Kentucky had a fast start to the season under first-year head coach Joker Phillips, a former UK assistant who took over for the retired Rich Brooks after the 2009 season. The Wildcats won 23-16 at Louisville, and followed that up with lopsided home wins against Western Kentucky (63-28) and Akron (47-10).
Florida's new version of Tim Tebow, all-everything freshman Trey Burton, scored six touchdowns in the game last week.
Ole Miss (2-2, 0-1 SEC) and Kentucky (3-1, 0-1) are both averaging right at 36 points a game. Ole Miss is allowing a touchdown more than UK, however, surrendering 32 points per outing to the Wildcats' 25.
But none of that matters with the 11:21 a.m. CT game Saturday. The Rebels need a victory to move into an open date week before heading to difficult contests at Alabama and Arkansas on consecutive weekends.
Kentucky, meanwhile, hopes to take a road victory back to Lexington where it will play three straight at home against Auburn, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Phillips says his team must keep the ball and run the clock if it is to win in Oxford.
"When it gets down to it and you're on the road, the team that runs the ball the best is usually the team that wins," he said. "Do we have to throw the ball? There is no question about that, but we've got to start with our running game, which then gives us a chance to throw the ball down the field. We can't just drop back and throw the ball down the field. It becomes really hard if you're a straight drop-back passing team. We've got to do some play-action, and to do some play-action you've got to start with the run."
Ole Miss offense in brief: There's no doubt the Rebels found themselves on offense in the Fresno State game, especially the offensive front. The running game Phillips talked about above? The Rebels had plenty of it last weekend, led by Brandon Bolden's 228 yards and two touchdowns on 19 touches. The rushing total for the Rebels was 425 yards, and that included freshman Jeff Scott's 74 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Those totals allowed for little passing as Jeremiah Masoli threw only 12 times, completing eight for 153 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. As good as the Rebels were against the Bulldogs, they'll have to play equally as well against the Wildcats. An SEC defense Fresno State was not.
Ole Miss defense in brief: The Rebels continue to get knocked down with injuries and suspensions, the latest being the season-ending knee tear for senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett during last week's game and the indefinite benching of freshman linebacker Clarence Jackson this week. The Rebel defenders must press on. Senior cornerback Jeremy McGee may be back following his injury situation, and that would help. Kentucky has a versatile offense with some playmakers, and the Rebels will have to continue to improve their pass rush to in turn improve their defensive backfield play. The Rebs are allowing 232 yards through the air and opponents have eight passing touchdowns. Ole Miss has no interceptions through four games.
Ole Miss wins if...the Rebels can slow down the UK offensive attack. Ole Miss should be able to score some points, as evidenced by the improved play of Masoli as well as the offensive line and running attack. But it is the playmakers Kentucky has that should pose a problem for Ole Miss.
Derrick Locke has been UK's big ground gainer with 475 yards and five touchdowns on 84 carries thus far. Quarterback Mike Hartline has already thrown for nearly 1,000 yards, including six touchdowns and only two picks. Ole Miss will also have to be aware of senior wide receiver Chris Matthews, who caught six passes for 114 yards, two of them for the only UK scores, against the Gators. For the Rebels to get their first league win, they have to play their best defensive game of the campaign so far. A tall order, all things considered.
Kentucky wins if...they can exploit a Rebel defense that is hurting from injury and suspension and has been inconsistent most of the year. Once again it comes back to pass rush for Ole Miss in that department. If the UK offensive line can give Hartline some time (and every quarterback this season has had some time against the UM defenders), then it could be a productive day for the Wildcats when they've got the football. With the Ole Miss offense stepping it up, and the way Florida racked up yards and points on the Cats, this one may turn out to be a scoring fest.
Kentucky offensive player to watch: Randall Cobb, the versatile weapon that was quiet against Florida but has the potential to be a game-breaker. He caught seven passes for 67 yards last weekend but never found the end zone. An All-SEC first-teamer last season, Cobb lines up at wide receiver, quarterback (in the WildCobb as some call it), and as a kick and punt returner. If you are Ole Miss, watch out for this guy on Saturday. He can cause some trouble for Rebel defenders.
Kentucky defensive player to watch: Linebacker Danny Trevathan was the team's leading returning tackler and has picked up right where he left off in 2009. The junior with 30 games under his belt leads the UK defenders with 27 total tackles this season, including six for losses. The Rebels will be aware of Trevathan and rightfully so. He's a handful.
Noteworthy: Ole Miss leads the series by a two to one margin – make that 26 wins for the Rebs and 13 wins for the Cats through the years. There has been one tie along the way...Kentucky has not won in Oxford since 1978, the Rebels' first season under head coach Steve Sloan...Saturday's game has been designated a "Red" game for Ole Miss. All fans of the Rebels are encouraged to wear red.