffer. Jones and Darren McFadden each went over 100 yards rushing.
Player of the game: Arkansas RB Felix Jones ran 15 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Ole Miss - Passing: Brent Schaeffer, 5-13, 103 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 15-84. Receiving: Mike Wallace, 4-57, 1 TD
Arkansas - Passing: Casey Dick, 11-17, 96 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Darren McFadden, 22-110. Receiving: Peyton Hillis, 4-60, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
And now there's a quarterback issue again. Seth Adams can't stop throwing interceptions, with ten in the last three games, and Brent Schaeffer showed once again that he just isn't a consistent SEC quarterback. With the offensive line struggling so much against the Arkansas pass rush, the quarterbacks never had much of a chance. Good luck next week with that trip to Auburn and its killer D line.

Oct. 13
Alabama 27 ... Ole Miss 24
In a wild game, Alabama scored ten points in the final 7:11 on a three-yard Terry Grant touchdown and a 24-yard Leigh Tiffin field goal, and then had to hold on, as a big Ole Miss pass play in the final seconds was called back after replay ruled that Shay Hodge had stepped out of bounds before making the grab. The Rebels got two Seth Adams touchdown passes, with Dexter McCluster making an eight-yard scoring grab in the first, and Michael Hicks scoring from 17 yards out in the third, while Alabama kept pace in the first half with short scoring runs from Glen Coffee and John Parker Wilson.
Player of the game: In a losing cause, Ole Miss DE Greg Hardy made 13 tackles, three sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, forced two fumbles, and broke up a pass
Stat Leaders: Alabama - Passing: John Parker Wilson, 26-40, 265 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Terry Grant, 16-62, 1 TD. Receiving: D.J. Hall, 11-140
Ole Miss - Passing: Seth Adams, 22-40, 284 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 20-131. Receiving: Dexter McCluster, 7-75, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Rebel fans have to be pulling their hair out. The team is so, so close to turning things around with a big home win, losing in a battle with Florida a few weeks ago, and losing to Alabama late this week. There are several signs of improvement, with Greg Hardy and the defensive front doing a great job against the Tide running game, while getting into the backfield for several pressures and big stops. Seth Adams is throwing well, even if he's also giving away interceptions. It seems like the team is one big break from turning things around, but it had better happen soon or else a bowl shot will be gone.

Oct. 6
Ole Miss 24 ... Louisiana Tech 0
Ole Miss got a 28-yard touchdown catch from Dexter McCluster on its third play from scrimmage, and got a score in every quarter with Shay Hodge catching a 17-yard scoring pass in the third and Dustin Mouzon taking a blocked 55-yard field goal for a score in the fourth. The Ole Miss defense controlled the game, allowing just 301 yards of total offense, but Louisiana Tech killed itself, too, with two fumbles and 13 penalties. Ole Miss was even worse on offense, amassing just 232 yards.
Player of the game: Ole Miss LB Ashlee Palmer had 15 tackles, a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery.
Stat Leaders: Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 16-27, 144 yds
Rushing: Daniel Porter, 8-51. Receiving: Anthony Harrison, 5-40
Ole Miss - Passing: Seth Adams, 16-32, 167 yds, 2 TDs, 3 INTs
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 14-54. Receiving: Mike Wallace, 5-72
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... 232 yards of total offense?! Against LSU or Florida, fine, but Louisiana Tech? The offensive line didn't do anything to get BenJarvus Green--Ellis room to move, while Seth Adams and hit three interceptions almost proved costly, except for the play of the defense to save the day. The Rebels simply aren't good enough to have a letdown, but it won, and now it can focus on Alabama.

Sept. 29
Georgia 45 ... Ole Miss 17
Ole Miss scored first on a 45-yard Mike Wallace touchdown catch, and then Thomas Brown took over. The Georgia back tore off a 50-yard touchdown run for the first of his three scores on the day. With the game tied at 17 late in the third, the Bulldogs cranked out 28 unanswered points with brown scoring from four and 41 yards out and Knowshown Moreno and Fred Munzenmaier each running for short scores. The Bulldogs outgained the Rebels 328 yards to 158 on the ground.
Player of the game: Georgia RB Thomas Brown ran 16 times for 180 yards and three touchdowns, and caught a pass for 11 yards
Stat Leaders: Ole Miss
- Passing: Seth Adams, 24-35, 228 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 22-108, 1 TD. Receiving: Shay Hodge, 6-77
- Passing: Matthew Stafford, 13-21, 144 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Thomas Brown, 16-180, 3 TD. Receiving: Mo Massaquoi, 3-29, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... After hanging tough against Florida, the Rebels did a good job of staying with Georgia for about 40 minutes, but the offense couldn't stop the Bulldog momentum late, and Seth Adams couldn't keep the chains moving when the team needed a big drive. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a nice day running the ball, but with the problems the Rebel run defense had, he had to do even more to carry the offense.

Sept. 22
Florida 30 ... Ole Miss 24
Florida got up 27-9 on two Tim Tebow touchdown runs and a 19-yard pass play to Percy Harvin, but had to hang on as Ole Miss rallied late in the third quarter on a Seth Adams 19-yard touchdown pass to Shay Hodge, and a 77-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace. The Gators were able to get up by six late on a 25-yard Joey Ijjas field goal, and then the defense held as Ole Miss couldn't get a first down on its final drive. The two teams combined to commit 24 penalties for 197 yards.
Player of the game: Florida QB Tim Tebow completed 20 of 34 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 27 carries for 166 yards and two scores
Stat Leaders: Ole Miss - Passing: Seth Adams, 18-31, 302 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 11-37. Receiving: Shay Hodge, 7-81, 1 TD
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 20-34, 261 yds, 2 TD
Tim Tebow, 27-166, 2 TD. Receiving: Percy Harvin,
11-121, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Rebel fans have to be tearing their hair out. If Seth Adams could throw effectively against Florida, where have the big plays been when BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been been running well? If nothing else, the quarterback situation should finally be cemented; Adams has to be the guy for the foreseeable future and there doesn't need to be any major changes. Of course, to Ole Miss to be at its best, it needs a balance, and it didn't get it this week with the Gators swallowing up Green-Ellis and the Rebel ground game.

Sept. 15
Vanderbilt 31 ... Ole Miss 17
Vanderbilt got three short touchdown runs from Cassen Jackson-Garrison, and Chris Nickson added a three yard scoring dash in the win. Ole Miss never got the ground game going, being held to 54 net yards rushing, but managed to stay in the game on Mike Wallace touchdown catches from 36 and 54 yards out. Up only seven, Vandy forced Ole Miss to go for it on fourth down from its own 21, but Brent Schaeffer was sacked, and the two plays later, Jackson-Garrison ran seven yards for a score to put the game away. The Commodores sacked Ole Miss quarterbacks six times.
Player of the game: Vanderbilt RB Cassen Jackson-Garrison ran for 119 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries, and had a reception for nine yards.
Stat Leaders: Ole Miss - Passing: Seth Adams, 10-17, 154 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 21-66. Receiving: Mike Wallace, 4-139, 2 TDs
Vanderbilt - Passing: Chris Nickson, 17-25, 200 yds
Cassen Jackson-Garrison, 23-119, 3 TDs. Receiving: Earl Bennett, 11-100

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Ole Miss appears to be on the right track overall, but the Ed Orgeron era might officially be on double secret probation. You don't lose to Vanderbilt. You don't lose to Vanderbilt. You don't lose to Vanderbilt. Sure, the Commodores are strong this year, but the Rebels needed to win this game to have any reasonable hope of going to a bowl. Now with Florida and Georgia coming up, things could get worse before they get better. There are plenty of problems, but for now, the quarterback job has to be all Seth Adams all the time. Brent Schaeffer showed again that he simply can't do much of anything for the passing game.

Sept. 8
Missouri 38 ... Ole Miss 25
Missouri cranked out 28 points in the second quarter on four Chase Daniel touchdown passes with two to Will Franklin, a 40-yarder to Martin Rucker, and a seven-yard strike to Chase Coffman. A 37-yard Daniel scoring play to Greg Bracey on the opening drive of the second half made it 35-7, but Ole Miss made it interesting as Seth Adams threw three touchdown passes, including a 68-yarder to Mike Wallace, and BenJarvis Green-Ellis ran for a two-yard score, and 226 yards, but the Tiger defense held on with a fourth down stop, a forced punt, and an interception.
Player of the game: Missouri QB Chase Daniel was 31-of-42 for 330 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for 55 yards on 11 carries.
Stat Leaders: Missouri
- Passing: Chase Daniel, 31-42, 330 yds, 5 TDs
Rushing: Tony Temple, 17-123. Receiving: William Franklin, 8-105, 2 TDs
Ole Miss
- Passing: Seth Adams, 23-41, 305 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 33-226, 1 TD. Receiving: Mike Wallace, 7-136, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... While it's never a positive to lose at home, even against a great team like Missouri, there are several big positives to get excited about going into the SEC season. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was tremendous as both a workhorse and a focal point. The bigger key was the passing of Seth Adams, who bombed away in comeback mode and got the Rebels back into the game. The offense couldn't do anything on three late drives, but this was still a great day for the offense. Now the defense has to start generating some pressure into the backfield and the secondary has to improve in a big hurry.

Sept. 1
Ole Miss 23 ... Memphis 21
In yet another great game before Memphis and Ole Miss, the Rebel defense came through with a stop on a two-point conversion attempt with :31 to play. Down 23-0 late in the third quarter, Memphis came roaring back as Joe Doss ran for a one-yard score and Matt Malouf ran for a four-yard touchdown before Martin Hankins found Duke Calhoun for an eight-yard score in the final moments. The Rebel offense struggled, but got a blocked punt for a score and a 99-yard Dustin Mouzon interception return for a touchdown. Greg Hardy started off the scoring with a 16-yard catch for the Rebels.
Player of the game ... Ole Miss CB Dustin Mouzon had six tackles, a tackle for loss, a fumble recovery and two interceptions, one of which went for a 99-yard touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Ole Miss- Passing: Seth Adams, 19-30, 201 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 23-79  Receiving: Marshay Green, 5-59
Memphis - Passing: Martin Hankins, 41-60, 343 yds, 1 TD, 4 INTs
Joseph Doss, 14-59, 1 TD  Receiving: Duke Calhoun, 10-87, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Ole Miss will take any win it can get, but it can't be happy with the way Memphis was able to get into the game late, and it really can't be happy with how the offense struggled throughout. BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn't get much in the way of running room, and Seth Adams, while decent, wasn't spectacular under center. However, decent might be good enough for the Rebel attack right now. Adams needs to be steady, and he was certainly that. The pass defense struggled once Memphis got down and had to bomb away, and there might be huge problems against Missouri next week without more of a pass rush.

Sept. 1 – at Memphis
Offense: The offense had its moments, but it was consistently mediocre and not nearly explosive enough. The ground game struggled behind a bad offensive line, and now the hope fill be for Joseph Doss to get more room behind a more experienced front five. The passing attack should shine, led by veteran quarterback Martin Hankins and the usual array of tall, athletic Tiger receivers. Duke Calhoun is a rising star touchdown maker, while Earnest Williams is a solid target to keep the chains moving.
Defense: A disaster last year, especially against the pass and at getting into the backfield, the defense is undergoing an almost complete overhaul with several newcomers taking over for established veterans. The 4-3 needs to start making more big plays behind the line, and the hope will be for a steady rotation of players to keep everyone fresh and be more productive. The key will be the play of corners LaKeitharun Ford and Michael Grandberry, who need to beef up a secondary that allowed 231 yards per game and finished 116th in the nation in pass efficiency defense.

Sept. 8 - Missouri
Offense: If all the parts are working as expected, this should be one of the nation's five most productive offenses with an embarrassment of riches to work with. Junior QB Chase Daniel is growing into a star leader with more than enough weapons to choose from. The tight end combination of Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman is the best in the nation, Will Franklin can fly on the outside, and Tony Temple leads a small, quick backfield that'll rip through the holes created by a talented, experienced line. The problems? Consistency and proven play in crunch time. The numbers are going to be there, but they have to come against the top teams in the big games.
Defense: The whole will be greater than the sum of the parts. A pass rush will emerge eventually from the outside linebackers as well as end Stryker Sulak, while Brock Christopher has the makings of an All-Big 12 performer at middle linebacker. The secondary will be fine thanks to the return of starting corners Darnell Terrell and Hardy Ricks, but replacing safeties David Overstreet and Brandon Massey won't be easy. There's tremendous speed and athleticism in the back seven, several good young players to get excited about among the backups, and an excellent tackle pair in Evander Hood and Lorenzo Williams to anchor things up front. Now the D has to prove it can come through on a consistent basis against the top teams.

Sept. 15 – at Vanderbilt
Offense: The offense is loaded with experience with nine starters returning including tackle Brian Stamper, who missed most of last year. The line should be tremendous with five senior starters that know how to pass protect and should be better for the running game. Junior receiver Earl Bennett is one of the nation's most productive playmakers and should finally start to get the attention he deserves. Quarterback Chris Nickson is a dangerous run/pass combination with the potential to grow into a star if he can cut down on his interceptions. The running backs aren't special, but they're experienced.
Defense: Vanderbilt won't have one of the SEC's better defenses, but it'll be far better with seven returning starters and plenty of experience. Most importantly, there are plenty of all-stars to build around. Tackle Theo Horrocks, end Curtis Gatewood, safeties Reshard Langford and Ryan Hamilton, and linebacker Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs are all capable of making All-SEC teams. The cornerbacks have to shine, a second defensive tackle has to take the heat off Horrocks, and the stars have to be stars for a major overall improvement. Coming up with more turnovers would be nice, but just being better in all areas might be enough to dramatically change the record.

Sept. 22 - Florida
Offense: Now it's time to see how this baby runs. Now the Urban Meyer spread offense will do what it's supposed to with Tim Tebow at the controls full-time, and with a slew of speedy players around him. The offensive line isn't going to wow anyone, but it's experienced, and good enough to win with. The receiving corps has explosion, led by Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, and some tremendous tight ends, and the running backs, with the emergence of smallish speedster Chris Rainey, will have more pop. Now it's up to Tebow to not only shine, but stay healthy with two true freshmen behind him.
This is what's called giving Florida the benefit of the doubt. Anyone else replacing nine starters, needing a slew of true freshman to play big roles right away, and/or had the issues the Gators have on the line and at corner, would be instantly dismissed from any SEC East title talk much less the national championship discussion. The recruiting classes have brought in a ton of ultra-fast, ultra-athletic player for the back seven, but there isn't enough size up front, or developed depth anywhere, to hope for any sort of consistency. No, things won't fall off the map after finishing sixth in the nation in scoring and total defense, but there will be some major growing pains to fight through.

Sept. 29 – at Georgia
Offense: The offense was a disaster at times throughout an inconsistent season, but that was to be expected with a true freshman at quarterback, at times, injury problems at running back, and the team's best receiver out. Now, sophomore QB Matthew Stafford appears on the verge of being the superstar he's supposed to be, Thomas Brown is expected to be back at some point to help out the running game, after missing the second half of last year with a knee injury, and Sean Bailey should be the number one target now that he's back from his knee injury. The offense, at least early on, will revolve around big Kregg Lumpkin and the running game, but the line needs to produce as well as it did this spring. A mega-concern going into the off-season, now the front five appears to be a strength.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has his work cut out for him. After losing star corner Paul Oliver to academic ineligibility, the defense is woefully short on sure-thing veteran stars with only three returning starters. There's plenty of potential, speed, and athleticism, but several things have to happen for this to be nearly as good as the number eight defense it was last year. The pass rush should be there in time, but it might take the wheels of outside linebackers Darius Dewberry and Dannell Ellerbe to generate some consistent pressure early on. The secondary needs to unearth more big play options, and a number one corner has to quickly emerge. While undersized, the line is tough and should grow into a rock as the year goes on. This will be a far, far better defense after a few games. By then the coaching staff will have the right combination.

Oct. 6 - Louisiana Tech
Defense: 2006 was expected to be a year of transition, but yeesh. The D was the worst in America allowing 483 yards and close to 42 points per game, and it was simply awful from start to finish. Step one for the new coaching staff is to find a way to get into the backfield after the Bulldogs finished dead last in sacks and tackles for loss, and it'll alternated between a 3-4 and a 4-3 to try to get some production. The linebacking corps should be decent, the secondary can fly, and the defensive line is full of decent-sized veterans. Now there has to be come semblance of production.
Offense: It's not like the offense was awful last year, but it wasn't consistent and it didn't do enough to keep in all the shootouts created by its defense. Enough talent returns to look for more overall production, especially in the running game where Patrick Jackson should shine behind a big, veteran offensive line that can block, but can't pass protect. The quarterback situation will be worth watching with Zac Champion likely to get the job to start the season, but will be pushed by Michael Mosley and Ross Jenkins for time.

Oct. 13 - Alabama
Offense: Major Applewhite takes over as offensive coordinator and will play around with several different formations and ideas, while trying to stick with Nick Saban's run-first philosophy. He'll incorporate a little bit of spread and four-wide sets. There's one problem; Bama might not have the backs to run well on a consistent basis. The strength is in the passing game with the great 1-2 receiving tandem of D.J. Hall and Keith Brown working with rising passer John Parker Wilson. The line welcomes back five starters led by soon to be All-Everything tackle Andre Smith.
Defense: Former Florida State defensive coordinator Kevin Steele came in and switched things up to a 3-4 in an attempt to jump-start a woeful pass rush by getting more production from the outside linebackers, led by a hybrid position of defensive lineman and linebacker, manned by Keith Saunders. Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood look the part of top ends, and now they have to start producing. The biggest problem is tackle, where former backup center Brian Motley, who looked great this spring, has to be an anchor for everything to work right. The back eight should be excellent, led by all-star corner Simeon Castille.

Oct. 20 - Arkansas
Offense: The Gus Malzahn experience quickly got pushed aside, forgetting about his spread offense to better utilize the devastating running attack. Now it'll be up to new offensive coordinator David Lee, who'll try to run a pro style passing attack, but will spend most of his time figuring out how to get the ball into the hands of the magnificent running duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. The line, despite the loss of three starters, will be fantastic for the running game, but suspect in pass protection. Marcus Monk is an elite receiver, but a number two option has to emerge and Casey Dick has to throw the ball effectively and consistently.
Defense: It'll be a good defense, but there are some big-time talent losses in linemen Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson, corner Chris Houston, and linebacker Sam Olajubutu. There's plenty of speed and athleticism to go around in what should be a solid back seven, but everyone has to stay healthy. The line needs tackle depth with Marcus Harrison questionable after tearing his knee this spring. Overall, coordinator Reggie Herring will keep things aggressive with tons of plays in the backfield, along with lots of pressure applied by the defensive backs.

Oct. 27 – at Auburn
Offense: Where are the stars? The Auburn offense is full of above-average talents who need to mesh into a better, more consistent attack than the one that averaged just 24.77 points and 321 yards per game while doing next to nothing against the top teams. Only one starter, massive tackle King Dunlap, returns to the offensive line, while the receiving corps could be a problem is no one becomes a reliable number two receiver alongside Rodgeriqus Smith. On the plus side, the running backs are deep and talented, Brandon Cox appears ready to be a more productive passer, and the tight ends are the best in the league by far.
Defense: The whole will likely be better than the parts. Auburn's defensive front has the potential to be excellent thanks to the return of star end Quentin Groves for his senior year and with the emergence of Sen'Derrick Marks on the inside. Getting into the backfield won't be an issue, and coming up with sacks had better not be with a secondary that'll be shaky despite getting three starters back. The loss of corner David Irons will hurt. The linebacking corps isn't experienced, but it should be better than last year's group as the season goes on.

Nov. 3 – Northwestern State

Nov. 17 - LSU
Offense: There's a little bit of nervousness among LSU fans with a major change underway in the offense under new coordinator Gary Crowton. There'll be more option, more quick timing patterns, and quicker reads on the line. Fortunately, the loss of JaMarcus Russell won't hurt as much as it would for almost any other program with Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux returning to run the attack. The backfield is loaded with options led by star newcomer Keiland Williams working behind a great line with enough returning experience to dominate. The receiving corps won't be as productive without Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, but Early Doucet and Brandon LeFall will be a great 1-2 combination.
Defense: The nation's number three defense in each of the last two years might crank things up yet another notch with eight starters returning led by the nation's most impressive line. Tackle Glenn Dorsey and end Tyson Jackson might be top five draft picks next season, while Ali Highsmith leads a fantastic linebacking corps that'll only get better once the star prospect backups get more time. Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon form a top lock-down corner tandem, while Craig Steltz and Curtis Taylor will be more than just fill-ins for safeties LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels. With all the talent returning, expect more big plays, more turnovers, and more dominance against the average to bad teams.

Nov. 24 – at Mississippi State
Offense: It might not be saying much, but this should be the best offense yet under Sylvester Croom. The line gets four starters back, with the fifth spot occupied by Mike Brown, a starter late in the year and the best blocker up front. The receiving corps is easily the deepest area on the offense with good talent and a world of upside, but QB Michael Henig has to stay healthy and get them the ball consistently. Anthony Dixon is an All-SEC caliber running back, and true freshman Robert Elliott should become a fantastic backup. The overall depth is lacking, so injury problems could be disastrous.
Defense: The whole will be better than the parts. The Bulldogs couldn't hold down the better offensive teams last year, and things might not be better right off the bat with tremendous concerns all over the place after losing six key starters. There's plenty of speed and athleticism, but this is a young, inexperienced defense that'll have to force more turnovers and do a much better job of getting to the quarterback. End Titus Brown and defensive back Derek Pegues are All-SEC talents who have to be disruptive forces from day one. The line needs more pass rushers, the linebacking corps has to do more against the pass, and the secondary is relying on green corners so Pegues can play safety.



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