Entering Week 5 we are down to just five teams in the SEC who are still undefeated, and two of those teams will go head-to-head on Saturday when No. 7 Kentucky travels to face No. 14 Ole Miss. The Rebels are favorites in this game after Lane Kiffin’s squad moved to 4-0 with a 35-27 win over Tulsa last week. Ole Miss has been dominant on the ground, rushing for more than 1,100 yards through three games behind a scary three-headed running back attack of Quinshon Judkins, Zach Evans and Ulysses Bentley IV.
Kentucky is off to a strong start, too. The Wildcats beat Florida 26-16 on the road in Week 2 and has shot up the rankings. Quarterback Will Levis has been highly efficient, completing 67.5% of his passes for 1,185 yards and 10 touchdowns in four games. The defense has not taken any steps back early, either.
Ole Miss has won its last two games against Kentucky — the only two matchups of the past decade thanks to the SEC’s divisional scheduling model. However, the wins in 2020 and 2017 came by a combined four points. Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns against the Rebels in the most recent matchup. Ole Miss holds a 28-14-1 all-time advantage.
Kentucky vs. Ole Miss: Need to know
Rodriguez’s return: The Wildcats rank No. 121 nationally in rushing success rate, but those numbers will flip quickly this week. Rodriguez, perhaps the top returning running back in the SEC, returns this week. While Kavosiey Smoke has played well, Rodriguez posted 1,379 yards rushing and nine touchdowns in 2021 to lead Kentucky to a 10-win season. Mixing Rodriguez with the cast of offensive characters that have starred through the first four games should give Kentucky another gear.
Strength on strength: Kentucky coach Mark Stoops came to Kentucky as a defensive mind, and the Wildcats have been lethal against the run. UK is allowing just 3.7 yards per carry and held Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson to just four yards rushing. However, the Rebels are the best rushing team in the SEC by a nearly 40-yard margin. Either Evans or Judkins has rushed for 100 yards in every game this season. Something has to give.
Quarterback battle: Two of the most talked-about quarterbacks of the offseason are set to face off as projected first-round NFL Draft pick Will Levis plays opposite blue-chip USC transfer Jaxson Dart. The Kentucky passing game has been as productive as it has been in a while behind more than 10 yards per pass attempt from Levis. His one issue has been interceptions, with four through four games. Dart has been efficient, but slightly shakier. He is completing 62.2% of his passes, but has rushed for more than 200 yards. The better performance on Saturday likely wins the game.
How to watch Kentucky vs. Ole Miss live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 1 | Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium — Oxford, Mississippi
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Kentucky vs. Ole Miss prediction, picks
The Rebels are heavy favorites heading into the matchup despite a lower ranking. However, don’t count out the Wildcats. Kentucky boasts a major defensive advantage, along with more experience at the quarterback position. Ole Miss’ offensive reputation under Kiffin is well-established, but Dart has not been tested against a quality defense. That’ll change this week. Prediction: Kentucky +7
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