The SEC hasn’t decided whether to expand its league schedule from eight games to nine beyond next season.
But as far as Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is concerned, the Rebels have the equivalent of a nine-game SEC schedule this season.
The No. 20 Rebels (1-0) will face No. 24 Tulane (1-0) in a non-conference game Saturday afternoon in New Orleans.
“This is really a test of a nine-game SEC schedule,” Kiffin said, “because this is an SEC football team with that type of talent.
“They were able to beat the Heisman Trophy winner a few games ago. Going on the road is always challenging, especially with a new team. We’ll have our hands full.”
Ole Miss began the season with a 73-7 romp against outmanned Mercer last Saturday. Incumbent starter Jaxson Dart, who battled Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders and LSU transfer Walker Howard in preseason camp, passed for 334 yards and four touchdowns before leaving in the middle of the third quarter.
That led Kiffin to officially name Dart the starter going into the game against the Green Wave.
“He had a really good camp and spring, and so he’s the starting quarterback,” Kiffin said of Dart.
Kiffin extended the quarterback competition into the first game, which he called “an evaluation game.”
“This is not an evaluation game,” Kiffin said of Tulane. “Going on the road for the first time with this team into one of the hottest teams in the country and probably the hottest quarterback in the country. I would actually like another evaluation game, but that is certainly not what this is.”
The Rebels beat the visiting Green Wave 61-21 two years ago, and Tulane went on to finish 2-10.
But last season the Green Wave finished 12-2, won the American Athletic Conference title and beat Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and Southern California 46-45 in the Cotton Bowl in January.
Tulane started this season with a 37-17 home victory last Saturday against South Alabama, which was 10-3 a year ago.
Michael Pratt, who completed all but one of his 15 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns, was named the AAC Offensive Player of the Week. He also tied Patrick Ramsey’s school record for career touchdown passes (72).
“I’m not really worried about all the external stuff,” Pratt said. “When you prepare the way you’re supposed to prepare and you execute and do your job, those types of things come. But all I’m really worried about is helping my team win.”
The Green Wave won its final four games last season and carried the momentum from the Cotton Bowl victory and last season’s overall success into the season opener. They were ranked in the AP preseason poll for the first time this season.
“Last year is over and done with,” defensive back Lance Johnson said. “We want to write new history with this new team, and that was a big emphasis. We don’t really look at rankings. We’re not really focused on that. We just focus on every day, every rep, and if we do that, everything is going to be fine.”
—Field Level Media
Field Level Media