The Ole Miss Rebels take their first road trip of the season in Week Two, as they travel to Lexington to take on the Wildcats. The Rebels got off to a tough start to their 2020 season against the Florida Gators, but they hope to take at least one aspect from that game forward.
Against the Gators, another SEC East opponent, the Rebels’ offense came out swinging. Starting quarterback Matt Corral threw for just under 400 yards and three scores. The Rebs’ pair of running backs got into the endzone as well in the 16 point loss.
One of the Rebels’ more impressive aspects was their receiving corps. Elijah Moore, Corral’s number one option, did not make his way to the house, but still racked up over 200 yards. A new face on the field for Mississippi was transfer tight end Kenny Yeboah. Yeboah had a nice day at home, hauling in three straight catches on a scoring drive… in which Yeboah caught the TD.
All of these positives that came from the season opener were easily negated by the Ole Miss Rebels’ weak defense. D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge’s defense was gouged by the Florida offense, namely Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts. The pair linked up for 170 yards and four scores.
On the other hand, Kentucky had a difficult, cross-conference matchup to open their season. The Wildcats traveled to Auburn and suffered a 29-13 loss to the Tigers. Kentucky started the game well, but errors got in their way down the stretch.
The Wildcats welcomed back starting quarterback Terry Wilson with open arms, as he missed the majority of last season with a knee injury. He got off to a good, but not exceptional, start to 2020. He went 24/37 for 239 yards, a score, and an interception. He struggled elsewhere with ball control, as he lost a fumble early in the fourth quarter.
Overall, turnovers were the downfall of Kentucky. Wilson’s singular pick capped off a long Kentucky drive at the end of the first half, allowing Auburn to end the first half. Wilson’s lost fumble resulted in the touchdown that put the Tigers nine points ahead. A late Kentucky turnover on downs also ended with the ball in their endzone, pouring salt into the wound.
The highly-touted Kentucky defense proved their mettle against a good Auburn team. Their front seven pressured Bo Nix multiple times and recorded four tackles for loss. Kentucky’s defense limited the Tigers to just 324 yards and only 15 first downs.
Ole Miss Rebels’ X-Factor
Look, its as simple as this, the Ole Miss Rebels’ defense is not very good. Just a season after the team had a solid red zone defense, this Rebels team has a lot of work to do to reach its potential.
The Ole Miss Rebels defense has some talent at each level of the field. Tariqious Tisdale and Nick Haynes, a pair of seniors, hold down the defensive line. Momo Sanogo, Jacquez Jones, and Lakia Henry are all talented linebackers who routinely patrol the middle of the field and slot, and create havoc in the backfield. Both Keidron Smith and Jaylon Jones are experienced defensive backs.
Even with this upperclassmen talent, the Rebels defense struggled mightily against Florida. They were able to get to the quarterback at times, but didn’t create enough pressure to throw Trask completely off. And he punished the Rebels.
The Ole Miss Rebels’ defense has to step it up against Kentucky, or Terry Wilson and Kavosiey Smoke will tear them up.
Going into the game, the Ole Miss Rebels are six point underdogs on the road. I think the Rebels may struggle against Kentucky’s strong defensive line and secondary, but there is an opportunity for Kiffin’s offense to get to work.
WR1 for the Rebels, Elijah Moore, primarily lines up in the slot and is dynamic enough to move the ball down the field through the middle. Kentucky’s defense is weakest in the middle, in the linebacker corps, and if Corral can deliver the ball to that area and Jerrion Ealy/Snoop Conner can find open space, the Rebels have a chance to put some points on the board.
This is a more adequate test for this young Rebels’ team than last week. Kentucky has some weak spots that can be exploited, but it won’t come easy. This is a very strong Kentucky team that has a chance to win the SEC East. This should be a high scoring affair, and I won’t take the Rebels outright. Kentucky to win, Rebels to cover the spread. Hotty Toddy!
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