2018 Ole Miss Land Sharks Might be Ole Miss Minnows Again

Profile Picture: TwinSpires Staff

TwinSpires Staff

August 15th, 2018

College football programs don’t often get over NCAA violations and scandals. Think about the state of Baylor football. Ever since the NCAA ran Art Briles out of town, Baylor’s been a Big 12 doorstep. Baylor might never recover. It’s important to start this piece about the 2018 Ole Miss Land Sharks by framing it about college football violations and scandals because the NCAA laid down the hammer on Mississippi for recruiting violations this past December. Ole Miss is on a two-year bowl ban. The NCAA also reduced their scholarships.

Ole Miss was mediocre last season. Is there any possible way they manage to be just okay this season? Will shedding the history of the "Rebels" and rebranding as the "Land Sharks" be enough to make this beloved program respectable again?

Forget Rebuilding, Ole Miss Must Climb From the Dungeon First Teams rebuild after they get into a position to rebuild. The 2018 Ole Miss Land Sharks must first climb from the dungeon, which means they must unshackle the chains. Only then, can they start to rebuild. It won’t happen this season. Heck, it might not happen for the next 5 seasons.

The story of  Ole Miss is either sad if you’re an Ole Miss fan, or exhilaratingly awesome if you’re an Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn, and LSU fan. Before the NCAA dropped the hammer, Ole Miss itself dropped the ball.

Before the 2017 season, coach Hugh Freeze resigned because he had used his office phone to call an escort service. Pretty bush league, right? This while the Rebels were already under the NCAA microscope.

Now, that we’ve got an idea of how deep underground the dungeon is, it’s time to discuss football.

Coach Luke is Doing What He Can Matt Luke took over as head football coach of Mississippi shortly after Freeze resigned in late July last year. That means the team had already gone through spring football and the early part of their training camp.

Luke was handed the proverbial tire fire and not so much as a garden hose to put it out. Amazingly, Luke led the Rebels to an unreal 6-6 SU record. The problem for Luke is that his history is on offense and that’s where the Rebels struggle.

Also, let’s be honest. Luke inherited Freeze’s team. Freeze did all the heavy lifting to put together the .500 Ole Miss squad. Luke must now prove that he can lead the 2018 Ole Miss Land Sharks to a semblance of respectability with less scholarship players, no hope of playing in a bowl game, Freeze’s scandal, and the NCAA still hovering over the program.

Should Ole Miss Even PlayDefense This Season? There was a time when the Mississippi Rebels were so strong on defense that they earned the nickname “Land Sharks”. Man, that feels like a long time ago. Last season, Ole Miss’s idea of defense was to cower in fear 20-yards behind the line of scrimmage. They weren’t land sharks. They were plankton. The fact they've rebranded as the Land Sharks shouldn't mislead your perception of the 2018 Ole Miss football team.

The former Rebels allowed 459.5 yards per game and 34.6 points per game. If Ole Miss played in the Big 12, they might have won the conference. But, Ole Miss doesn’t. They play in the SEC where every team is at least decent.

There’s absolutely nothing to imply that Luke’s improved the team's ridiculously bad defense. That means the 2018 Ole Miss Land Sharks will be one of the worst teams in the SEC again this season. They’ll be lucky to sniff 6 wins.

If you’re an Ole Miss fan, wins aren’t what you should worry about this season. Just worry about improvement. No coach or program can become a winner less than a year removed from the NCAA hammer.

So, if you’re an Ole Miss fan, just hope for improvement. Being competitive, even for just a half versus a team like Alabama, would be a win this season.