Ole Miss football is 16 days away from its season opener against Florida. The fall camp has been challenging for a first-year staff led by Lane Kiffin, but it has led to a lot of revelations on both offense and defense prior to a year impaired by COVID-19.
As it inches closer, here are 20 bold predictions for what the 2020 season will look like:
1. At least five touchdowns are scored by tight ends.
Ole Miss tight ends have scored two touchdowns since 2018. Meanwhile, Harrison Bryant won the Mackey Award under Kiffin at FAU and scored seven touchdowns on 65 catches in 2019. Kenny Yeboah and Chase Rogers are two big-bodied, athletic transfers that will provide a much needed production boost at the position and score at least five times.
2. Jonathan Mingo finishes as the team’s best statistical receiver.
Elijah Moore had 67 catches for 850 and 6 touchdowns last season. He is bound to continue his reign of terror and will be an early-round draft pick whenever he chooses to go pro. However, he was force-fed the ball in 2019. While defenses try to stop the Biletnikoff Award watch list receiver, Jonathan Mingo will quietly record the team’s top stat line.
3. Ole Miss wins four road games.
Wins over Arkansas, Kentucky, Vanderbilt would require an upset of either a depleted LSU or Kellen Mond’s Texas A&M to reach four wins away from Oxford. BOLD PREDICTIONS!
4. The offense converts more than 20 fourth down attempts.
In Kiffin’s first year at FAU in 2017, the Owls went for it on fourth down 39 times, converting 24. Expect a similar narrative in the risk-taking head coach’s first season at Ole Miss.
5. Ben Brown earns All-SEC honors.
He self-admittedly needs to work on his snap consistency at center, but Ben Brown might be the most consistent player on the line. He is an upgrade from last season.
6. Snoop Conner scores more touchdowns than Jerrion Ealy.
When offensive coordinator Kiffin and USC had Reggie Bush and LenDale White in the backfield from 2003-2005, Bush won the Heisman, but White scored more points. The Rebel duo is not dissimilar in its speed/power punch.
7. Jerrion Ealy becomes the seventh to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark.
While Conner scores in the red zone, Ealy has a field day between the 20s and breaks a few long home runs for himself. Important to note, a 1,000-yard back in this shortened season will be even more impressive - not only 10 games but 10 SEC games.
8. Ole Miss records more team rushing yards than in 2019.
The Rebels ran the ball an average of 46.5 times per game for 251 yards last year. In the same time frame, Jeff Lebby and his UCF offense ran 42.9 times per game for 224 yards. He inherits better athletes who have proven they can scoot at Ole Miss.
9. Mac Brown averages more than 45 yards per punt.
Did y’all say Mac Brown hype video?— Grayson Weir (@GsonJW) August 20, 2020
Because, Mac Brown hype video pic.twitter.com/1sDVjdCSP6
Mac Brown finished 25th in the country with 44.3 yards per punt last season. He will have no problem hitting bigger bombs on less short-field attempts this year.
10. D.J. Durkin & Chris Partridge’s group finishes in the top 50 as a team.
Ole Miss finished ranked No. 60 in team defense under Mike MacIntyre a year ago. It was a delightful surprise for a team that struggled on the defensive side of the ball during the Matt Luke era. With two new co-defensive coordinators at the helm, things should improve and trend into the top 50.
11. Brandon Mack leads the team in sacks.
While the offense keys on big edge rusher Sam Williams, redshirt freshman Brandon Mack is going to be a problem for opposing quarterbacks on the other side of the line.
12. Lane Kiffin signals for a touchdown before the score more than twice.
He tends to do this.
13. Marc Britt ends up as the most crucial component to the secondary.
With a secondary hit hard by COVID-19, the true freshman from Dade County has been playing a lot of defensive back. Britt may not have been slated to start before the season, but his high snap count during camp will give him one of the strongest understandings of a new scheme and make him game-ready.
14. Matt Corral outruns John Rhys Plumlee.
This may be the boldest take on the list. Plumlee will get his touches, no doubt, but Corral appears to be the starter come week one. He is an athletic rusher in his own right and is being clocked close to Plumlee’s top speed this summer.
Matty Ice looks to be in the best shape of his career, ready to run the pants off of a Lebby-called read-option.
15. The defense will blitz more often than not.
Durkin and Partridge are going to call an aggressive defense and use athletes in unique ways to get past the line and create chaos.
16. Ryder Anderson plugs the middle.
The defensive line group saw the most turnover during the offseason. Senior Ryder Anderson played a little bit of linebacker and a little bit of defensive end in 2019. He has been taking snaps as a defensive tackle during fall camp and will find his home as an interior lineman for Durkin’s chameleon defense.
17. Grant Tisdale re-enters the transfer portal.
All reports from camp are saying that Corral, Plumlee and Dent will be ahead of Tisdale on the depth chart. The Allen, Tx. native is a talented player and will seek opportunity elsewhere. He deserves a shot somewhere and will get it.
18. Jaylen Jones is named a first-team All-American.
His career has shown significant promise, but Jones has not stayed healthy. If he can do so in 2020, he might mess around and make a case to be drafted in the first three rounds.
19. Ole Miss will play a team more than once.
As COVID-19 continues to be difficult to navigate, games have already been postponed. The SEC will see the same issue at some point and be forced to shuffle schedules around.
20. Recruiting finishes in the Top 20.
Think you can do better? Let’s hear your hottest take for the 2020 Ole Miss football season!