Last week’s start of the SEC season reminded us why we love this sweet, stupid conference. We saw teams look to be right on track and squads stumble out of the gate in remarkable fashion. But of course, it’s not smart to overreact after one week in the weirdest college football season outside of maybe WWII. This is especially true for fans of the Kentucky Wildcats after another disappointing loss in a statement making spot against Auburn last weekend. UK will be facing the Ole Miss Rebels at Kroger Field on Saturday. The Rebels enter 0-1 as well after falling to Florida in a game they weren’t expected to win. Both teams took away reasons to be excited and concerned in Week 1, but who will rise to the occasion in Lexington with the game one in the rear view mirror?
Keys for Ole Miss
Defense. This is the only key for the Rebels this week and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Lane Kiffin inherited a defensive unit that underperformed in 2019 and they picked right back up where they left off against the Gators last weekend. Florida is obviously no slouch, but the Rebels were still shredded for over 440 yards through the air and 196 on the ground while surrendering 51 points. These kinds of numbers indicate that even teams that are nowhere close to the top 5 in the polls will be able to move the chains. Facing Terry Wilson and company instead of Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts should give more of an indication of how this defense will truly look over the entire course of the season. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone steps up.
Keys for Kentucky
On offense, the Cats need to do two things. Limit mistakes and throw longer passes. The second point sounds jokeish, but that will be covered shortly. Kentucky had three turnovers last Saturday compared to Auburn’s zero. Many people are even saying that the Cats beat themselves and it’s sort of hard to argue against that. To add to the two fumbles and interception, punter Max Duffy also tried a very non-tricky fake punt that failed and gave Auburn another short field in the 4th quarter, already ahead 22-13. Simply cleaning things up will go a long way against the Rebels.
It does sound funny, but Kentucky truly does need to throw longer passes. It’s hard to determine if the coaches are limiting Terry Wilson or if he’s making the decisions himself, but he only threw nine passes that travelled over 10 yards in the air and 28 that did not against the Tigers. 10 passes were thrown behind the line of scrimmage. UK doesn’t appear to have too many reliable YAC options at the moment, so you have to generate more of the yards before the catch is even made. Yes, I know the rushing attack is good, but you have put yourself in a better position to score if defenses load the box. Wilson is coming off of a big injury and could just be settling in, but if there truly is trust issues within the coaching staff, we could possibly see newly eligible Auburn transfer, Joey Gatewod or Freshman Beau Allen under center before too long.
Terry Wilson's pass chart vs. Auburn— SEC StatCat (@SEC_StatCat) September 27, 2020
40.5% Depth Adj Accuracy
72.7% Adj Comp
35.1% Success Rate
18.9% Screen Rate
29.3% Air Yard Composition
8.11% Interceptable Pass Rate
Only 3/9 on throws over 10 yards... pic.twitter.com/mkY5cAhPzD
On the defensive side of things, Kentucky has to find a way to neutralize Elijah Moore as much as they can and not let John Rhys Plumlee rip off a long run. There are obviously less concerns on this side of the ball for the Cats, but they will look to not get bossed by any receivers again similarly to how Seth Williams was able to at times last week.
Spread: Kentucky -6 (Odds Shark)
Total: 61.5 (Odds Shark)
Prediction: Kentucky 31, Ole Miss 28
I think both teams will score a respectable amount of points, but not enough to hit the over. It will be a hair pulling beat, but I think Kentucky will simply hold the ball too long for 60 points to be scored in this one. I’m also giving the slight edge to the Cats in the outcome because they should play cleaner without the first game jitters. Ole Miss covers all day long, however as offensive guru Lane Kiffin has Matt Corral, Jerrion Ealy, John Rhys Plumlee and Elijah Moore all at his disposal.
How to Watch
Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Watch Online: WatchESPN