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Last season was a record setting year for the Rebel’s offense as they scored at will. Unfortunately, the teams they played returned the favor as the Mississippi defense was horrendous. The Rebels scored 48 points on Alabama and LSU but lost both games. They scored 35 against Florida and still lost by 16 points. Most of the offensive personnel is back for an encore. Has Mississippi done enough to improve their defense?
Offense: QB Matt Corral is back after leading the nation in total offense racking up 385 yards per game. He also was ranked in the top 10 in passing yards per game, passing touchdowns, and efficiency. And that wasn’t achieved against some cream puff non-conference games. That was against nine SEC opponents and a 7-2 Indiana team in the Outback Bowl. Corral is expected to be the leader but will likely miss Elijah Moore who led the nation in receptions and receiving yards per game. Two starters return in Dontario Drummond and Jonathan Mingo. Braylon Sanders, who may be the best of the three, is also back but needs to stay healthy. Running back Jerrion Ealy is the leader of a talented group of backs. The offensive line returns four starters and should be as good as last season.
Defense: An overhaul of the defense is expected and sorely needed. Fourteen defensive players were among the 2021 recruiting class and several new transfers have been added. Upfront, JUCO transfer Isaiah Iton and Jamond Gordon will join highly regarded freshman Tywone Malone to add depth and talent to the defensive line. There is experience at linebacker with Lakia Henry and leading tackler Jacquez Jones returning. There is talent at the safety position Georgia transfer Otis Reese and Navy transfer Jacob Springer joining up with returnee A.J. Finley.
9/6 Louisville at Atlanta
9/11 Austin Peay
This is an interesting schedule that could very possibly lead to a 4-0 record. The opener against Louisville in Atlanta could go either way and Tulane won’t be easy. Liberty was very good last season but an SEC school should beat them.
10/2 at Alabama
10/16 at Tennessee
10/30 at Auburn
11/13 Texas A&M
11/27 at Mississippi State
The conference schedule isn’t easy but if you are in the West division you are automatically going to have a difficult time of it. There are 4 games that might be the key to a good season or a so-so season. Home games against Arkansas and Vanderbilt and road games at Tennessee and Mississippi State are critical to the Ole Miss cause. If they win those four games, which are definitely winnable they will be bowl eligible more than likely. The other two games in Oxford against LSU and Texas A&M are not out of the question either. The other two road games will be at Alabama and at Auburn and those are likely losses.
Summary: It doesn’t take a genius to analyze Mississippi’s chances in 2021. If the defense improves, the Rebels have a chance to win 7-9 games one would think. The offense was very good in 2020 and has a lot of tools to work with. They dodged Georgia, Florida, and Missouri from the East division. This could be a sleeper team. But, I’m not entirely sold on Lane Kiffin’s coaching, and I haven’t seen evidence yet that the defense is going to improve enough to move up the ladder.
Predicted Finish: 5th Place in the West Division
Overall Record: 7-5
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