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Ole Miss-Louisville: How Much Will Kiffin’s Absence Affect Rebels?

Ole Miss-Louisville In The 2021 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game

Another ACC/SEC Matchup as Ole Miss-Louisville Battle in Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game

By: Charles Jay

Ole Miss-Louisville has the makings of being another strong season opener for both teams in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game.

Those engaged in NCAA football betting know that it always helps if you can have your head coach available on the sidelines for a game. We know that sounds a little facetious, but BetAnySports patrons are looking at a scenario for Monday’s game where one of the teams won’t have the chief architect of its offensive strategy on hand.

There were many expectations of this year’s Ole Miss Rebels. And because of that, a team with a .500 record in 2020 reached a #25 ranking in the preseason Coaches poll. There is the presence of quarterback Matt Corral and many of the weapons he had on hand last season when he threw for 3337 yards and 29 touchdowns. There is a defensive unit that is returning eight starters. And there is coach Lane Kiffin, who has seemingly always made a team more explosive after his arrival.

The problem here is that Kiffin will be missing.

The former Oakland Raider, USC, Tennessee and FAU head coach and ex-offensive coordinator at Alabama has tested positive for COVID-19,and he’s just one of an increasing number of people who have done so after having been vaccinated. As such, he is going to be sidelined for this opening game against the Louisville Cardinals, which will kick off at 8 PM ET on Monday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

We must point out that this doesn’t seem to matter to the oddsmakers. At BetAnySports, the Rebels are double-digit favorites:

Ole Miss Rebels -10
Louisville Cardinals +10

Over 75.5 points -110
Under 75.5 points -110

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Ole Miss-Louisville: OK, What about the coach?

As mentioned, Kiffin has been vaccinated. And he’s stated that he is very much a proponent of being vaccinated. In fact, 100% of his program, including the coaches, have taken the vaccine.

But he felt some symptoms and decided that he would get tested. He will not be taking the trip to Atlanta. But his offensive coordinator, Jeff Lebby, will be in the booth calling plays, and he and Kiffin are reportedly very much in sync. And the same goes for Corral.

Ole Miss-Louisville: Talking about the Rebels

The Rebels ought to be able to put points on the board this season. Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner are a pretty sharp running back combo. Somebody will step up to fill the vacuum left by Jets second-round draft pick Elijah Moore. Maybe it’s Braylon Sanders, who averaged 25 yards per catch last year. There is a solid offensive line that is mostly a veteran group.

Defensively, it’s a wait-and-see proposition. Yes, Ole Miss brought back those eight starters. But they were eight starters who were a party to giving up 38 points per game in 2020. Some transfers may help, but we wonder if there is sufficient talent to shave too many points off last year’s average.

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Ole Miss-Louisville: Talking about the Cardinals

QB Malik Cunningham threw 20 touchdown passes last season, but he is not necessarily the most polished passer. Where he adds value is what he can do on the ground. Cunningham ran for 828 gross yards (minus sack yardage), so if he encounters an Ole Miss defense that is just finding its way around he’s going to be a lot of trouble.

The Cardinals lost some experience at the wide receiver position. An interesting addition there is Shai Werts, who played four years as an option quarterback at Georgia Southern but found a position change as he seeks viability as a future NFL’er. Jalen Mitchell has promise in the backfield; he averaged 6.7 yards per carry in 2020.

Defensively, the Cards gave up 26.6 ppg last year and allowed less than 54% completions. But they lost some experience in the secondary, and there will be a lot of pressure on the likes of Kendrick Duncan and Quinnterrio Cole – newcomers at the safety spot.

Ole Miss-Louisville: The conclusion

The absence of Kiffin may well have an effect on Ole Miss. But Lebby knows his play calls. Seriously, we realize that Louisville’s secondary was good last year, but he Rebels moved the football a long way against top opposition from the SEC, including Florida and ‘Bama, both of whom surrendered more than 600 to them. The Cardinals aren’t stopping them. But are THEY stopping the Cardinals? Louisville isn’t an offensive juggernaut by any means, but we’ll believe the rumor about defense in Oxford when we see it.

let’s pull the trigger and play this  OVER 75.5

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Dirty has been an employee or owner of some of the top online sports gambling forums since 1998. He worked at EOG.com from it's inception until 2008 when he left and opened GamblingIQ and then in 2012 opened Handicappers Hidaway. He has written hundreds af articles over the years and always has his "Dirty Dozen" College Football poll up starting the first week of October.
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