Four Keys to an Ole Miss Win over Kentucky
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss and Kentucky kick off at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, and here are our four keys to a Rebel victory.
1. Run Wild
It is well documented the Ole Miss rushing attack is one of the best in the country. Both Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans have been phenomenal this season, with Evans averaging 6.2 yards per carry and Judkins 6.1. Jaxson Dart has also emerged as a threat on the ground, rushing for 201 yards on 29 carries, a 6.9 yards-per-carry average.
Successfully running the ball will force Kentucky to put more players in the box and open up some one-on-one opportunities for Jonathan Mingo and Malik Heath on the outside in the passing game.
2. Tame Chris Rodriguez
Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. will make his season debut Saturday against the Rebels. Rodriguez Jr. is the SEC’s lead returning rusher and averaged over six yards over a carry last season. In four seasons at Kentucky, he has run for 2739 yards and 27 touchdowns, averaging 6.6 yards a carry.
After giving up 262 rushing yards to Tulsa last week, Ole Miss will need to get multiple defenders to wrap up Rodriguez Jr. to keep the Wildcats from taking control of the time of possession battle.
3. Pass Rush
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis has dropped back 140 times this season, and he has been under pressure on 40.7% of those (57 of 140). He has only completed 45.7% of his passes in such instances.
Conversely, Ole Miss has pressured quarterbacks on 65 of 173 drop-backs this season (37.5%).
When Levis is not under pressure, his completion percentage goes up to 76.8 percent.
Given Levis’ lowered completion percentage when pressured, if the Rebels can hurry him, it will give the Ole Miss defense a chance to knock off Levis’ timing with his receivers and force a turnover. Kentucky has allowed its opponents to sack Levis 16 times this season.
4. Protect Dart
The Ole Miss offensive line, on 114 drop-backs, has allowed pressure 38 times (33.3%). They have only given up two sacks this season.
Jaxson Dart has been solid when pressured. He is completing 57.7% of passes when under pressure, compared to 64.3% when he is not.
The offensive line has been a bit inconsistent at times this season, performing well against Georgia Tech in week three and having a little more trouble against Tulsa. This weekend, the Rebels will be facing the most talented team they have thus far in 2022, and keeping Dart clean will be a huge key to beating Kentucky
Nick Filipich was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. He is an Ole Miss senior majoring in Sports and Recreation Administration. A sports junkie with a great passion for all things Ole Miss, Nick played baseball and football in high school — which is where he discovered his love for sports. He is an avid Braves and Saints fan, and in his free time enjoys spending time with family, friends and his black lab, Dixie.