The surging Tennessee Volunteers will test themselves at home against the high-flying Ole Miss Rebels offense on Saturday night. This will be Lane Kiffin’s first time back to good old Rocky Top in Knoxville as a head coach. After getting run over by the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Rebels survived an epic offensive shootout with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Meanwhile, it has been smooth sailing for the Vols in back-to-back wins over South Carolina and Missouri.
Kiffin’s return to KnoxvilleLane Kiffin’s messy exit from Tennessee should add a little flare to the buzz surrounding this SEC showdown between the Rebels and Vols on Saturday. The city of Knoxville hasn’t seen Kiffin since he left them for the head coaching job at USC back in 2010.
So you can imagine the welcoming party being a bit on the cold side for this one. You can expect plenty of boos and expletives hurled in Kiffin’s direction when he sets foot at Neyland Stadium. If Alabama wasn’t the popcorn game, this meeting against Tennessee certainly will be.
Ole Miss’ offense piled 52 points and 611 yards of total offense to overcome Arkansas in an offensive spectacle last week.
However, they also gave up 51 points and 676 total yards. This isn’t the joke of a Tennessee offense from last season. Coach Josh Heupel’s team is averaging the third-most points in the SEC (41.5) with the third-best rushing offense.
It’s going to be hard to get off the field in third-down situations for the Rebels, and the Vols are going to find ways to punch the ball into the end zone.
But this Ole Miss team is built for a firefight.
There was a reason why Kiffin told fans to “get their popcorn ready” ahead of the game against Alabama. Matt Corral and the Rebels offense can flat out fly.
Tennessee is stout against the run, but their secondary is allowing an average of 232.2 passing yards and a 63.1 completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks. That isn’t something you want to do with Corral throwing to the likes of Dontario Drummond. That receiver and quarterback combo could turn the Vols’ lights out early in this one.
The Rebels could be without running back Jerrion Ealy, who sat out the last game with symptoms of a concussion.
A chance for the Vols to make some noiseCan you imagine the excitement that would come out of Tennessee if they actually knocked off the Lane Kiffin-coached Ole Miss team?
It would be a parade of orange and white confetti.
They’d love to get even with Kiffin, but most importantly, the players on the team would love to prove they’re a legitimate SEC contender on the rise. These kids weren’t around when Kiffin left for USC anyways.
Hendon Hooker has the firepower to go back-and-forth with Matt Corral due to the ferocious rushing attack for the Vols. Running backs Tyron Evans and Jabari Small are piling up yards out of the offensive backfield, along with Hooker consistently making plays with his legs. The latter is a big reason why the Vols are converting nearly 50 percent of their third downs.
It’ll be a problem for an Ole Miss defense allowing an average of 193.6 rushing yards per game. It’s open season on the ground against this Rebels’ defensive front.
But can the Vols make the crucial defensive plays to get off the field? They can’t be a punching bag to Ole Miss’ offense all night long and expect their own offense to constantly dig them out of trouble. The Vols defense is going to have to come up with some big time plays to upset the Rebels on Saturday.
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Full-Game Side Bet
The Vols look like a talented team on the rise, but they aren’t quite there yet as a top-25 team in the country. So they’ll run into a wall against this Rebels group on Saturday.
It’ll be a fun fight while it lasts with Ole Miss eventually pulling away in the second half. The Rebels have shown their ability to mix it up in both the running and passing attack against more proven opponents than the Vols. No one is going to deny the victories over Missouri and South Carolina both being solid wins for Tennessee, but those games aren’t going to turn heads in comparison to the Rebels knocking off Arkansas and showing some fight against Alabama.
Tennessee is the worst team in the conference in time of possession. So this isn’t a situation where they’re going to keep the ball away from Matt Corral and the Rebels offense. It’s hard not to like Ole Miss’ chances in an offensive shootout.
Ole Miss is averaging 302 passing yards per game with a Heisman candidate quarterback in Corral, who has thrown for 1,497 yards and 12 touchdowns. Running up the scoreboard is what they do.
I’m laying the points and sticking with the Rebels on the road.
Full-Game Total Pick
Whew, those are a lot of points.
I get the temptation to want to go all-in on another offensive blow-up, but I still need to see the Vols do it against some more proven opposition before I’d jump on board with the total surpassing 82 points. A few turnovers could drastically ruin the offensive flow for one unlucky team. It’s important to note that Ole Miss is coming into this game as the No. 1-ranked team in the SEC in turnover margin. So don’t be surprised if this is one of those weird games where they make a bit more impact on defense than usual. At the very least, they’ll make enough for the under to be the winning total.