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OXFORD, Miss. — Don’t look now, but Ole Miss Football COULD have a Heisman Trophy contender on its hands. Sophomore quarterback Matt Corral has been balling out so far in the early goings of 2020, and people are starting to notice.
The Ventura, California native entered the season looking to bounce back after a 2019 season that saw him suffer a rib injury in the fourth game of the season against Cal. True freshman John Rhys Plumlee, who took over and ran all over opposing defenses — including notching 212 against the national champion LSU Tigers — never relinquished the starting job after that.
By the end of the season, the situation looked a little bleak for Corral. But he kept working hard and was ultimately rewarded for his perseverance when Lane Kiffin was named the Rebels’ head coach and everything changed, as he brought his high-flying, high-scoring offense to Oxford.
All off-season, people speculated as to who the starting Quarterback would be against Florida. With no spring camp due to COVID and no media allowed at fall camp (also due to COVID), fans had to wait through the first drive of the game before finding out Kiffin went with Corral as “the guy.”
Three games into the season, and few fans will object to Kiffin’s choice.
Let’s now direct our attention to a week-by-week look at why Corral is among the nation’s best signal-callers:
Ole Miss hosted No. 5 Florida, a team many thought was good enough to be in the College Football Playoff come December.
Corral didn’t seem to mind that as he went off against the Gators for a staggering 445 total yards of offense with three touchdown passes and only one pick that, honestly, I’m not counting because it got tipped right into the hands of Florida’s Gervon Dexter’s hands.
Let me take this time to reiterate this was the 5th (FIFTH) ranked team in the nation, yet Corral had his way with them anyway.
In Week Two, Ole Miss headed to Lexington to play Kentucky, and Corral backed up his strong opener with an even better game. The sophomore gunslinger went 24-29 with 371 total yards and four touchdowns with no turnovers en route to leading the Rebels to an overtime win.
For those of you counting at home, Corral threw one more incompletion than he did touchdowns which I confirmed with our statistician IS PRETTY GOOD.
Week Three proved potentially more of a challenge as No. 2 Alabama came to town and many, including yours truly, didn’t give Ole Miss much of a chance. Fortunately, Corral didn’t care about that as he lit up the Tide for 405 total yards of offense, adding two touchdowns and, yet again, no turnovers. Corral, plus a dominant rushing attack of Snoop Conner and Jerrion Ealy, gave Ole Miss a chance and Alabama needed 57 minutes to put Ole Miss away.
On the year, Corral is 67-of-88 for 1,080 yards with nine touchdowns and only 1 pick* to go along with 141 rushing yards as well. Corral’s Total QBR currently sits at 95.6. (For a breakdown of just how good this QBR is and why it matters, check out this Rebel Walk article.)
(*This interception should not count, but they are telling me deflected passes that are intercepted unfortunately do count.)
Let’s dive deeper into these numbers.
Corral’s offense is averaging 407 yards per game, first in the nation. He is completing 76.1% of his passes, which is 3rd in the nation. His nine touchdowns have him tied for 8th in the nation, and his 95.6 QBR is the best in the country, ahead of guys like Alabama’s Mac Jones, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, and Florida’s Kyle Trask.
Yet again, I have confirmed that this is REALLY GOOD!
Keep in mind….Corral isn’t lighting it up against South Alabama or UTEP; he is putting these numbers up against stout SEC teams, two of which were Top 5 teams in the nation when they played Ole Miss. The Rebels’ QB has gone toe-to-toe with some of the best teams in the country and balled out–and even made all-star coaches like Nick Saban and Dan Mullen sweat a little more than they expected.
In fact, our resident QB guru David Walker (former A&M four-year starting QB and author of our “QB Film Room”) has uncovered another little jewel. Since becoming a member of the Southern Conference in 1922 and converting to the SEC in 1933, this 2020 Ole Miss Rebels offense has scored more points in its first three conference games (125) than any Ole Miss team in history — a touchdown more than the previous record-holders tallied in 2016.
So why shouldn’t Corral be a Hesiman contender?
Let’s look and see how he has matched up against former Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks via a beautiful chart brought to you by Nick Suss of the Clarion Ledger who made my job a lot easier
If you want context on how good Matt Corral has been through the first three games, here's how his first three games stack up against how the last five Heisman Trophy winning QBs have started their seasons. pic.twitter.com/gJvjkMfr8o
— Nick Suss (@nicksuss) October 12, 2020
As you can see, Corral is hanging tight with the likes of Joe Burrow, Marcus Mariota and Lamar Jackson. Corral is putting up the numbers to gain Heisman consideration, and he’s doing it against arguably better competition than some of the big hitters on that list.
Yet why is he not on any of the Heisman watchlists? Here’s the unfortunate truth about the Hesiman Trophy: it’s sort of a team award in that your team must win. Players like Patrick Mahomes and Garnder Minshew lit up the stat sheet every year but never really garnered much Hesiman hype because their teams struggled.
For Corral to gain some serious consideration, he needs a signature win–a victory that sets him apart. Burrow had the Bama game, Mayfield beat Ohio State, and Tim Tebow crushed LSU.
Corral needs his signature win, and he will have a some chances throughout the rest of season with games like Auburn, A&M and LSU where he can set himself apart and prove he deserves the attention and consideration for the Heisman.
Things aren’t going to get any easier with Ole Miss’s all-SEC schedule, but that may work to Corral’s advantage. If he keeps putting up these numbers in the best conference in Amercia, he should be and will be considered for the Heisman Trophy.
Land Teller is sophomore Business major at Ole Miss. The Nashville, Tennessee native is a movie fanatic who is also a rabid Ole Miss, Saints, Titans and Predators fan.