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Rebel RoundUp, Bloomin’ Bowl Edition: A Preview of Ole Miss vs. Indiana

Rebel RoundUp, Bloomin’ Bowl Edition: A Preview of Ole Miss vs. Indiana

TAMPA — The conclusion of the 2020-2021 Ole Miss football season takes place today as Ole Miss (4-5) faces No. 11 Indiana (6-1) in the Outback Bowl in Tampa. This will be the Rebels’ first bowl appearance since the 2016 Sugar Bowl, a 48-20 win over Oklahoma State.

Though it’s been a while since Ole Miss has gone bowling, the program has enjoyed a successful history in post-season action with 23 victories. This places the Rebels 16th nationally in bowl wins. Ole Miss owns a 63.9% bowl win percentage in its history, second in the NCAA behind USC.

Head coach Lane Kiffin and his team enter the contest looking to continue momentum for the 2021-2022 season. Kiffin and staff are fresh off a rise up the recruiting rankings to their current No. 18 spot. Ole Miss had rattled off three straight wins before a close loss to LSU in Baton Rouge on December 19. The opportunity for the Rebels to take down a top-ranked program in the final contest would certainly generate some buzz for the #ComeToTheSip culture.

The Hoosiers, on the other hand, are going to enter the bowl game with a vengeance. Head coach Tom Allen’s squad just missed out on a New Year’s Six Bowl — and many felt they should have been included — but, nonetheless, Indiana is looking for a win to prove it belongs among the nation’s best. Ole Miss fans will recall that Coach Allen spent time in Oxford as a defensive assistant for the Rebels from 2012-2014, coaching both the linebackers and special teams.

Saturday’s matchup features a pair of polar opposites statistically as we know Kiffin’s high octane offense has scorched opposing defenses for an average of 562.4 yards per game. The engine behind this offense is redshirt sophomore quarterback Matt Corral who leads the nation in total yards per game and is ranked in the top ten in passing yards, touchdowns, passing efficiency and yards per completion.

On the other side, the Hoosiers’ greatest strength may be on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Kane Wommack’s defense has given up an average of just 19.4 points per game on the season and led the Big Ten conference in turnovers forced and sacks. As you can see, the matchup to watch is going to be how the Rebels go about dissecting the Hoosier defense.

Outback Bowl: Game Details

  • Matchup: Ole Miss vs Indiana
  • Kickoff: 11:30 PM CT / 12:30 ET
  • Location: Β Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, FL
  • TV:Β ABC
  • Weather: Upper 80s
  • Line:
    • O/U: 66.5
    • Indiana: -8.5

Series History and Side Notes

History is being made today as this will be the first time the two schools have ever faced each other on the gridiron. As mentioned earlier, Coach Allen served previously as an assistant for the Rebels. Additionally, Coach Wommack served as a graduate assistant at Ole Miss while his father Dave Wommack was the team’s defensive coordinator from 2012-2013. Indiana also has former Ole Miss star receiver and wide receivers coach Grant Heard on staff, as well as former Ole Miss safeties coach, Jason Jones. The Hoosiers have been in Tampa for a few days while Ole Miss recently arrived there and held a practice. This will be the third time the Rebels have faced a Big Ten opponent in a bowl game and the first since 2002.

Indiana Preview

Indiana enters the game ranked in the Top 10 in both the AP (7th) and Coaches (8th) polls, in addition to their No. 11 ranking in the college football playoff. In their last game, the Hoosiers picked up a gritty win over Wisconsin, 14-7. Their only loss has come at the hands of Ohio State on November 21st, 42-35. Ohio State will now face Alabama for the national championship after dismantling Clemson in the semifinals Friday night.Β The Indiana offense has found success under new coordinator Nick Sheridan who has the Hoosiers scoring an average of 30.1 points per game.

Indiana Offense

Quarterback

When budding star Michael Penix Jr. went down with a torn ACL during the Maryland game, Tom Allen turned to Jack Tuttle to take over the quarterbacking duties. Tuttle promptly went 5-for-5 in the final minutes in the win, and then led Indiana to a victory over Wisconsin — tossing two touchdowns in the process. Tuttle is an effective game manager and while he lacks a lot of playing experience, the Rebels shouldn’t undersell his ability as a passer.

Tuttle spent one season at Utah before transferring to Indiana. In high school, he was widely considered a four-star prospect who was top five nationally as a pro-style passer. He also earned a spot in the coveted Elite 11 finals competition for the top quarterbacks in the nation. Tuttle should be more acclimated to the starting role since having almost a month’s worth of first team reps in preparation.

Running Back

The Hoosiers have a bell cow at the running back position in Stevie Scott. The 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound back has started since his freshman season in 2018 and has one 1,000-yard season under his belt. He also has 10 rushing touchdowns in each of his first two seasons and still may reach that mark in a shortened season where he only has had 8 (counting today) opportunities. This season, Scott has notched 137 rushes for 462 yards.

Indiana runs out of a spread scheme so the thought is to get Scott the ball and head downhill quickly where he can be tough to bring down on initial contact. It often takes a couple players to stop him, so slowing him down should be a point of emphasis for the Rebel defense. Making sure Scott doesn’t have wide-open running lanes through the tackles could be important as he has a sneaky ability to explode for a big play. While not the most active out of the backfield, Scott has shown to be solid pass catcher and has improved on it this year.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Indiana has two main receiving threats in the passing game. The first is Ty Fryfogle who is a native of Lucedale MS, where he played at George County High School. The 6-foot-2-inch senior wide out has seven touchdowns on the season and can be a big play waiting to happen. He is a very physical reciever who can go up and grab the 50/50 ball and can also stretch the defense deep taking the top off. On the season he has 34 catches for 687 yards equaling an average yards per catch of 20.2

The other name to know is Whop Philyor. The 5-foot-11-inch senior runs out of the slot, and prior to the season was the leading returner from the slot in the Big Ten for receiving yards. On the season, Whop has 36 catches for 414 yards and three touchdowns. His ability to run routes out of the slot has been widely praised. Peyton Hendershoot is the main tight end on the roster. He is a big body at 6-foot-4-inches and weighs 250 lbs.

Indiana Defense

Defensive Line

The Hoosiers operate under a 4-2-5 so we should see a pair of interior lineman consistently on Saturday. A trio of seniors sets the tone for the Hoosiers on the defensive front. Michael Ziemba is the man on the edge and has started since 2019. Jerome Robinson is a redshirt senior on the interior who is accompanied by the sophomore Sio Nofoagatoto’a. Stanford grad transfer Jovan Swann is a good rotation piece. James Head Jr. and Demarcus Elliot round out the main pieces of the defensive line.

Linebacker

The unquestioned leader of the defense is Micah McFadden. In 2020 he has emerged on this defense as a force. His best trait may be his ability to close in on people. He excels in coverage, and if Corral were to try and turn up field McFadden won’t likely be too far away. On the year he has 53 total tackles (40 solo) with 5.0 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.

The other linebacker will be Cam Jones who has 30 tackles on the season. The hybrid position, or what Allen calls the “husky,” is a safety/linebacker mix that has good athleticism. Bryant Fitzgerald is the man for that role. Fitzgerald has appeared in 32 games since arriving at Indiana.

Defensive Back

The defensive backs are an experienced group that is composed of mostly upperclassmen. They have forced a lot of interceptions for a shortened season — currently, they’re ranked No. 2 in the nation with 17 INTS — and could make life tough on the Ole Miss receivers.

The corners are Tiawan Mullen, Jaylen Williams, and Reese Taylor. The trio has combined for eight interceptions on the season. Mullen is the most physical of the bunch, and it isn’t uncommon for him to rush opposing quarterbacks. Aside from three interceptions, he has also tallied 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Devon Matthews and Jamar Johnson are the two safeties for the Hoosier defense. Of the two, Johnson is the free safety and plays that centerfield role. He has amassed four interceptions on the season.

Indiana Special Teams

Kicking / Punting / Return Specialists

Charles Campbell took over as the main place kicker for the Hoosiers with a couple games left last season. This year, Campbell has found success as he has made all 23 of his point after attempts, while connecting on 8-of-9 field goals. Haydon Whitehead is the starting punter after getting a sixth season of eligibility.Β  He has an accurate leg. Jacolby Hewitt and Reese Taylor are the return men on kick offs while Taylor handles the punt returning duties.

Hotty Toddy! #BeatIndiana

About The Author

TJ Oxley

TJ Oxley is a current MBA student at Ole Miss after having earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Toledo. He currently covers college hoops and the NBA Draft for the Basketball Society as well as all things Ole Miss for The Rebel Walk.

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