Indiana is mad. The Hoosiers are frustrated, they’re annoyed and aggrieved.
And now they get to take it all out on Lane Kiffin.
After last month’s series of events, Indiana had a few weeks to stew. In Saturday’s Outback Bowl against Ole Miss, the Hoosiers will get their long-awaited chance to send a message to the College Football Playoff selection committee, to the Big Ten and to the college football world at large.
Surely, they will. Because nothing dumb has happened to IU when it has played a bowl game in Florida on Jan. 2. Regardless, it’ll be nice to watch Indiana’s fun and lovable and entertaining football team play one more game in this season for the ages.
And make no mistake: this team is eager to prove a point.
Things to watch
Which Corral does IU see?
When he’s on, he’s on. When he’s off? Buddy. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral’s season has been one of extremes. He ranks first among Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks in total offense per game (384.9), fifth in passing yards per game (332.8), sixth in passing touchdowns (27), eighth in passing yards per completion (14.9) and eighth in passing efficiency (182.2). Notably, he needs only five more yards to become the fifth Rebel ever to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season. He’s also had five games this season without throwing a single interception. That’s good! Right?
On the other hand, he’s thrown 14 picks this year — 13 of them came across three (3!) games. So just as he’s been really, really good at times, Corral has been equally as bad at other times — and that could be a problem going against an opportune, takeaway-hungry IU defense. He’s coming off one of his worst games of the season after throwing five picks in the Rebels’ 53-48 loss at LSU. The Tigers scored off each of Corral’s five errors, squeaking past Ole Miss in what was an e x t r e m e l y winnable game for the Rebels.
But if the good version of Corral is on the field — and if he has help around him — look out. He not only has a great arm, he’s demonstrated he can be a dynamic playmaker with his feet. Corral ran for a career-high 158 yards and one touchdown in the LSU game, scoring on this absolute beauty:
LANE SIGNALED TOUCHDOWN BEFORE THE BALL WAS EVEN SNAPPED. pic.twitter.com/Kk5e40NMju— Grayson Weir (@GsonJW) December 19, 2020
So, yeah. Corral can be really, really good and really, really dangerous ...
... But he might not have much help
Ole Miss’ top skill players, receiver Elijah Moore and tight end Kenny Yeboah, are already done. Moore and Yeboah left the team weeks ago to begin preparing for the NFL Draft, creating two gigantic holes in the Rebels’ offense. Moore made himself into one of the best receivers in the country this season, pacing the nation in both receiving yards (149.1) and receptions (10.8) per game. His 1,193 receiving yards this fall rank third in the program’s record book. Yeboah was also a tough matchup, hauling in 27 balls for 524 yards and six scores. There’s no replacing that kind of skill and production, and making matters worse, Ole Miss’ depth is quickly thinning. Running back Jerrion Ealy and receiver Braylon Sanders both got hurt in the LSU game and appear to be questionable to play in the Outback Bowl. The Clarion Ledger reported earlier this week that Ealy, a third-team Pro Football Focus All-American, hasn’t practiced since coming down with his injury. Sanders did a decent Elijah Moore impression in Baton Rouge, catching four passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns, but without him, it’s worth questioning what this Ole Miss offense will be able to do.
The Hoosiers, meanwhile, haven’t seen any of their players opt out. Indiana will be playing in its first game since dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak early last month, but IU coach Tom Allen said Thursday that each of the Indiana players who were quarantined due to virus concerns are back to practicing. There are no guarantees, of course, but Indiana appears to be trending in a much different direction than its opponent.
Good God. That defense.
Ole Miss has been going for the full 2013 Indiana Football experience this season. Then again, that may not be fair to those Hoosiers. The Rebels are t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e at stopping other teams from scoring. I mean, they just don’t really do that. It’s not something they believe in. They are firmly opposed to resisting.
More than 16% of the plays run against Ole Miss’s defense have been of the explosive variety. That’s ... very bad. The Rebels rank dead last among FBS teams in total defense, allowing 535.7 yards per game, and they’re yielding nearly five points per trip inside the 40-yard line. Yikes!
Everyone scores — and scores often — on Ole Miss. Even Vanderbilt scored 21 points on the Rebels! For Indiana, moving the ball shouldn’t be a problem.
Tuttle Time, Part II
Over at CQ Headquarters, we’ve spent the past few weeks getting super excited to watch Jack Tuttle throw the ball again. IU didn’t ask him to do too, too much in his first career start at Wisconsin last month, but Tuttle still managed to show why so many top-flight football schools liked him as a high school prospect years ago. On Saturday, he should have plenty of opportunities to sling it. Seriously, he may not see a more porous secondary at the college level.
Game Info / How to Watch
Who? No. 11 Indiana Hoosiers (6-1) vs. Ole Miss (4-5)
Where? Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
When? Saturday, Jan.. 2, 12:30 p.m. Eastern
Channel? ABC | Tom Hart (p-b-p), Jordan Rodgers (analyst) & Cole Cubelic (sideline)
Radio? IU Radio Network; Sirius 106, XM 196, Internet 958: Don Fischer, Buck Suhr & Joe Smith
Vegas? Indiana -9
SP+ Projection? Indiana by 7 (36-29), 66 percent chance of Hoosier victory