Somehow it always seems to come back to Ole Miss and the NCAA.
While in-SEC transfers Cade Mays and Joey Gatewood – players who have already received NCAA transfer waivers – celebrated the news Wednesday that the SEC was passing out waivers to its bylaw against in-conference moves Otis Reese remains ineligible.
Reese transferred from Georgia to Ole Miss in January, and the waiver wheels were put in motion then.
He still has no answer from the NCAA.
So while Ole Miss may play against Gatewood Saturday at Kentucky, Kentucky will not play against Reese unless Reese gets a waiver from the NCAA in the next two days.
It could happen.
The NCAA ruled on a waiver request – an appeal actually – for Jeremiah Masoli in 2010, and Masoli played in the season opener the next day. He played well, but he didn’t play defense, and Ole Miss lost to Jacksonville State 49-48 in two overtimes.
A dual threat quarterback, Gatewood was ranked the No. 49 player in the 2018 class by 247Sports.
It’s unlikely that Gatewood will come in and dominate the game at the Cats’ Kroger Field.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin have faced similar situations since Aug. 17 in how they’ve repped these talented transfers in practice while trying to prepare other players.
Could Gatewood impact the game? Yes. If he does big things in a handful of plays he’s impacted the game.
Same with Reese. Anybody who saw Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts pick a part the Rebels last week would say that Reese’s ability could give him a chance to make a big play or two in limited action.
Kiffin will take anyone he can get right now to help a beleaguered secondary.
The most help for that group will have to come through recruiting – and Ole Miss picked up a key commitment Wednesday night in four-star safety Tysheem Johnson – but it could get some help if the Ole Miss front seven can get in the backfield more against the Cats.
Against Florida, pass rush was just as absent as pass coverage, and that was a big part of the problem.
The Rebels will face a very different offense this week.
Whether its starting quarterback Terry Wilson or Gatewood Kentucky will not have a unit that will seek to sit in the pocket and make reads in the passing game.
The Cats will seek to run downhill behind an offensive line that features three seniors, a junior and a sophomore.
In a physical game at Auburn the Cats gave up only 91 rushing yards and ran for 145.
The difference in the game was turnovers, two by Wilson who threw an interception and fumbled.
The fumble came minutes into the fourth quarter in a 15-13 game and gave Auburn the ball at the Kentucky 23. Five plays later it was a 22-13 game.
Sack opportunities will be fewer for the Ole Miss front seven, but the group can make some plays behind the line and be generally disruptive.
It will have to do that to get Kentucky off its pace.
There were very few positives for the Ole Miss defense against Florida, none if you listen to Lane Kiffin. I would mostly agree, though I did think that Ole Miss held its own in the early part of the game on those few times that Florida tried to run right at them.
Maybe I imagined that.
The Gators broke a long run in the first half and ran the ball better later in the game.
Ole Miss looked so bad on defense most of the time it was hard to pick out any area in which the Rebels might excel.
It was really hard watching this group try to stop anybody’s run game for the last year of Dave Wommack as defensive coordinator and the two years of the Wesley McGriff Era.
Mike MacIntyre made his way onto the Broyles Award list last year, getting notice as one of the top assistants in the country for the gains he helped the Rebels make in run defense.
It would be a shame to see Ole Miss take a backward step, but standing pat – much less showing improvement – will be a big challenge without the two big tackles – Benito Jones and Josiah Coatney – who got a lot done last year.
Kentucky will test Ole Miss against the run.
At the end of the day Kentucky isn’t Florida. It isn’t Alabama or Georgia.
It’s a solid middling SEC team, one with stability as Mark Stoops begins his eighth season.
Middling right now is a level to which Ole Miss aspires, and this is a big game in the Rebels’ efforts to get there.
If the opener showed us anything it’s that Ole Miss will have to score a lot of points to win.
If the offense that showed up against Florida shows up in Lexington the Rebels should be able to make plays against the Kentucky secondary.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix was efficient with a 59 percent success rate, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Auburn was able to isolate its best receiver, and Seth Williams had a big day with six catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Kiffin has indicated that the Rebels may spread the ball more in the passing game this week. We’ll see. If they can get Elijah Moore open the way that Auburn got Seth Williams open it could be another huge day for Moore, who had 10 catches for 227 yards last week.
It’s been almost a year since Ole Miss last won an SEC game when it defeated Vanderbilt 31-6 in Oxford.
The streak is six losses if you’re scoring at home.
The Rebels won’t be favored at home next week against Alabama.
The last time Ole Miss visited Lexington the Rebels won when Jordan Ta’amu capped a last-seconds drive with a touchdown to DK Metcalf on a fade.
Can Lexington Lightning strike again?
Prediction: Ole Miss 37, Kentucky 34