BARNEStorming: Thoughts Around the College Football World
OXFORD, Miss. — As impressive as the Ole Miss offense has been during the 2021 season, it is the Rebels’ defense that has posted the most-impressive number of the season – zero.
Zero as in nata, bupkis, nil.
That is how many points the Landsharks have surrendered in five quarters in Ole Miss’ first three games. Neither Louisville nor Austin Peay scored in the first quarter and the Cardinals didn’t in the first half, while last week, Tulane was held scoreless after the break.
To put it into context, last season the Ole Miss defense held an opponent scoreless in just six quarters all year.
Arkansas did not score in the third quarter, while neither Vanderbilt nor Mississippi State could score in the first or third quarters. In the second period, Indiana was shutout in the Outback Bowl.
Ole Miss won three of those games a season ago, the same number it has already won this year.
WHY NOT JUST MOVE ACROSS THE STATE LINE?
This week, Southern Miss travels to Tuscaloosa to play sacrificial lamb to Alabama. In four games this season, this will be the third against a team from the Heart of Dixie for the Golden Eagles.
USM opened the year by losing to South Alabama, 31-7, in Mobile and last week fell to Troy, 21-9, in Hattiesburg. After what is an almost-certain loss Saturday to the Crimson Tide, Southern is not done with the Alabama schools. Oct. 16, UAB comes calling to M.M. Roberts Stadium.
The only FBS team from Bama that the Golden Eagles miss this season is Jacksonville State. And USM wants no part of the Gamecocks.
Two weeks ago, Jax State went to Tallahassee and beat Florida State on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game.
SPEAKING OF THE NOLES
Florida State is 0-3 for the first time since 1976, Bobby Bowden’s first season as the Seminoles’ head coach. Now, FSU fans are calling for the firing of coach Mike Norvell after this bad start and a weird 2020.
But this is the fan base who basically ran Bowden out of his job for not winning enough games. Bowden once led FSU to 11 straight top 4 rankings in the final polls and to a pair of national titles.
Once it was apparent he was being ousted, Bowden said, “The folks around here are saying it’s because we aren’t winning like we used to. They must mean the way they won before we got here.”
Florida State didn’t win much before Bowden and didn’t his first year. Now FSU’s Doak Campbell Stadium is the second-largest brick structure on the planet behind the Great Wall of China, and the field bears Bowden’s name.
Give Norvell a chance, Nole fans.
By the way, many are clamoring for Deion Sanders to become the FSU head coach. Really? Last week, his Jackson State team only mustered one touchdown in a 12-7 loss to Louisiana Monroe. The Warhawks’ coach is Terry Bowden.
ANOTHER POSSIBLE SUNSHINE STATE FIRING
Sure, Florida State is 0-3, but the hottest coaching seat in the state belongs to Manny Diaz at Miami. The Canes are 1-2 with a narrow win over Appalachian State and big losses to Alabama and Michigan State.
Even though the Hurricanes will get back to .500 this week against Central Connecticut State, the Canes’ fans are calling for Diaz’ head and probably will get it. Expectations were this would be the year Miami would be Miami again, and it is likely that will not happen.
There might be a vacancy in Dade County soon.
DOES THE MIAMI COACHING DOMINO REACH OXFORD?
Should Miami fire Diaz, the Hurricanes could target Kentucky’s Mark Stoops for the job. He has ties to the program having served as an assistant there during the Canes’ most-recent heyday and his brother Mike is the defensive coordinator at nearby Florida Atlantic.
And Mark Stoops has done about all he can at Kentucky.
Should that domino fall, Kentucky would likely turn to UK-favorite son Neal Brown who is at West Virginia. In his second season, Brown has the Mountaineers heading in the right direction after knocking off No. 15 Virginia Tech last week. While at Troy, Brown led the Trojans to upset wins at Nebraska and LSU as well to multiple bowl games. His high-flying offense would be welcomed in Kentucky, a program that has not had such an attack since the Hal Mumme-Mike Leach days. Oh yeah, those Wildcat teams featured a small, quick wide receiver named Neal Brown.
That would leave WVU searching for a coach. In Morgantown, they are getting used to seeing a lot of points being put on the board and they would want to replace Brown with a coach with a similar philosophy.
The name Jeff Lebby comes to mind.
I nailed the West Florida upset one week and missed Liberty beating Troy the second. Since flattering Neal Brown in the above item, I will really go out on a limb this week. How about West Virginia heading to Norman and knocking off No. 4 Oklahoma Saturday night?
Hey, go big or go home, right?
A RARE DOUBLE DIP FOR PLUMLEE
When John Rhys Plumlee finishes his career at Ole Miss, he will have done something so rare, I am not sure it has ever been done before. The Hattiesburg native will have been the last player to wear a retired jersey in TWO sports at his school.
His freshman season, he wore number 11 for the Ole Miss baseball season. Plumlee switched to number 10 for his sophomore year for good reason. The Rebels’ baseball program retired number 11 in honor of Don Kessinger.
Plumlee has worn number 10 for the Ole Miss football team since arriving in Oxford. Later this year, that number will be retired in honor of Eli Manning.
JRP will be the last Rebel to have worn number 11 in baseball and number 10 in football for Ole Miss.
Against Tulane, Matt Corral accounted for seven Ole Miss touchdowns. That tied the school record held by Arnold “Showboat” Boykin who scored all the Rebels points in a 49-7 win over Mississippi State in 1951.
A Boykin legacy witnessed Corral’s feat in person.
As The Rebel Walk reported in the last recruiting cycle, Boykin’s cousin is Luke Altmyer, the second-string QB behind Heisman candidate Corral.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.