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Bad News SEC, It Appears That Ole Miss Has A Defense

The Ole Miss Rebels dominated their season opener, putting the SEC, and the nation on notice

Without its conductor at the helm, Ole Miss entered their Monday night matchup with the Louisville Cardinals with the eyes of the nation fixated on the offensive side of the ball. 

And for good reason. In 2020, it was the offense, not the defense, that kept the Rebels in the hunt for a post-season bowl. 

In fact, the Ole Miss offense was so good in 2020, that it finished the season with the No. 3 scoring offense in the SEC, as well as the No. 1 ranked total offense, the No. 1 ranked rushing attack, and the No. 3 ranked passing attack in the conference. 

On the other side of that coin, the defense was, to be polite, a disaster, ranking near the bottom of the county in nearly every major statistical category in the country, including ranking 117th in the nation in scoring offense, and 126th (out of 127) in the nation in total defense. 

READ MORE: No Lane? No Problem. Rebels Cruise 43-24 Over Louisville In Season Opener

Suffice it to say, there were improvements to be made. 

Flash forward to Monday night, and the Rebels opened their 2021 regular-season opener as the majority of pundits expected -- by flexing their offensive muscles, and marching down the field for a touchdown to take an early lead. 

However, while the offense was indeed impressive, (and it was impressive) it was the defense that stole the show for the Rebels, holding the Cardinals to just over 100 yards of total offense in the first half of action, and failing to surrender a single point until the 8:22 mark of the third quarter. 

What is perhaps even more impressive about that defensive effort, however, is that it took place largely with the same cast of players that were on the field for the Rebels last season. 

That is, with a pair of major exceptions -- safety Otis Reese, and linebacker Chance Campbell. 

Reese did play some in the 2020 season with Ole Miss but was unable to see the field until far too late in the season to make a difference. 

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On Monday, the Rebels got the full Reese effect, with the senior ending the night tied for a team-high eight tackles, 

READ MORE: A Focus On Mississippi: 10 Takeaways From the 2022 Ole Miss Football Commitment List

As for Campbell?

The Maryland transfer seemed to be the answer to a lot of what ailed the Rebels defense in 2020 from his inside linebacker spot, finishing the game with seven total tackles, and 1.5 tackles for loss, while seemingly being in a position to make every big play that the defense needed throughout the night. 

As a whole, however, the defense was simply better at every level, from Quinton Bivens providing a dominant presence in the trenches to Sam Williams constant pressure of the quarter to Jaylon Jones and AJ Finely both providing elite secondary play -- every level of the Ole Miss defense seemed in tune with the vision of the program. 

So can this defensive trend continue for the Rebels?

After just one game, that question is difficult to answer. 

On one hand, the Cardinals offense was one of the more talented in the country in 2020, and returned multiple key players to that unit in 2021, including their quarterback, Malik Cunningham. 

On the other, it also lost some key pieces to the NFL, that at least at this point, seem unreplaceable. 

Either way, one thing is clear -- If Ole Miss really does have a defense to pair with their high-flying offensive attack, the rest of the SEC, and the nation, is in trouble. 

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