At last, we come to the game I’ve been waiting for since 2008. My childhood memories of the Florida-Ole Miss game (losses in 2002, 2003 and 2008, as I did not watch the 2007 win) are all bad ones. Hopefully, those negative memories will be replaced with positive ones this weekend…
Now, onto the predictions.
1) Mississippi will score a touchdown in the first quarter. The Rebels aren’t scared by big crowds. They know that the best way to shut them up is to get out to an early lead, and they’ll do that against a Florida defense that’s been up and down so far this year.
2) Florida will also score a touchdown in the first quarter. It may take a drive or two, but I expect Will Grier to find a rhythm relatively quickly and get the Gators into the end zone. (Also: the longer it takes him to get hot, the more I’ll worry about whether he will at all or not.)
3) Chad Kelly will be sacked at least twice and will be responsible for at least one turnover. Already experiencing some early season troubles in pass protection because of a shaky offensive line that’s been missing Laremy Tunsil amid an NCAA investigation, the Rebels are now down two starters on the line, as veteran guard Justin Bell won’t play either. This could make for a miserable night for Kelly.
4) Florida will convert a 4th and 1. Just had to throw that in there.
5) Will Grier will throw at least one interception. Grier’s supremely talented, and he’s getting better and better, but he’s still young and mistakes do happen, particularly against an opportunistic Rebel defense. And, you know, his offensive line probably won’t give him a whole lot of time, either.
6) Mississippi will gain at least 350 yards of offense. Unless major improvements are made on the defensive side of the ball- mainly in the tackling area- this could easily be the Gators’ worst defensive performance of the season. The Rebels have a stout running back in Jaylen Walton, plus an array of receivers who can make guys miss when they catch the ball in space. Sure, the Gators may get to Kelly a couple of times, and may even force some turnovers when they do, but I’m worried about what happens when they don’t.
7) Florida will score a touchdown on defense or special teams. You can’t ever really predict these sorts of things, but a road game at night against a ranked team appears to be the best recipe for something like this as you can have.
8) Kelvin Taylor won’t rush for more than 50 yards. Mississippi figures to be 100% keyed in on Taylor in the running game after he gashed Tennessee for 102 yards on 19 carries. Mississippi also has a much better defense than Tennessee, and will put the pressure on Grier, daring him to beat them with his arm.
9) Jim McElwain will call a trick play at some point. There’s got to be something McElwain’s been saving up for a big game like this. We’ve already seen a double pass from him last week against Tennessee (which didn’t work) and something tells me his bag of tricks is much, much deeper than that.
10) Mississippi will win, but it’s OK. The Gators are already leagues better offensively than they ever were under Will Muschamp, and I trust that McElwain will keep them going in the right direction. But they’ll take a step backward against a tenacious Mississippi defense in a loss that won’t matter too much because it’s a cross-division game.
Projection: Mississippi 34, Florida 24