Ole Miss, Strap It Up, the Red Raiders are Coming Your Way.
Who: The Ole Miss Landshark Rebels and The Texas Tech Red Raiders
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas.
When: Saturday, September 1st, 11 a.m.
Broadcast: On ESPN with Mark Jones and Dusty Dvoracek on the call.
What pregame show to listen to: 1340 The Fan’s Countdown to Kickoff from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, September, 1st.
I've had the promo Ric Flair cut on Ole Miss on my mind since the day it dropped on twitter.com. It was electric, yes, but can the Red Raiders be the badasses that Ric Flair thinks they are? Can the lowly Big 12 team picked 8th in the conference stand up to the SEC? We will find out on September 1st, 2018.
For what it's worth, here are my thoughts on the subject:
Let's first meet Ole Miss. They return seven starters from a sub-par defense. They have an all-american wide receiver and a quarterback who has 5 career starts. The offensive line returns four primary starters and has an NFL caliber left tackle. The 1,000 yard rusher from 2017 is in the NFL. They have two walk-on specialists and the defense gave up 270 yards per game on the ground in the SEC last year.
At first glance, they aren't too intimidating.
At second glance though, they aren't too intimidating.
That's not to say that the game won't be competitive, because it will be.
The reason the Red Raiders won't run away with the game is the Ole Miss passing attack. A.J. Brown is a legitimate first round talent and Biletnikoff favorite. D.K. Metcalf is a match up nightmare with his 6'4" frame. DeMarkus Lodge is a true deep threat. Jordan Ta'amu comes into 2018 as the starter who finished last season 3-2 as a starter in the final five games.
Those four guys, along with an above-average offensive line, are part of a formidable passing attack, with A.J. Brown as the catalyst. Brown caught touchdowns in seven games last season, the Rebels were 6 and 1 in those games.
So, the game plan is pretty simple for week one, if the Red Raiders can contain A.J. Brown, then they will win this game. Easier said than done.
The good news for Texas Tech is that containing an offensive weapon isn't a negative anymore. The Red Raiders, and their 10 returning defensive starters, are ready for the challenge.
The defense will have the opportunity to prove two things that they couldn't prove last year in week one. Can they defend the deep ball? Can they stop the pass in the 4th quarter? Those are the two biggest issues in this game. If either answer is no, the game could get out of hand the other way.
The Texas Tech offensive line has the opportunity to dominate at the point of attack. Kevin Johns and Kliff Kingsbury will have an opportunity to show off the brand new franken-air raid system that they want to run this season. With the ground attack working the passing success will follow and I see no reason that the offense can't reach the 34 points per game mark that Ole Miss allowed last season.
It's vital for Texas Tech to start fast, on both offense and defense, to win the turnover battle, and if Texas Tech can exert their will in the rushing attack, on both sides of the ball, the game won't ever feel out of hand.
The betting line for the game opened on Ole Miss as the favorite but has swung toward Texas Tech making the Red Raiders a 2.5 point favorite in the opener. The 67 point O/U seems high given the uncertainty of both teams on offense and the defense of the Red Raiders but I always take the over here and go chalk with Texas Tech winning 41-31.
If Ole Miss manages to get any more than 31 on the Red Raiders, win or loss, I think that will be cause for concern about the defense taking another step forward in 2018.