This Saturday evening, it will be the Kentucky Wildcats playing host to the Ole Miss Rebels in a game that has little if any bearing on the SEC race in either division. This game also has little if any bowl ramifications as neither team is expected to make a late run to get there; in fact the Rebels (2-6) would have to win out the rest of the way as one more loss mathematically eliminates them from a bowl. For the Cats (3-5), all they can afford is one more loss and with Georgia, Vandy and Tennessee still left to play, beating Ole Miss is critical to keeping their slim bowl hopes alive. For both teams the season has been disappointing, especially for Houston Nutt and the Rebels. While Ole Miss knew the challenges within the conference would be tough to overcome, they had hoped to at least do well in their non-conference slate. But an opening week, 4th qtr. breakdown led to a loss in Oxford against BYU and that would prove to be a crucial loss.
They did manage to go on the road and beat Fresno St. in what may have been their best offensive performance all year but that performance would not sustain itself the next few games. For the Cats the season started off shaky but at least on a winning note, 2-0. But since then, things have been down hill, starting with the offense but now the defense is beginning to show signs of coming apart. Last week against Mississippi St., the Cats were unable to stop the run and that bolds well for an Ole Miss team who relies on their ground attack because they lack any “punch” in the air. Like Kentucky, Ole Miss’s defense seems to be starting to show signs of a decline and for both teams, it starts with struggling offenses. Ole Miss changed QBs the week of the Fresno St. game and the offense has been much improved since.
Kentucky will make a change at QB this week as well as Maxwell Smith has been inserted as the starter for Saturday. Smith looked rather comfortable last week in place of the injured Morgan Newton and he at least gave UK hope in a losing effort against Mississippi State. The “line” in Vegas pretty much has this game “even” with maybe UK a 1 point favorite. There is a lot of speculation that Houston Nutt will be fired at the end of the season and that has not helped ease things in Oxford.
Joker Phillips seems to have the support of Mitch Barnhart, at least for one more season. I say the Cats have a little more stability and with a new starting QB, maybe a little more spark. Give me the Cats to get to win #4 on the season in hard fought contest, UK 24 – Ole Miss 20.