2020 was a weird one. The Rebels finished their all-Southeastern Conference schedule with a 4-5 record and signed a top-25 recruiting class in the December Early Signing Period.
So why not end this season in 2021 in the Outback Bowl against former Ole Miss staffer Tom Allen and the
11th-ranked Indiana Hoosiers.
Tom Allen has parlayed back-to-back 5-7 seasons to back-to-back bowl appearances in the last two seasons. The New Castle, Ind. native went 8-5 in 2019, losing the Gator Bowl to the Tennessee Volunteers. But, in 2020, the Hoosiers were impressive as hell, finishing the regular season with a 6-1 mark. Their lone loss to College Football Playoff three-seed was the only blemish on a season that saw the Big Ten boys finish in Bill Connelly’s SP+ Top-25. Ole Miss’ bowl opponent brings a balanced attack on both side of the football are going to pose a stiff test on January 2nd.
Offensively, the Hoosiers will be without dynamic southpaw signal caller, Michael Penix, Jr., but their attack is still triggered by a capable quarterback in former Elite 11 finalist and Utah signee Jack Tuttle. The transfer stepped in after Penix tore his ACL and helped pace the offense in wins over Maryland and Wisconsin, throwing for 161 yards and two touchdowns.
The 26th-ranked offense is led through the air by Ole Miss legacy Ty Fryfogle, Whop Philyor, and Peyton Hendershot. The three pass-catchers combined for 14 receiving touchdowns and will test a lackluster Rebel secondary that finished 14th in the SEC in defending the pass and dead last in the country.
Defensively, Allen’s bunch finished in the top-35 in SP+ and boasts an impressive group at the third level. Former Ole Miss commit (thanks Matt Luke) Jaylin Williams and Jamar Johnson lead the way with four interceptions a piece. As a unit, the Hoosiers have picked off 17 passes in just seven games, good enough for second in the country. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral will be chomping at the bit to bounce back from a five interception performance against LSU but he better tread lightly.
As far as Ole Miss is concerned, we know the deal on defense so we won’t dwell on that. On offense, they will take the field without two of their best offensive weapons in Biletnikoff finalist and school record-holder Elijah Moore and tight end Kenny Yeboah. They might also be without All-SEC running back Jerrion Ealy and steady receiver Braylon Sanders who were both banged up in Baton Rouge. Their status for Saturday’s game is up in the air so others will need to step up.
The backfield is presumably in good hands with resident “get the fuck out my way” runner Snoop Conner and freshman phenom Henry Parrish. But the receiver room is a different story. With the Rebels most likely taking on Allen’s stingy defense without their top-three receives, names like Dontario Drummond and Jonathan Mingo are going to have to step up. And what about John Rhys Plumlee? Will we finally see his skill set utilized in the slot?
This is the ultimate “something’s gotta give” game with the Rebels 3rd-ranked offense (562.4 yards per game) taking on Indiana’s defense 37th-ranked defense (361.7 yards per game). The Rebels are undermanned, but you know Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby will have some things for defensive coordinator and former Ole Miss staff Kane Wommack’s defense.
The Hoosiers have taken a little less than a month off when this one gets kicked off today and haven’t played since December 5th. You know Ole Miss is hungry to get that LSU loss off their minds, but how motivated will they truly be with so many crucial pieces out? And how angry will Indiana potentially play, a team that believes they were worthy of an access bowl? As always, we shall see.
Buckle up and enjoy. And day drink responsibly.
Line: Ole Miss +6.5
How to watch
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
When: 11:30pm CDT
Online streaming: WatchESPN