If college football can be played this fall, the SEC has tasked the Kentucky Wildcats to take on Lane Kiffin and the coach that kept his career afloat, Nick Saban. Ole Miss and Alabama have been added to UK’s schedule, a schedule that will not be finalized until next week. While we wait for the final verdict, here’s more you need to know about the two teams.
1. Bama has the SEC’s Top Playmakers
The Crimson Tide lost nine players in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. Even though Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs are no longer running routes, Alabama still has three of the league’s best offensive weapons. Devonta Smith is arguably the best outside wide receiver in college football (just don’t tell that to LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase). Even so, he’s not my favorite wide receiver in their talented room. That title belongs to the versatile slot Jaylen Waddle who will take at least two or three kicks to the house this year. Neither of those two will be SEC Offensive Player of the Year. That title will likely belong to running back Najee Harris, woh netted 1,224 yards (5.9 ypc.) on the ground in 2019.
2. Bama LB Dylan Moses Returns from Injury
One of the most talented inside linebackers in America did not play in 2019. Moses was lost for the year after he tore his ACL in preseason practice. Despite the absence, Moses is a Phil Steele First Team All-American. Kind of like Daniel Bituli in 2019, Moses is the kind of guy that can be a one-man wrecking crew against Kentucky’s run game by preventing the Wildcats from ever surpassing the second level of the defense.
3. Bama has been Favored in 67 Straight Games
The unbelievable betting streak dates back to October of 2015. Last year’s loss at home to LSU ended a 31-game winning streak at Bryant-Denny Stadium. One thing to remember: just because UK is playing this game on the road, does not mean the other team will get home field advantage. Expect few, if any fans at all in stands this fall.
4. Bryce Young could be the Next Tua
Replacing Tua Tagovailoa, one of the most iconic SEC quarterbacks of the century, will be no easy task. Mac Jones was the bandage that stopped the bleeding in 2019 but few believe he’ll end the season as the Crimson Tide’s starter. Bryce Young was not just the No. 1 QB in the 2020 recruiting class, the dual-threat from Mater Dei High School (Ca.) was the No. 1 overall player in America. Similar to Tua, he isn’t the biggest guy, but he moves well and he can make every throw in a route tree.
There are a few things I would like to see on UK’s schedule. Priority No. 1 is playing Alabama early in the season before Saban hands Young the keys to the Crimson Tide’s offense.
5. Some Coaching Staff Continuity
Nick Saban’s staff has been the Island of Misfit Coaches. Kiffin, Butch Jones, Mike Locksley and Mike Stoops are just a few former head coaches who have spent time resurrecting their careers in Tuscaloosa. Saban has had success while creating a problem in maintaining continuity. This will be the first time Alabama’s seniors have had the same offensive coordinator in consecutive seasons. Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Pete Golding maintain the status quo in year two, but how much can they build off of their 11-2 2019 season? Time will tell.
6. Ole Miss is still recovering from Hugh Freeze
Since the Rebels’ “landshark” defense propelled them to a spot a No. 2 in college football’s polls and a 2015 Sugar Bowl victory, the program fell hard and fast thanks to Hugh Freeze’s improprieties. In three years under Matt Luke Ole Miss only won six SEC games.
7. One Celebration Ended the Matt Luke Era
Even though Luke struggled, the former Ole Miss offensive lineman had plenty of support from the university. Then Elijah Moore pissed away an Egg Bowl victory in the end zone.
The final straw for Luke brought Lane Kiffin back to the SEC. The outspoken head coach previously spent one year at Tennessee before jetting off to the West Coast to coach USC. He was greeted at the airport by dozens of fans, including one man with a baby who advised Kiffin to get a burner phone.
8. The Cupboard is not Bare
When he isn’t drawing 15-yard penalties, Elijah Moore is still one of the most-talented wide receivers in the SEC, a third team All-SEC selection in Phil Steele’s preseason magazine. Kiffin will have eight returning starters from an offense that finished third in the league in yards per game (445.3) in 2019.
9. Ole Miss has a Plumlee Brother
Okay, technically he isn’t one of the 17 Plumlees that played basketball at Duke, but Ole Miss’ quarterback might as well be. Exhibit A:
Ole Miss QB @PlumleeJohn sang Drops of Jupiter here in Jackson at the CSpire Conerly Award event.
Yes, I feel like the mom from Mean Girls. pic.twitter.com/a7RNzukndO
— Mackenzie Salmon (@mackenziesalmon) December 4, 2019
As a true freshman the dual-threat quarterback rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards. John Rhys Plumlee thrived in Rich Rodriguez’s run and gun offense. Replicating that in Lane Kiffin’s spread offense is unlikely. He is far from a perfect fit for Kiffin’s style. Despite the impressive debut, Plumlee may not finish the year as the Rebels’ starter.
10. Jon Sumrall Recruited Ole Miss’ Leading Tackler
Before he made a signing day surprised by pulling Josaih Hayes right out from underneath Kiffin’s nose, Jon Sumrall was one of Ole Miss’ top recruiters. Lakia Henry was the third-ranked JUCO prospect in America when he signed with Ole Miss. In his first season the linebacker recorded a team-high 88 tackles, 2.5 for loss and one sack.