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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Saturday's game between No. 3 UF and Ole Miss will be a chance for the Gators to avenge the Rebels' recent dominance over them.

Yes, you read that right.

It may sound crazy, but UF (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) has lost to Mississippi the last two times the schools have met, and the Rebels lead the all-time series 11-9-1.

Ole Miss defeated the Gators by three points in 2002 and 2003, and both times the Gators were the only ranked team.

BIt?s definitely not good,C said UF defensive lineman Clint McMillan, who was on the team in 2003. BMississippi always has great football players, and that year they had (current NFL quarterback) Eli Manning, enough said. We?ve had a lot of trouble in Mississippi, so the team is looking to get over that this year.C

Saturday?s game may seem like a sure thing - the Gators boast one of the nation?s best offenses while Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC) ranks No. 104 in total defense - but that?s just what fans thought in 2002 before No. 6 UF fell to the unranked Rebels 17-14 in Oxford.

BIt?s definitely not (an easy game),C McMillan said. BThey?re in the SEC. That?s all you need to say. Any team in the SEC can win, so there?s no such thing as making them seem like a good team - they are a good team.C

Mississippi may be a good team, but they haven?t played like it so far. After a two-point win against Memphis to start the season, they lost games to Missouri and Vanderbilt, allowing more than 30 points in each loss.

Rebels starting quarterback Seth Adams may miss the game with a shoulder injury, in which case former Tennessee signal caller Brent Schaeffer would take the snaps.

Meanwhile, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will present a challenge to the UF defense. The senior is averaging more than 123 yards per game.

The Gators will also have to overcome injuries. Wide receiver Andre Caldwell (knee) is out, and receiver Riley Cooper and offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey are both battling ankle injuries.

Caldwell has experienced losing to Ole Miss. He returned kickoffs in the 2003 loss in The Swamp.

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BIt sucks. That?s one of those games that you don?t expect to be much of a competition, and you don?t expect to lose,C he said.

While Caldwell won?t be on the field this weekend, he will be able to share the valuable lesson he learned with his teammates.

BI just tell them to go out and stay focused on the task at hand, and that?s winning the football game,C he said. BIt?s not going to be like The Swamp. There aren?t 95,000 people out there screaming. The environment won?t be like it is here.C

The Mississippi environment hasn?t been too kind to the Gators. Including losses at Mississippi State, UF has lost its last three trips to the state.

BIt?s like, 'What was happening during those times? Why were they losing to Ole Miss??C Caldwell said. BFlorida is supposed to have better athletes and better players and coaches to beat teams like that, but that?s just the SEC for you. There?s competition all around the board, and they can sneak up on you any day.C

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