Ok now that we got that non-conference stuff out of the way it’s time for some serious football Southeastern Conference style, as the Kentucky football team heads to Oxford, Mississippi in a battle of unbeaten teams and a top-11 matchup.
Kentucky (4-0, 1-0) is the highest ranked it’s been in 25 years at No. 7 in the AP poll and No. 8 in the coaches poll while the host Rebels (4-0, 0-0) are ranked No. 11 in both polls.
It’s the SEC opener for Ole Miss while Kentucky already has a road win over Florida in week 2. Both teams had solid wins in the first three games but both were tested last weekend with Kentucky scratching out a 31-23 win over Northern Illinois while Ole Miss had to fight off a pesky Tulsa team to win by just 8 points.
However, all that is in the past now, and it’s time to get down to business.
This week its Lane Kiffen and his wide-open, rushing, up-tempo offense trying to outscore Kentucky football quarterback Will Levis and his plethora of pass catchers and most importantly a stingy Wildcat defense that needs a bounce back from last week where Northern Illinois’ offense threw them some curveballs.
One thing that hasn’t always been in Kentucky’s favor is early kickoffs. However, with the game in Oxford, that means an 11 am CST kickoff which only means breakfast partying in the Grove for Rebel fans and not drinking all day.
Another thing in Big Blue’s favor this week is the return of Chris Rodriguez who last saw action in Kentucky’s 20-17 Citrus Bowl win over Iowa in which it was C-Rod scoring the winning touchdown with 1:48 to play.
Without putting too much pressure on him Kentucky needs him back and hungrier more than ever to step foot on the field. In that game, he carried 20 times for 107 yards and that touchdown.
Last season, Rodriguez rumbled for 1,379 rushing yards on 225 carries running for three scores and catching three others for touchdowns. Against Ole Miss in 2020, he racked up 133 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile though, for UK they are led by Levis who has completed 79 of 117 passes for 1,185 yards,10 touchdowns, and four picks and puts up an average of 296.3 yards a game.
A combined 14 different players have pulled down a pass from Levis but Tayvion Robinson leads with 20 for 349 yards (17.4 average) and four touchdowns, followed by Dane Key with 15 catches for 241 yards (16.1 ave.) and three scores while Barion Brown is right behind with 13 receptions for 205 (13.1) and two scores.
With Rodriguez back to jumpstart a less than stellar ground game so far and with the receiving upgrade thus far, this game will signal what Kentucky is capable of this season.
The Rebels easily won each of their first 3 games by double-digits before defeating Tulsa by just 8 points a week ago. Ole Miss has leaned on its ground game with its backfield duo of RB Quinshon Judkins and RB Zach Evans combining for 794 rushing yards and 9 rushing touchdowns.
It’s mostly a running attack for Ole Miss whose ground game is fourth best in the nation averaging 280.8 yards a game racking up a total of 1,123 and 60 for first downs.
Kentucky’s run defense ranks 33rd, which sank due to the Northern Illinois attack last week, but still, they only allow 108 yards a game and 433 on the season and a mere 17 rushing first downs and just three rushing touchdowns.
Kentucky football vs Ole Miss odds Week 5
Spread: Ole Miss -6.5
Moneyline: Kentucky +210, Ole Miss -260
Kentucky hasn’t played in Oxford since 2010 when they lost 42-35.
Ole Miss leads the series 28-14-1.
Ole Miss leads the series 8-2 in Oxford.
The last Kentucky team to win in Oxford was in 1978 winning 24-17
Ole Miss has won the past two shootouts with UK 42-41 last year and 37-34 in 2017 both in Lexington.
Kentucky’s last win against the Rebels was in 2006 31-14.
First time since 1958 that Kentucky and Ole Miss are both ranked when facing off.
Kentucky vs Ole Miss Prediction Week 5
All the history and stats point toward a Rebels win, but Kentucky is no longer an SEC cellar dweller and easy win.
Mark Stoops is the all-time winningest coach at UK and is looking to win No. 64. The defensive-minded coach matches wits with the riverboat gambling offensive-minded Lane Kiffen. In that scenario anything is possible.
If the Kentucky football Big Blue Wall keeps improving as it has, opens some holes for Rodriguez, and gives Levis time to sit in the pocket this game could easily surpass the over.
For the Cats, if the defense plays like it can and somehow keeps the Rebel running game under 200 yards that bodes well too. That team can score fast and often by averaging 41 points per game while possessing the ball for less than 26 minutes per contest.
The Kentucky offense has to stay on the field and control the tempo as Ole Miss is 15-3 under Kiffin when they put 30-plus points and 11-8 when allowing 20-plus.
This game very well may come down to having the ball last and if it’s Levis I like our chances.