The treacherous territory of "The Swamp" will play host to a matchup of two unbeatens in the SEC on Saturday night. The Ole Miss Rebels (4-0; 2-0), fresh off of a win over the Vanderbilt Commodores will continue to march on the road as they travel to Gainesville, Florida to battle with the Florida Gators (4-0; 2-0). The Gators are hot off the heels of a dramatic come-from-behind victory over SEC East rival Tennessee, the second-largest fourth quarter comeback since 1966 for the Gators.
2015 marks the first time since 1961-62 that the Rebels have kicked off consecutive seasons at the 4-0 mark, while Florida has enjoyed this type of success in abundance in recent years. The Gators are 4-0 for the first time since 2012 and, additionally, for the eight time in 11 seasons. A steady contrast indeed for the record books, but it's the Rebels who will walk through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium touting a shiny-looking ranking, deemed as the third-best team in the land going into this matchup on Saturday night.
You'll no doubt hear lots about the last time these two teams shared the gridiron. Jevan Snead and Shay Hodge might turn smiles into grimaces in Gator Country when their names are uttered, and it's certainly true that 'The Promise' is etched in folklore at The University of Florida. Will something magical occur in Gainesville this time around? Only time will tell. Let's take a look at five things to watch for during this Saturday night affair.
1The Ole Miss High-Octane Offense: In case you missed it, the Rebels have one of the most potent offenses in the nation with regards to putting points on the board. Ole Miss is scoring 21 more points on average right now (47.7) than they did for all of 2014 (26.7) and that includes their 43 against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Heading into Saturday, they've amassed over 2,100 yards as a unit and a majority of that is due in large part to the play of the man under center. Chad Kelly has been nothing if not dynamic, whipping off a clip of 344.5 passing yards per game with 10 touchdowns, three interceptions, and a yards per attempt of 10.6. Armed with Kelly are his sensational pass catchers in Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo, Damore'ea Stringfellow and Markell Pack. Complementing those playmakers are the ones coming from the backfield. Senior running back Jaylen Walton of Memphis has jazzed his way around the turf, attaining 269 yards on 42 carries thus far in 2015, and New Orleans, Louisiana's Eugene Brazley has scooted and skedaddled often. The sophomore back has been a big play threat, racking up 102 yards on 10 total carries with two touchdowns to boot. But they'll have their work cut out for them this week against...
2That Ferocious Florida Defense. Despite mudding through mediocrity in recent years, one of the few guarantees that Florida Gators football has grown accustomed to is trotting out a high-caliber defensive unit. 2015 is no different, either. Only Mizzou ranks higher than the Gators in total defense in the conference (298.2), and the Tigers, Mississippi State, and Georgia Bulldogs are the only teams in the SEC to have a better scoring defense than UF (18.2 PPG/a). Senior defensive lineman Jon Bullard, 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, will look to build off of his dynamic performance two weeks ago against the Kentucky Wildcats when Bullard sacked Patrick Towles twice and amounted five tackles. RUSH linebacker Bryan Cox, Jr. (Yes, that Bryan Cox. We're all getting a little old) has averaged a QB hit/game thus far this year and Bullard, Alex McCalister and Joey Ivie have combined for 10 sacks in this young season. But the matchup to watch for is...
3Laquon Treadwell vs. Vernon Hargreaves III. One day, we might see these two lineup against each other on Sundays. For now, we'll have to settle for this Saturday evening. Hargreaves III is an NFL-caliber cornerback and was a First Team All-American and an All-SEC cornerback a season ago when he had 13 pass breakups and 16 passes defended. This year, Hargreaves III has one pass defended and two interceptions and he'll likely have his toughest test yet against the über-talented Treadwell. The 6-foot-3, 216-pound receiver from Crete, Illinois is drumming up quite the comeback story after a gruesome, terrifying injury ended his season last year. He's been as good as they come and the two young men have already gone to great lengths to make no mistake that this one's for "bragging rights." But let's not forget about...
4The Nkemdiche Brothers. Robert and Denzel Nkemdiche have both lived up to their pre-college hype and are two of the more fearsome "Landsharks" of 'em all. Denzel has been a force at the outside linebacker position. The senior from Loganville, Georgia has amassed 29 total tackles (19 unassisted) with five tackles for loss. Robert, meanwhile, has 15 total tackles and one tackle for loss, but the younger of the Nkemdiches has been active on the other side of the ball. He's scored two touchdowns running the ball and even picked up a receiving touchdown that put him up as a Piesman Trophy candidate. Suffice it to say these two are most certainly dangerous. And we'll see how that affects...
5Will Grier and the Gators offense. The unit has been improving from week-to-week it seems and Grier is hot off his best start to date. The freshman signal caller threw for 283 yards and was one of the many benefactors in UF's dramatic comeback win over the Volunteers. Another youngster who contributed was wide receiver Antonio Callaway. The Miami native galloped to the end zone to put the Gators on top over the Vols and snagged five total receptions with 112 yards receiving. Not to mention, the Gators will also be bringing running back Kelvin Taylor into the fold. Kelvin, the son of former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor picked up his second-career 100-yard game against Tennessee and netted some history as well. He became the first Florida Gator to pick up a rushing touchdown in four consecutive outings since the legendary Tim Tebow did it in 2009. Additionally, he could join the venerable Ciatrick Fason if he makes it five in a row on Saturday night.
THREE TO WATCH
1. Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss: The Ole Miss QB is shredding defenses left and right... armed with a stout offensive corp, he's averaging 344.5 passing yards/game... 10 touchdowns thrown with just three interceptions... the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly will look for a second signature road victory after spoiling in Tuscaloosa.
2. Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida: The son of famed Jags running back Fred... off of his second-career 100-yard rushing game... has scored a rushing touchdown in every game this season... can join the likes of Ciatrick Fason if he makes it five on Saturday night.
3. Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida: NFL-caliber cornerback... will face toughest test yet this weekend... Laquon and Vernon will certainly be battling... a good performance could go a long way not only in college... but could have big implications this spring.
Although Florida has the home field advantage and a stellar defensive unit, I'm not sure that their offense, while improving, can matchup with the firepower that Ole Miss currently possesses. Florida will get their stops and will likely frustrate Kelly and the Rebels, but it's extremely crucial that Grier, Taylor, Callaway & Co. capitalize when the chips are in their hands. That said, I like the Rebels to win this game. It will be close, and I suspect that Ole Miss will pull away late.
Ole Miss 31 Florida 21