#25 ranked Ole Miss is a -8.5 favorite coming into the week 1 Louisville vs Mississippi matchup. That number is down from a -10 open, meaning bettors don’t fully trust a Rebels defense that was atrocious last season. Ole Miss gave up 535.7 yards/game in 2020, and will also be without coach Lane Kiffin in the opener after testing positive for COVID.
Louisville limped to a 4-7 record in 2020, but did show flashes such as in their 12-7 loss to Notre Dame in week 7 as +15 point underdogs. This will be a neutral site game, played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, which should only benefit the Cardinals. That being said, the state of Georgia is SEC country, and the crowd should be predominantly pro Ole Miss.
Louisville Offense Keeping Things Close?
A play on the Cardinals getting +8.5 points doesn’t look too bad considering Louisville was 4th in the ACC with 30 ppg last season and put up 444 yards/game. Malik Cunningham is back for his third year as a starter, but he’ll have to break in some new faces with Javian Hawkins (822 rush yards, 6.2 ypc) is off to the NFL as are 40+ reception receivers Dez Fitzpatrick and Tutu Atwell.
Cunningham is the player to watch for the Cardinals in the week 1 Louisville at Mississippi contest. He threw for 2600 yards and 20 TD in 2020 while also running for another 609 and 7 scores. The Achilles Heel for Cunningham is turnovers though, as he threw 12 picks and had another three fumbles lost.
The good news for the Louisville offense is that Ole Miss doesn’t offer a ton of resistance on defense. On the other hand, the Cardinals have a huge test against ALL-SEC QB Matt Corral and the Rebels offense. Louisville was a top 20 team in the country in passing yards allowed in 2020 though, and Kiffin not coaching is a big blow to the Rebels offense.
Corral a Heisman Contender?
Ole Miss had the #3 offense in the country last season, putting up 562.9 yards/game. That includes having the #6 passing attack as Matt Corral led the team to 344.8 yards through the air each week. Corral is back for his Junior season, playing in 20 games the last two seasons, throwing for 3337 yards with 29 TD and 14 INT.
Obviously the 14 INTs in 2020 was a bit much for Corral, and the team has gone 7-2 when he doesn’t throw a pick yet 0-5 when he does. The big difference between Ole Miss and Louisville, is that the Rebels bring a lot of their top skill position players back from a year ago. Jerrion Ealy rushed for 745 yards and 9 TD a year ago, while Jonathan Mingo and Dontario Drummond had a combined 9 TD catches.
These two teams get the national stage on Monday night, but perhaps Ole Miss would have rather avoided a power 5 team just to give them some more time to work out those defensive kinks. The Rebels also lost their best player on that side of the ball with Jacquez Jones transferring to Kentucky.
Week 1 Louisville vs Mississippi Pick
Ole Miss has a good chance of running away with this one if their defense can be somewhat even mediocre. Corral is going to try and get his Heisman campaign off to a great start, and will have multiple TD passes in this one.
Mississippi 34 – Louisville 20
Free Pick: Mississippi -8.5