The Rebels travel to Lexington for one of the most highly anticipated games in no one's opinion. However, I am excited that we actually have a chance to win. I'm also excited that it will fill the void normally reserved for coping with an Ole Miss loss or bracing myself for an Ole Miss loss. Kentucky and Ole Miss are the only teams in the SEC without a win and that will come to an end this weekend (unless the game is tied, in which case both sides have agreed to leave without a loss and just call it a draw).
When the Rebels are on Offense:
The Rebels will have their best opportunity to eclipse 400 yards this weekend, as Kentucky is one of the worst defensive teams in the SEC. With an offense that looks to be gaining momentum, I would be extremely disappointed if Brandon Bolden and Jeff Scott didn't combine for 200 yards this game. Our offensive line has settled down a bit (aside from the fucking penalties) and should be able to open up some running lanes.
The big key will be whether David Lee and Houston Nutt invoke basic reasoning skills. Kentucky has arguably the best weak-side linebacker in the SEC in Danny Trevathan. The guy is athletic and mean. While it stands to reason that we would run away from him, I've learned that what seems like the logical option is rarely chosen, so I don't know what we'll do.
Though Kentucky's defense is not statistically the worst or even second worse in the conference, they are certainly not as good as Arkansas or Auburn. Randall Mackey should have the time to find his receivers or take off running if nothing is available. Kentucky's defensive backfield reminds me of our defensive backfield from 2010. Hell, State threw for 264 yards last week. If we can't complete at least 55% of our passes for 200 yards-ish, I'd be supremely disappointed.
Realistically, if we don't put up 400 yards and 24 or more points, then our offensive staff and players were clearly not prepared. This is not a horrendous defense by national standards, but, much like our defense, it does not live up to the billing of "SEC DEFENSES ARE TEH BEST!!1". We won't have another opportunity to score like this against an SEC squad, so we will have to take advantage of our opportunity.
When the Rebels are on Defense:
If there is anything our defense needs, it's a reprieve from having to defend a good offense. Considering how much the Rebels have been gashed on the ground, we'll find out just how bad our rush defense is this week as Kentucky is one of the worst running teams in the SEC. UK averages just 137 yards per game and 3.8 YPC on the ground and has scored just six rushing TDs this season. When you realize how poor our defense has been against the run, I'd welcome any offense that we can expect to hold to under 200 yards on the ground.
At quarterback, Maxwell Smith will make his second start after replacing former starter Morgan Newton. Smith completed 26 of 33 passes against State, but averaged just 5.3 yards as he was often forced to throw to his third and fourth choices for minimal gains. There is no reason that our defense should be giving up 50 yard passing plays this week.
Really, there's no reason that Kentucky should be able to score that much against us because I honestly think we have better players than they do. However, as much as this pains me to say, I genuinely worry that Joker Phillips is a smarter coach than Tyrone Nix. While it would make sense that we should hold Kentucky to less than 350 yards, I'm done expecting anything from our defensive coaches that would resemble an adjustment or tweak other than "let's use extremely predictable blitzes".
I think Ole Miss has more talent at nearly every position (aside from maybe linebacker). I think it's going to be our most realistic shot at avoiding a winless year in the SEC. However, I'm also worried about the fragility of our players' minds. The more focus and discussion that is placed on the third quarter, the more I see our players just waiting for things to fall apart. If we go out and play well without letting the "When are we going to screw up?" mentality creep in, we should win. We could also go out and just lay a turd, in which case I think Houston Nutt will have guaranteed his departure.
Ole Miss comes out and looks good in the first half with a good mix of offensive playcalling and good defense. Ole Miss will probably take a single possession lead into halftime after which things get real interesting. Kentucky's coaches make adjustments and the Wildcats regain the lead in the third quarter. However, I'm expecting something insane to go our way as the Rebels escape Lexington with their first win of the year, 31-27.