In 18 days, Florida will kick off the 2020 season in Oxford, Mississippi, against Ole Miss in the first game of an all-SEC schedule. Because COVID-19 has put most teams strictly within their conferences for this year’s college football season, The Alligator will talk with journalists from SEC student newspapers to preview each game.
For our first “Know Your Enemy” installment, we sat down with the Daily Mississippian’s assistant sports editor, James Minzesheimer, to talk about the Rebels’ storylines and expectations.
Let’s talk Lane Kiffin. What was the general reaction around campus at that move, and what do you think he brings to the team as its new head coach?
From what I’ve seen, it’s been mainly a pretty positive perception — everyone kind of got on board with the idea of the “Lane Train.” (Former Rebels coach) Matt Luke was part of the Ole Miss staff under Hugh Freeze, so to finally kind of get rid of that last piece of that good-but-bad administration in some regards I think was — at least from my perspective — a good thing. And also, with the season we had last year, I think it was pretty clear we needed a coaching change.
There’s currently a quarterback battle between Matt Corral and John Rhys Plumlee, right? Are there any other names we should know about that might be in the mix?
We’ve got some younger guys. There’s a true freshman, Kade (Renfro). He’s pretty decent, but he’s obviously not in that starting position. There are some other younger guys, but I think it’s strictly between Corral and Plumlee, I would say.
Who do you think is going to end up on top?
Oh, that’s such a hard question right now. I think that out of the two of them, Plumlee is definitely the more electrifying quarterback. I mean, the kid can flat out run like he’s one of the fastest players on the team. Obviously, he had some pretty good performances on offense last year. The one that mainly comes to mind is the LSU game, where he rushed for over 200 yards and I think it was three or four touchdowns (212 yards, 4 TDs). I’d love to see him, but at the same time, I know that he struggles with passing the ball and Corral is a much better game manager, passer at this point. And from everything that has been kind of told to us from the scrimmages, (Corral) has kind of been leading the charge. For Week 1, I wouldn’t be surprised if Corral winded up getting the start. I don’t even think Kiffin can give you an answer at this point.
Who do you think could be an X factor for Ole Miss to help win the game?
It’s going to be the offensive side of the ball. They’re going to need to put up a lot of points to keep up with the strong Florida offense and our weak-ish defense, which is currently being crippled by COVID. For Week 1, I would be interested to see how they split up the running back areas, because we have a couple of guys who really need carries. Obviously, (Jarrion) Ealy is coming off of a Freshman All-American season, and Snoop (Connor) is also, you know, really good as well. In terms of the X factor, I would just say to see if our secondary is even healthy, because right now there are a lot of injuries with the cornerbacks and safeties. We already have kind of a weak secondary, and with Florida’s receiving corps, I’m definitely worried about us getting torched in that respect.
The last time Florida played Ole Miss, it was in the Swamp, where the No. 25 Gators upset the No. 3 Rebels. Would you consider that game a motivator, or is it too far in the past?
The student body has probably forgotten about it, and so has the team, for the most part. I don’t think there is anyone who is, obviously, still on the team, and the coaching staff has completely changed over since then — twice, technically. So I think it’s pretty much a clean slate. And I think it’s actually going to be interesting to see what happens before the game. It’s an ESPN game, which is, you know, obviously a big deal for both those programs, and I believe it was MoMo (Sango), one of our linebackers, who said that they’re thinking about reaching out to Florida to do something in solidarity before the game for the Black Lives Matter movement. It’ll be intense, but it will be a more fun, loving atmosphere than a bitter rivalry.
And finally, what is your prediction for how the game will play out on the 26th?
I think it’s gonna be a high-scoring game: I think it’s probably going to break the 40s, if not the 50s, at least for Florida. I’m pretty curious to see how this is going to work on the offensive side of the ball, because there is still a bit of shuffling going on there. I would say it’s going to be a bit of a shootout, and I think in the end Florida is probably going to win. Florida probably wins by a touchdown or two.
Contact River Wells at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @riverhwells.