OXFORD – Yes, Ole Miss is ranked 10th in the AP poll, the first time the Rebels have been ranked that highly since 2015. And yes, the Rebels are riding a three-game win streak, the latest victory over LSU likely the team’s most complete all-around effort of the season.
But for Ole Miss (6-1 overall, 3-1 SEC) to be as good as it thinks it can be, head coach Lane Kiffin knows something has to be done about the penalties.
The Rebels are the most penalized team in college football, averaging 10.43 penalties per game. In a 31-17 win over LSU, Ole Miss was penalized eight times in the first half alone — a few which killed early offensive possessions — and 12 times overall.
As the team heads to Jordan-Hare Stadium to face No. 18 Auburn (5-2, 2-1) on Saturday, the Rebels know they can’t keep getting in their own way.
“We post the penalties every Monday morning in here, go over them, show them not just was it a 10-yard penalty, but it was a 33-yard penalty because of the run. … We have very critical penalties,” Kiffin said. “I told them today, guys, we don’t just lead the NCAA in penalties. We lead little league (and) junior high.”
»PARRISH ALFORD: Small body of work but Ole Miss defense is trending in a good way
Cleaning up penalties is going to be crucial to Ole Miss continuing its magical 2021 season, and it’s something senior linebacker Chance Campbell said the team is being conscious of.
“You can’t just focus on trying to clean up Saturday. It’s something that we have to do Sunday through Friday. I’m confident in our guys that we’re going to work on that, we’re going to clean that up,” Campbell said. “Because guys want to make the right steps, we want to do the right thing. It’s definitely things that we have to address to be the team that we want to be.”
»SEC WEEKLY AWARDS: Multiple Rebels recognized after LSU win
Kiffin believes the Rebels have the potential to be great, but it’s going to require a trio of things to fall into place. One of the most controllable things is penalties.
Otherwise, Ole Miss will be stuck at merely “good.”
“My message was … this is that good to great thing. What if you’re overcoming that because you’re’ good players? What if you didn’t do that? Then what would be the result? You’re making it very hard on yourselves,” Kiffin said. “To me, that’s a big step. Getting healthy, play consistency, limit penalties. And then you go from good to great.”