The Edge: UK vs. Ole Miss

Key Matchups:

Running back Derrick Locke vs. Ole Miss defensive line

Locke became only the fourth back in UK history to rush for 100 yards against Florida when he gashed the Gators for 103 yards last game, and he is the first UK running back to record four consecutive 100-yard games since Artose Pinner in 2002. Presumably, Locke’s hot start to the season will have a good chance to continue against the Rebels. Then again, Ole Miss’ run defense has been stronger than its pass defense, as opponents have only managed 3.3 yards per carry against the Rebels.

Unfortunately for the Rebels, they will be without the services of senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett, a key cog of their defensive line who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

Edge: Locke

UK linebackers vs. quarterback Jeremiah Masoli

The Cats’ run defense has been a bit shaky all season, and UK head coach Joker Phillips singled out the linebackers this week for poor tackling in the Florida game, in which five of the six touchdowns scored by Florida freshman Trey Burton came via the run. It doesn’t help that UK has had trouble defending dual-threat quarterbacks, or that Masoli, once considered a candidate for the Heisman when he was at Oregon, can throw the ball and run the ball with the best of them. He’s completed 62.3 percent of his throws for 733 yards and added another 219 yards on the ground.

Even scarier for opposing defenses is Masoli’s big-play ability, as evidenced by the 56-yard run he had in Ole Miss’ 55-38 win over Fresno State last Saturday. UK linebackers will have to keep him in the pocket or experience his scrambling ability firsthand.

Edge: Masoli

Receivers Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews vs. Ole Miss secondary

The Cats’ two primary receiving targets, Cobb and Matthews, are both performing well, but the same can’t be said for the Rebels’ pass defense. Ole Miss’ secondary is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete two-thirds of their passing attempts, and Southeastern Conference-worst’s eight passing touchdowns. The Rebels haven’t recorded any interceptions either.

UK quarterback Mike Hartline has to fancy his chances to spread the ball around to his receivers after seeing Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn torch the Rebels for 390 passing yards and four touchdowns last time out.

Edge: Cobb, Matthews.

UK vs. ‘Noise’

Though the Cats lost to Florida and UK players, coaches and fans were disappointed, it could be deemed an acceptable loss. However, if the Cats start 0-2 in the SEC, a difficult hole for any team to emerge from, they might start hearing what former UK head coach Rich Brooks coined as “noise” — the criticism and doubt from the fanbase.

The Ole Miss game is by no means a gimme like many considered the Cats’ first three games of the season to be, but it is certainly a more than winnable road game that seems like a must-win if UK wants to have the “great season” Phillips said was possible. If both defenses come up empty, all the noise in the game might come from a shootout that will take place between two balanced offensive units in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Edge: UK

Final Edge: Slight edge for UK