As demoralizing as Kentucky’s loss to Florida was last Saturday in Gainesville—the program’s 24th straight loss to the Gators since 1986—the Wildcats have an opportunity to regroup against another SEC foe, this time against Ole Miss.
Ole Miss and Kentucky are both headed into their second conference game holding a (0-1) record in the SEC. Kentucky got walloped 48-14 by No. 7 Florida while Ole Miss had the unfortunate task of losing a home game two weeks ago to Vanderbilt by the tune of 28-14.
A victory could go a long way for both programs who sit in similar positions after playing one-third of their team’s schedule.
Here’s a look at a preview of Saturday’s matchup:
What Kentucky must do to win Saturday:
Defense was the overwhelming theme of Saturday’s Kentucky/Florida game, showcasing how inept the Wildcats can be on the defensive side of the ball. It wasn’t so much the total amount of yards the Gators racked up on Kentucky—466 total yards: 290 passing and 176 rushing—rather it was the way in which Florida moved the ball down the field.
Far too often Kentucky found themselves in terrible matchups and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Florida freshmen Trey Burton—the Gators version of Kentucky’s Randall Cobb—scored a whopping six touchdowns on the day. If you look at the numbers a little closer however, you’ll realize that Burton rushed for only 40 yards on the day. Dig a little deeper and you’ll realize that Burton did wonders in the red-zone scoring five of his touchdowns on just five carries. Pretty effective scoring don’t you think?
It will be up to Kentucky’s defensive coordinator Steve Brown—who got ripped after the Wildcats loss against the Gators—to come up with more effective packages on defense to allow his team to overcome the aforementioned situations. Kentucky will also have to get to the ball better and tackle at a whole new level. Ole Miss ranks 16th in the FBS in rushing yards with 237.3 yards per game. If Kentucky has any chance Saturday against Ole Miss, they’ll definitely have to step it up on defense.
What Ole Miss must to do win Saturday:
Lack of focus has been a theme to Ole Miss’ season this far, having twice lost composure during the team’s second half in games against Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt. The Rebels were able to ‘right the ship’ last Saturday while manhandling Fresno State 55-38.
Ole Miss’ ‘bread and butter’ was the team’s ground attack, which racked up 425 rushing yards led by junior Brandon Bolden. Bolden rushed for 228 yards on 19 carries to go along with his two touchdowns. Bolden could wind up as the team’s ‘x-factor’ should Kentucky’s defense falter like it did against Florida. He isn’t as quick or fast as the ‘Cats running back Derrick Locke, but Bolden provides a ‘sure-fire’ back who is reliable and can hang on to the ball.
Bolden isn’t the only player who can run the ball on Ole Miss as newly reinstated quarterback Jeremiah Massoli brings an added benefit to the Rebels with his ability to scramble out of the pocket. Massoli can definitely be effective on the ground, but if it weren’t for his 56 yard run Massoli would have been held in check with his eight rushes on the day. All in all, it will be up to Ole Miss’ ground attack that keeps the Wildcats backpedaling.