OXFORD, Miss. — Tomorrow at 11:00 a.m., Ole Miss (2-1, 1-0 SEC) will face No. 23 California (3-0, 1-0), the PAC-12 North leaders, at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
While Cal boasts one of the most efficient teams in the country on defense, its offense isn’t very prolific—but it has done enough to get the job done thus far this season.
The Golden Bears’ focus is on running the ball and keeping it out of the hands of their opponent. Cal’s 6-foot-1, 230-pound running back, Christopher Brown Jr., will be the main target for the Rebels’ defense this weekend.
In the last two games, Ole Miss has held its opponents to fewer than 70 yards rushing. However, it is worth noting that Memphis running back Patrick Taylor (6-foot-3, 227-pounds) is the closest thing to what the Rebs will see in Cal’s Brown this Saturday — and Taylor rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown against the Rebels. But if the Landsharks can effectively stop the run against California, the Golden Bears will be pressured to throw the ball more than they are accustomed to doing in their first three games of the season. This would give the Landsharks more opportunities for tackles for loss and interceptions, as we saw against the Lions last weekend.
For perspective, the starting quarterback for California, Chase Garbers, owns a worse QBR than Memphis’ Brady White and Arkansas’ Nick Starkel.
So far this season, Garbers is 36-of-68, completing only 52.9% of his passes. He has been running more as the season progresses, with seven, thirteen, and eighteen rushes in the last three games, respectively.
Ole Miss’ ability to hold Cal’s running game in check will be a huge key to beating this nationally ranked team at home Saturday.
This is likely the biggest game for head coach Matt Luke and the Rebels since Ole Miss beat No. 19 Mississippi State, 31-28, in Starkville. A win for Ole Miss is also key to the Rebs achieving bowl eligibility this season. While this contest opened up as a pick-em, the money line has begun to move in favor of Ole Miss. This game will probably come down to the very last drive to determine the winner.
I believe the Rebels will find a way to win in a very close contest against the Golden Bears.
Game Prediction: 28-27, Ole Miss wins.