LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (0-0) vs. OLE MISS REBELS (0-0)
Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game
Game Time: 8 p.m.
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium: Atlanta, Ga.
Announcers: Rece Davis (pxp), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst), Molly McGrath (sidelines)
Favorite: Ole Miss by 9.5
All-Time Series: First meeting
Ole Miss Uniforms:
Louisville Depth Chart:
Excitement Level: 9.1
Because 2020 was so bizarre, it feels like it’s been five years or so since we were afforded the opportunity to sit and watch a college football game where we had a strong rooting interest. Now not only are we back, but we’re back with one of the more significant season-openers in the history of the program.
Game Attire: Lamar leap t-shirt.
Trying to match the fellas tonight, and this is the brightest Louisville football t-shirt I own.
Pregame Meal: Sandwich
I have been told we’re doing sandwiches tonight. I have no idea what kind. I hope they’re good.
Bold Prediction: Louisville trails by three scores in the first half but gets within three points in the second half
First game of the year. Why not get super specific?
Justin Marshall TD Alert Level: Pacific Blue (strong)
After going 0-fer last year, the JMTAL is primed for a much more exciting 2021.
Predicted Star of the Game: Malik Cunningham
If he doesn’t play like a star, then we’re probably in trouble.
About Ole Miss
I’m not sure if you guys have heard but Ole Miss has a really good offense. Lane Kiffin has brought a very fast-paced and balanced attack to Oxford and ended last season with one of the top-ranked offenses in the country. While Kiffin lost two of his top playmakers to the NFL, he returns a core group of talent on the offensive side of the ball that will be hard to contain.
At the Quarterback position, Kiffin will have the luxury of trotting out one of the top passers in the nation in Matt Corral. Corral finished in the top 10 nationally in nearly every relevant passing statistic and he should only be better with a full year in Kiffin’s offense. While Corrall is known for his arm, he also has the ability to scramble and run when needed. He is essentially the embodiment of the Quarterback that has hurt Louisville in the past.
In two of the rougher losses Ole Miss took last year, Corral turned the ball over 12 times. that doesn’t mean that he has a propensity for turnovers as some of the plays were flukes but he does have a bit of “gunslinger” to his game. Louisville could have an opportunity to force a turnover or two if they’re opportunistic.
The hidden gem of Ole Miss’ offense is Jerrion Ealy. The speedy Running back is known as a dynamic kick returner but he also led the team in rushing with 745 yards and 9 touchdowns. Ealy has the type of speed that really worries you with the aggressive approach that Louisville plays with on defense. There aren’t many guys in college football that can chase Ealy down.
The depth at Running Back is a real advantage for Ole Miss when they actually utilize it. Henry Parrish will get the bulk of the backup work but I would expect Kentrel Bullock and Snoop Conner to get some touches as well. Parrish is another speed back while Conner was the second backup last season as well as the short-yardage guy. I can’t imagine that he won’t be used in some way in short-yardage situations.
Elijah Moore and his pee celebration are now in the NFL so Ole Miss has to find a way to replace a first-round Wide Receiver who caught double-digit passes in 7 of the 8 games he played in last year. He also put up 200+ yards in three different games. You don’t replace that with ease. Dontario Drummond will likely see the most targets with Moore gone after putting up 7 touchdowns last season. Drummond is a big receiver at 220 pounds but he is pretty quick and does well on the short routes that his offense likes to run.
The other Receiver positions will be manned by Jonothan Mingo and Braylon Sanders. This is a veteran group that has produced pretty well but none of these players have proven that they can be the consistent type of star that Ole Miss has relied on for the last handful of years. Louisville has to make sure that they don’t allow one of these guys to break out against them.
The Offensive Line for the Rebels is a bit hard to nail down as they blocked for such a good offense last season but negative plays were a big issue. Lane Kiffin fired his Offensive Line coach after spring practice this year which is obviously out of the ordinary so one has to wonder how this group performs to start the season. Ben Brown is the most well-known player in the group along with Nick Broeker at Left Tackle. Brown is moving back to Guard with Orlando Umana transferring in from Utah to play Center.
The Ole Miss defense was a liabilty last season and Lane Kiffin spent the spring and summer trying to improve it. D.J. Durkin’s group was bad at just about everything last year but Lane Kiffin seems to think that the talent they brought into the program since last year will help the defense improve.
The Defensive Line was probably the worst aspect of the defense last year as they didn’t create much pressure or stop the run very well. The staff made it a priority to improve this group via recruiting. They’ve added Isaiah Iton at Defensive Tackle and he is listed as the starter. Iton was the top ranked JUCO Defensive Tackle last cycle. Tywone Malone is listed in the two-deep after being the top ranked recruit in the Ole Miss 2021 class. Add in Jamond Jordan and Demon Clowney and Durkin has to at least feel good about the young guys and newcomers he has at his disposal.
Sam Williams was a bit of a bright spot for Ole Miss last season. He finished the year with 8 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. The Rebels will have to replace Ryder Anderson at the other Defensive End spot and I’m not sure they have an upgrade available to them. Louisville could look to attack that spot with the run game on Monday.
Ole Miss lost their top tackler to Kentucky this spring and some folks around the program seem to think that they have upgraded at the spot which led to the transfer. I’m not sure if that’s the case but the Rebels need a lot more from their Linebackers than just tackles. Last season the group as a whole barely reached double digits in tackles for loss and only had a few sacks. Chase Campbell and joined the team after leading Maryland in tackles and tackles for loss last season. They are relying on him to be the key to the improvement in the defense.
Lakia Henry and MoMo Sanogo are the other players we should see at Linebacker. Both saw significant time last year and both are athletic players who should have some success shooting gaps against uofl’s zone blocking scheme. However, both were also a big part of a bad defense last season. Time will tell if experience in the system will help them out or not.
The secondary for Ole Miss looked much more impressive to me than the numbers showed. The Rebels are deep with players in the back end but they had one of the worst pass defenses in the country. I think it’s fair to wonder if the lack of pass rush factored in there. Both Cornerback positions are listed as “or” on the depth chart which can’t make you feel good as an Ole Miss fan. The group of corners have plenty of experience and size but it stands out that none of the players listed were on the initial depth chart last season. They’ve struggled at this spot and with the numbers they put up last year, there has to be some real concern here.
The Safety positions are where I think Ole Miss are much better shape. Otis Reese is the Nickel in the 4-2-5 scheme Durkin runs. Reese is a Georgia transfer and he played really well once he was cleared in November last year. In three games, he had 23 tackles, 1 interception, and one PBU. He has great size and covers a lot of ground. Jake Springer is a Navy transfer who put up 16 tackles for loss and 8 sacks in an Outside Linebacker type of role for the Midshipmen. He is listed as a starter over Keidron Smith who had a strong year at Safety last season.
A.J. Finley rounds out the Safety group for the Rebels. He was the most impressive player on defense when I watched them. He is a guy that always seems to be at or around the play and he has some athletic talent that should help him in coverage if Ole Miss chooses to play a lot of man coverage. Finley finished third on the team in tackles while leading the Rebels in interceptions and PBUs. There is real depth at Safety and Lane Kiffin has to be hopeful that the talent here will help against the run as well as giving the defense the ability to match up against an unproven group of Louisville Receivers.
—Ole Miss will be without the services of head coach Lane Kiffin for Monday night’s game. Kiffin tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, and did not travel with the team to Atlanta.
—Louisville is 56-40-6 all-time in season openers.
—Ole Miss is 92-29-5 (.750 winning percentage) all-time in season openers. They have won 19 of their last 24 week one games.
—Ole Miss is making its second appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. The Rebels defeated Boise State 35-21 to open the 2014 season.
—Louisville is also making its second appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. The Cardinals fell to Auburn 31-24 in their first game of the 2015 season.
—Louisville is 2-1 all-time in Monday night games. The Cards’ only loss in such a situation came two seasons ago, when they fell at home to Notre Dame on Labor Day evening.
—Under Scott Satterfield, Louisville is 10-0 when winning the turnover battle, and just 1-11 when losing it. The Cards have won the turnover battle just twice last season, occurrences which happened in comfortable wins over Syracuse and Wake Forest.
—Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin is 5-4 all-time in season-openers.
—In eight seasons as a head coach, Scott Satterfield’s teams are 52-5 when scoring 30 or more points. Louisville is 11-2 in such games under Satterfield, with the two losses coming last season against Miami and Virginia Tech.
—Ole Miss broke the SEC record for total offense in conference games last season (562.4 ypg), besting 2019 LSU’s mark of 550.0.
—Rebel QB Matt Corral is the returning SEC leader in eight separate categories.
—Last year, Corral became just the fourth SEC player ever to finish as the NCAA leader in total offense per game (384.9), joining Pat Sullivan (1970), Rex Grossman (2001) and Johnny Manziel (2012).
—Ole Miss is 7-2 in games when Corral doesn’t throw an interception, and 0-5 in games when he does. Corral played six interception-free games in 2020. He completed 77.8 percent of his passes for 2,337 yards (389.5 per game) and 20 touchdowns.
—Louisville is 1-6 straight up in its last seven games as an underdog.
—Louisville is 0-6 under Scott Satterfield when being held to 21 points or fewer.
—This is the first time Ole Miss has ever faced a member of the ACC in a season-opening game.
—Louisville is a 1-2 all-time in neutral site season-opener. The Cardinals defeated Purdue in Indianapolis in 2017, but lost to Auburn in Atlanta in 2015 and to Alabama in Orlando in 2018.
—Louisville is 21-39-1 all-time against current members of the Southeastern Conference, with their last win coming over Mississippi State in the 2019 Music City Bowl.
—Scott Satterfield is 1-4 in games against SEC opponents in his coaching career.
—Louisville is 4-2 in non-conference games under Satterfield, going 3-2 in 2019 and 1-0 last season.
—Ole Miss returns 100 percent of its 2020 rushing production from the running back position, led by junior Jerrion Ealy. Ealy finished last season with 745 rushing yards on 147 carries and nine TDs on the ground. He ranked No. 25 in the FBS in all-purpose yardage (132.1 ypg).
—No wide receiver on Louisville’s 2021 roster has caught a touchdown pass for the Cardinals.
—Ole Miss had 11 plays of 50 yards or more last season, the fourth-most of any team in college football.
—Louisville will honor former head coach Howard Schnellenberger, who died on March 27, with a helmet sticker that will be worn for the entirety of the 2021 season.
—Louisville is 139-103-6 all-time during the month of September, including 3-4 in the month under Scott Satterfield.
—Cardinal assistant coach Gunter Brewer’s father, Billy Brewer, is the second winningest head football coach in Ole Miss history (67-56-3). In his 11 seasons at Ole Miss, Billy Brewer compiled a 67-56-3 record and was selected SEC “Coach of the Year” three times. Gunter Brewer also spent time on the Ole Miss sidelines, serving as associate head coach/passing game coordinator for the Rebels in 2011. Gunter Brewer earned his master’s in education with a specialization in exercise physiology from Ole Miss in 1989.
—Louisville is 9-1 under Scott Satterfield when leading at halftime, and 11-1 when leading at the end of the 3rd quarter.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 261 games dating back to a 31-0 loss to Florida State during the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the second longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech, and the 11th-longest nationally.
—Louisville is 192-14 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 6-119 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“For me, I’ve been locked in ever since the Wake Forest game ended last year. We found out Ole Miss was our opponent, SEC opponent, probably the best conference in college football. Why not be as excited as I am? We’ve been waiting for this game for almost 100-plus days, and now it’s finally here. We’re just ready to show the world what this team is about. I’m very excited.” —Malik Cunningham
—“I’m really excited we’re playing a quality opponent with really good players and good coaching schemes to see where we’re at.” —Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin
—“Our guys are excited about it, they are fired up for this opportunity. They had a really good camp, it was hot, the last two weeks were really hot, and we have had to battle some lightning and a lot of distractions as far as weather goes, but our players did not slow down on anything they did. Our guys continued to fight and practice hard.” —Scott Satterfield
—“Having that challenge right away, I like it.” —Kenderick Duncan
—“Just having a whole year under coach (D.J.) Durkin and coach (Chris) Partridge, the defense is real comfortable and just ready to go out there and execute.” —Ole Miss DB Otis Reese
—“The goals, I’d say, is more turnovers this year and not allow anybody — I mean, nobody — over 21 points. That’s the goal.” —Ole Miss LB Ashanti Cistrunk
—“I think about some of those turnovers every day when I wake up or even when I watch film, some of those turnovers I shouldn’t have thrown. You just got to learn from it and use it like fuel and go out there with a better mindset. Go out there every day knowing I can get better at something.” —Malik Cunningham
—“They throw the ball really well, but then (Cunningham) takes off and runs. It’s very challenging to contain him. There’s a lot of challenges with that. In a perfect world, you want un-athletic quarterbacks to play against so you can cover people and they can’t bring another dimension.” —Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin
—”This is probably the closest group I’ve ever been to since I’ve been in college or high school. Considering we’re together every day, I ride home with those guys, we watch film all the time, watch TV together, go out to eat. I just got so much trust in those guys, and they trust me to get them the ball, whether the ball is bad or it’s a good ball. I know they’re going to make a play on another defender, and those guys are good blocking on the outside edge too. If we run the ball, you got to get a block on the outside as well, and they get rewarded with the ball you block.” —Malik Cunningham