The Case for the Lane Train and Ole Miss

The Ole Miss Rebels finished the 2021 season with an overall record of 10-3 and a 6-2 record in the SEC. The Rebels collected 10 wins in the regular season for the first time in the school’s history. Ole Miss finished second in the SEC West with an impressive resume including wins over LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas A&M. The strong regular season performance catapulted the Rebels to a berth in a New Year’s Day 6 bowl game facing off against Baylor in the Sugar Bowl. An injury to standout QB Matt Corral early in the game proved too much to overcome and the Baylor Bears defeated the Ole Miss Rebels 21-7 to close out the season for both teams.  

Star QB Matt Corral is now an NFL quarterback for the Carolina Panthers and Sam Williams, who set the single-season sack record for Ole Miss with 12.5 sacks, is with the Dallas Cowboys. Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby is now the OC at Oklahoma and defensive coordinator DJ Durkin is calling the defense for SEC rival Texas A&M. How will Kiffin, in his third year with the team navigate these changes and what can we expect from the Rebels in 2022? The Rebels replaced both their coordinators from the record breaking 2021 season with John David Baker and Charlie Weiss Jr as co-offensive coordinators and Maurice Crum and Chris Partridge as co-defensive coordinators.  

The Ole Miss Rebels will enter the season with a top 25 recruiting class as they look to replace key pieces from last season. Head coach Lane Kiffin has been highly active in attempting to bolster his roster utilizing the transfer portal to acquire double digit numbers of transfers. The quarterback situation remains unsettled even after spring ball as Luke Altmyer will battle USC transfer Jaxson Dart for the starting spot. Dart’s teammate from USC, tight end Michael Trigg is expected to make an immediate impact for the Rebels. Trigg caught seven passes for just over a hundred yards and one touchdown in six games for the Trojans before an injury ended his season. TCU running back transfer Zach Evans had just under 700 yards and five touchdowns for the Horned Frogs before an injury cut his season short. Evans is hoping to bounce back from his injury and be the featured back for the Rebels in the fall.  

Defensively the Rebels will look to Cedric Johnson to replace Sam Williams as the featured pass rusher in 2022. Johnson was second on the team in sacks with 6.5 in the 2021 campaign and will look to add to that total next season. Transfer Troy Brown will lead a linebacker corps that lost 5 linebackers from last season. Brown, the Central Michigan transfer was a three-time all MAC player who has over 200 career tackles will be a huge piece of the defensive puzzle as he will replace Chance Campbell the team’s leading tackler from a year ago.  

The Ole Miss schedule is favorable early with only the Kentucky Wildcats posing a serious threat. Beginning in late October the Rebels will enter a gauntlet as they have back-to-back road games at LSU and Texas A&M before a home game against Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. Lane Kiffin and company then go on the road to Arkansas before wrapping up the regular season at home against Mississippi State. The combined record from the 2021 season of the final five teams Ole Miss will face was 43-23 and Alabama made it to the college football playoffs. The 2022 season will certainly be a formidable test for Lane Kiffin in his third season with the team. Alabama is always going to be Alabama and Texas A&M appears to be loaded with its top ranked recruiting class for 2022.  

What should fans expect record wise from Ole Miss in 2022? To open the season, I expect the Rebels to go 4-0 against Troy, Central Arkansas, Georgia Tech, and Tulsa. The Kentucky game is going to be the first test of the 2022 season for the Rebels. Kentucky is coming off a 10-3 record including key wins against Florida, LSU, and a Citrus Bowl victory over Iowa. The home team wins this game moving Ole Miss to 5-0 on the season. Back-to-back wins against Vandy and Auburn give the Rebels a perfect 7-0 record heading into the brutal stretch of the season.  

Ole Miss defeats the Brian Kelly led LSU Tigers setting up a monster showdown in College Station against Texas A&M. The Aggies prove too much for the Rebels handing Ole Miss its first loss of the season in 2022. Unfortunately, things do not improve for the Rebels as they lose a home game to Alabama the following week. Ole Miss finds themselves sitting at 8-2 and staring at a road trip to Fayetteville to square off against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Ole Miss wins a close game to improve their overall record to 9-2 before closing out the regular season with a victory over Mississippi State to improve to 10-2 on the season. The 10 wins will tie the 2021 team for most regular season victories in a season but will not be enough to earn the Rebels a spot in the college football playoffs. A New Year’s 6 bowl game is in the cards for an Ole Miss team with 10 regular season victories in 2022. 

Lane Kiffin has demonstrated over the course of his career that he is a brilliant play caller and recruiter. The 2022 season looks daunting as the Rebels are replacing key members of their offense, defense, and coaching staff from a team that won 10 games last season and made it to a New Year’s 6 bowl game. The experience and creativity of Lane Kiffin will keep Ole Miss in the SEC championship conversation for most of the season, but the Rebels are still a year away from making a serious SEC championship run. As always, have your popcorn ready whenever Ole Miss is on the field.

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