Across the (By)Line: Ole Miss Rebels


HG Biggs | The Daily Mississippian

Ole Miss Rebels tight end Michael Trigg (0) and running back Quinshon Judkins (4) celebrate after a touchdown by Judkins during Ole Miss’ season opener against Troy on Sept. 3, 2022. Photo by HG Biggs | The Daily Mississippian

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

The “Across the (By)Line” series will give Kentucky football fans an in-depth look at their opponent for this week — from the mind of the opposing school’s sports editor.

This week: The Daily Mississippian, Aidan Gallardo, Ole Miss

Both teams struggled last week against smaller schools. On your end, do you think Ole Miss got caught looking ahead, or did Tulsa expose real flaws in the Rebels’ team?

I think it was a little bit of both. It’s easy to look ahead to next week’s matchup against Kentucky not only because they’re a top 10 team, but also because they’re our first SEC opponent of the season. I think the team kind of felt like the game against Tulsa was going to be an uncontested contest and they were looking forward to the next week, (but) you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due. Going into the game, Tulsa had the best passing offense in the country, so there was no question they were going to score points. I think the question was, ‘how many points can the Ole Miss defense can hold them to?’ I think Ole Miss was so focused on defending the pass and preventing the deep ball that Tulsa took advantage and turned to their run game. The Rebels seemed like they couldn’t stop it. Tulsa had a total of 262 rushing yards, and that’s what got them back in the game. I think head coach Lane Kiffin will make it a point of emphasis this week in practice to make an improvement on stopping the run and we’ll find out how much they’ll improve by Saturday.

It was always going to be difficult to replace Matt Corral, but heading into the SEC schedule, what are you expecting to see from transfer quarterback Jaxson Dart?

Everyone can agree that a player like Matt Corral is practically irreplaceable, but I think Jaxson’s done a good job so far early in the season. Kiffin announced after the Tulsa game that Dart officially won the starting job (he’s been having a lengthy quarterback battle with Luke Altmyer), and Dart mentioned that it really boosted his confidence. In my opinion, he’s a great athlete to have under center for Ole Miss. He’s great at utilizing his legs, and his pocket presence is terrific. A couple things that he can improve on is decision-making and his accuracy on the long throws. He’s already thrown a couple interceptions this season against pretty weak defenses, mainly due to trying to force the ball in a tight window instead of throwing it away or scrambling for extra yards. If he can limit the turnovers, I think that he will really excel in the offense. Another thing I noticed is his inaccuracy with the deep throws. In the games he’s played in thus far, there are always a couple of deep throws that he tries to complete and he tends to overthrow the receiver. Don’t get me wrong. I think Dart is a great quarterback and should be the starter for the Rebels. If he can improve on those few things, I don’t think he’ll have trouble competing against SEC opponents.

What aspect of this Rebel team is going to give Kentucky the biggest issues in Oxford?

I’ve got to go with our rushing attack. There’s really not much else to say. The offense revolves around the ground game and so far this season, defenses don’t know how to stop it. Ole Miss averages 280.8 rushing yards per game which is good for first in the SEC and fourth in all of college football. Headlined by TCU transfer Zach Evans and true-freshman Quinshon Judkins, the Rebels might just have the best running back room in the nation. Just look at this statistic and tell me that they’re not. Judkins averages 107.25 rushing yards per game and Evans averages 91.25. With both running backs averaging around 100 yards per game, it better be a major point of emphasis for any defense to stop those running backs from running all over you. If you can take Ole Miss’s rushing attack away, then it’ll be a long day for the Ole Miss Rebels. Something else I want to mention is that the team has had trouble playing through all four quarters. Last week, Ole Miss didn’t score during the second half while Tulsa scored 10 to get their team back in the game. So come Saturday, Ole Miss needs to keep their foot on the pedal for the entirety of the game.

ESPN currently favors Ole Miss by 78.5%, but Vegas is expecting a close shootout. How are you expecting Saturday to go?

There’s no question that both teams will be able to score some points. It’ll be close for the first three quarters, but I do have to lean towards the Rebels to ultimately close it out. I expect a back-and-forth shootout and I think it will come down to the team that can make that late-game stop. Like I said earlier, I think our ground game is too much for the Wildcats to handle and also given home field advantage, I just don’t see how Ole Miss loses this game. I predict a Rebel victory with a score of 31-28. I do want to say though that Kentucky has had a great season thus far and they are definitely a high-caliber team not only in college football, but in the SEC. They’ll definitely be a contender to reach the SEC Championship game.