College Football Predictions: Ole Miss with Jeremiah Masoli at QB
by Trevor Whenham - 8/11/2010
Never have we seen a situation quite like this one. In January QB Jeremiah Masoli led the Oregon Ducks to the Rose Bowl. Neither he nor his team had a good day in Pasadena, but he showed enough last year that he was a logical, strong Heisman Trophy contender heading into his senior season. But then things really went to hell.
First he was suspended for the season after pleading guilty to felony burglary in a robbery incident at a frat house. Then he was kicked off the team entirely after being cited for marijuana possession.
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In most cases Masoli would have been lost in limbo for the season. He had already finished his undergraduate degree, though, so Masoli was eligible under an NCAA loophole to enroll in another school for a graduate degree as long as that degree isn’t available at the original school and play immediately - the same rule that saw Greg Paulus playing QB at Syracuse last year.
After some shopping around and a lot of risk assessment by different schools, Masoli has registered at Ole Miss and has walked on to the football team. Because he didn’t need a scholarship he was easy for a team to bring in, and the Rebels were far from the only program that showed interest in him. The challenge now for bettors is to determine just what kind of an impact Masoli can have on the Rebels this season. He’s certainly going to be in the public eye, and he’ll draw a lot of attention from the betting public, so there is a good chance for value - but only if you can accurately assess the situation.
Personally, I’m reasonably optimistic about the chances of success for Masoli’s trip to Oxford. Here are five good reasons why along with some college football predictions for Ole Miss:
He’s been here before - Masoli’s path to this point has been odd to say the least. He was raised in San Mateo, California, and he played football there, but his dad moved him to Hawaii as a high school senior to get him away from trouble. He was only the backup quarterback as a senior in Hawaii, so his college options were limited. He instead joined the City College of San Francisco.
He hit the ground running there, piling up 4,000 total yards and 41 touchdowns in his only season in junior college - good enough for a state championship and a mythical national title. That was enough to get the eye of Oregon, but he joined the team as only the third stringer. A bizarre string of injuries opened the door for Masoli, and he was immediately productive. He had a strong first year and a better second year. The point of all that is this - have absolutely no concerns about Masoli’s ability to embrace a new team and a new offense quickly and effectively because he has done it twice in the last three years already.
Players will have confidence in him - There is little concern that Masoli will be quickly embraced by his new teammates. To start, the team has been dealing with the underwhelming Jevan Snead for a couple of years, so they have to be happy for a change. More significantly, Masoli is a Heisman-caliber player that led a team to the Rose Bowl and made all sorts of highlight reels, so you can be sure that the players know all about him and respect what he can do on the field. He’s a smart player with a very strong work ethic and strong leadership skills, and he absorbs playbooks quickly, so guys are going to see what he is about and embrace it. It won’t take long for it to seem like he has been there forever.
He seems to have learned a lesson - Sports Illustrated did a very interesting article on Masoli and his issues. You still have to be skeptical about what really happened, but the story presented a very compelling case that Masoli was more a victim of bad decisions and misplaced loyalty than a true hoodlum.
He’s worked very hard to be given this opportunity he now has - including exposing himself to that article. He hasn’t shown great judgement, but I tend to believe he knows that this is his last opportunity, and that if he screws it up he’s done forever. He was willing to sign a restrictive contract with Coach Nutt about his behavior, and he’s saying all the right things, so I am willing to bet that he can keep it together - at least for one season.
The schedule does early favors - The Ole Miss football schedule is going to have tough spots for the Rebels given that they play in the SEC, but it couldn’t be set up any better for them. Masoli and the Rebels essentially have a five game exhibition schedule to work things out before the real heat is on. They open with Jacksonville State, Tulane, Vanderbilt, Fresno State, and Kentucky. If the Masoli experiment works, and if the defense is as good as it could be, then all of those games are winnable. It gets brutal from there - Alabama, Arkansas, and Auburn in three straight weeks - but the Rebels will be ready for that challenge.
The team can recognize how lucky they are - The Rebels have won the Cotton Bowl two years in a row, but heading into the season things were looking a bit bleak. Both Snead and offensive superstar Dexter McCluster have turned pro, so the offense was lacking some real firepower.
The running game is decent, but the receivers are inexperienced, and they weren’t going to be helped by unproven quarterbacks - either sophomore Nathan Stanley or juco transfer Randall Mackey.
They have a defense that is potentially very good, but without offense it could have been a long year. Now Masoli has landed in their laps, and even though Nutt doesn’t have his quarterbacks run as much as might be ideal with Masoli, everyone is going to realize how lucky they are. Without Masoli winning six games was very doable, but much more than that could have been tough. Masoli might not add much more than that, but there is a chance that he certainly could, and the team is going to be inspired by that possibility, and will work hard to make the most of it.
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