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CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman weighs in on Ole Miss

Bruce Feldman/CBS Sports

Austin Miller: What is the outside, the national perception after the loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday?

Bruce Feldman: To me, the most surprising thing about it is you just don’t see Vanderbilt dominating another SEC team the way they did that game. That’s the biggest thing. I don’t know how much that’s a reflection of the new coaching staff at Vandy or the state of Ole Miss at this point.

The way Vandy ran it down their throats and the way Ole Miss couldn’t run it. It was a 30-0 game, a 4-touchdown game for a long time ­— those things got people’s attention.
The start they have gotten off to is so bad. It seems like the program has lost all momentum – the way they showed up in the Vanderbilt game. Maybe they will turn it around, come back and play great against Georgia and get a win, and people will cool down. If they lose to Georgia at home, that schedule is so heavy on the back end, that they may have a hard time winning four games this year.

AM: What are your expectations and predictions for the Ole Miss football program going forward?

BF: Last year was a bad year. This year is starting off very bad. The thing that has been really hard is if you can’t get it to even 5-7 and you have a 4-win season, coming off last season. You just don’t see other SEC schools get beaten as soundly as they did by Vanderbilt.

If they lost that way to Florida, LSU or even Arkansas or even South Carolina – people look at it like it’s a top 25 team, but Vandy has won four games in the last two years. And I think that’s a red flag. Then you look at Houston Nutt’s reaction – it’s just very dire.
I don’t know what’s going to come out of this. I don’t know if you can rally or not. If he doesn’t, I can see them feeling like they have to make a change. It’s very hard to recruit after year four when you have a 3-win or 4-win season, coming off a 4-8 season in year three. I know he has the big buyout, and I know money is never easy at a lot of schools, especially there. It’s a tough decision.

AM: Where do you see the problems with the Ole Miss football team this year?

BF: They did not look like they were responding at all Saturday. They really came out flat. There are some good players in there. But I think that now you have Nutt’s best recruiting class may turn out to be this one. That’s an unfortunate thing because you are forced to kind of rely on these freshmen in the SEC – that’s not a good thing.

And they have quarterback issues, which if you can’t have at least solid quarterback play, you’re going to really struggle in the SEC, especially if you don’t have a real identity. They’re not very good on defense at all. If you’re not good on defense and you have quarterback issues you’re looking at, in the SEC, one of the worst teams in the league. And I think those are the biggest issues.

AM: What is the football culture like at Ole Miss? How does it compare to when you followed and wrote about the program under then-head coach Ed Orgeron?

BF: Nutt was an ideal guy to follow Orgeron, in that Orgeron was so intense and so demanding. Then you bring in a guy who lets the players relax a little more. And for all the people who were so frustrated with the Orgeron decision, he did bring in a lot of talent.
Not that Houston Nutt didn’t bring any good players, but I just think once he started losing some of the Orgeron recruits, there has been a lag. Also, I think, going back to what I said earlier, is that the relaxed, more free-willing Houston Nutt personality that was a good fit.

After a while, they need a different message to play because sometimes that message kind of — you lose that edge and then it is completely gone. All of a sudden, you can have guys that are not focused and just kind of lost. Those are some of the things you are seeing now.