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It’s officially football time in the Bluegrass!!! After a 29-13 loss at Auburn in Week One, Kentucky will make their 2020 debut at Kroger Field at 4:00 this afternoon against Ole Miss.
Lane Kiffin brings the Rebels to Lexington after suffering a 51-35 defeat to the Florida Gators in his first game in Oxford.
Kiffin is back in the Southeastern Conference as a Head Coach for the first time since his one year at Tennessee back in 2009. His Ole Miss Rebels squad features an explosive offense but also one of the worst defenses in the SEC. This is a game that could easily turn into a shootout.
As always, make sure to check out Adam Luckett’s Scouting Report for an in-depth look at the Rebels and Freddie Maggard’s look at How Kentucky Beats Ole Miss. If you need a quicker gameday refresher here are 5 things you need to know about the Ole Miss Rebels.
High Powered Offense: Passing
You can’t really talk about a Lane Kiffin coached team without first preparing for a big-play, tempo offense. This is a team that will look to throw the ball around the field and then run it on you once they spread the field.
Against Florida in Week One, Ole Miss Quarterback Matt Corral threw for three touchdowns and 395 yards while completing 71% of his passes. Corral possesses a big time arm and has all the talent to make the deep, vertical throws down the field.
Junior Wide Receiver Elijah Moore led the Rebels with an incredible 10 catches for 227 yards in Week One. He caught two balls that went for over 50 yards. Kentucky’s secondary will need to keep this offense in front of them, and get pressure on the quarterback, to find success this afternoon.
Along with Moore, fellow Wide Receiver Dontario Drummond and Tight End Kenny Yeboah will factor into the aerial attack. Yeboah brought in five balls for 91 yards and a score while Drummond caught two passes for 60 yards.
High Powered Offense: Rushing
Former five-star recruit Jerrion Ealy is an explosive running back that is averaging 6.7 yards per rush over the course of his career. An All-SEC honoree as a True Freshman, Ealy rushed for a team-leading 86 yards on 16 carries against Florida on Saturday and also scored a touchdown. Ealy factored into the passing attack as well with a 45 yard reception.
Ole Miss features a couple of other running backs who will probably get carries today, but Quarterback Matt Corral was the second leading rusher for the Rebels gaining 83 yards on 13 carries. Snoop Conner will get some carries around the goal line as well after scoring a touchdown and collecting 30 yards on eight carries last week.
The Wildcats will also need to be ready for John Rhys Plumlee to come in and take some snaps at Quarterback. Plumlee started eight games as a True Freshman last season before being beat out by Corral this year. He is a capable passer, but is much more dangerous on the ground. Plumlee gained 1023 rushing yards and found the end zone 12 times a season ago. In Week One, Plumlee rushed just four times for nine yards. He is definitely a threat that will be used in some different packages this afternoon.
This is definitely a pass-first offense, but the running game can certainly hurt you as well. Ole Miss is at their best when they are moving fast and will throw a variety of looks at Kentucky this afternoon. Kentucky will need to stuff the run game and keep the Rebels behind schedule offensively to break their rhythm.
Inexperienced Offensive Line
Ole Miss has completely retooled their offensive line from last season. They do return two starters, but they each will be playing new positions as Ben Brown moves from Right Guard to Center and Royce Newman goes from left guard to right tackle. Outside of those two the line will feature three new starters.
Last week against Florida, Ole Miss allowed four sacks and seven additional non-sack tackles for loss. Kentucky absolutely must dominate the battle in the trenches to win this ball game.
There is no denying the fact that the Rebels offense puts some fear in the hearts of their opponent. However, on the defensive side of the ball, they leave a little bit to be desired.
Featuring their third defensive coordinator in as many season, Ole Miss allowed 51 points and 8.7 yards per play in Week One versus Florida. The Gators gained 446 yards through the air and 202 on the ground for the game.
On the defensive side of the football Mississippi returns five starts and features four junior college transfers.
This is a group that does feature the ability to make some plays as seen by their two forced fumbles, interception, sack, and four tackles for loss against Florida. However, there are plenty of holes and opportunities for Kentucky to stay ahead of the chains and finish more scoring opportunities than they did a week ago at Auburn.
Suspect Kicking Game
Kentucky’s field goal kicking was far from reliable a year ago, but it hasn’t yet been called upon in 2020. As for Ole Miss, Kicker Luke Logan is back for his third season as the starter. Logan has made just 55% of his last 20 field goals and has missed four extra points.
Logan was three for three on point-afters last Saturday, but did miss his lone field goal attempt from 42 yards. His career long is just 41 yards.
Obviously there is a chance the kicking game never even factors into the game, but Kentucky struggled to close out possessions with points last weekend so making a field goal or two could be critical in a game that promises to feature a lot of points.
Ole Miss may be forced to go for it on fourth down more often so the ability to close out defensive drives will be incredibly important for the ‘Cats as well.