No. 17 Ole Miss sits at 2-0 after knocking off Louisville and Austin Peay to start its 2021 season, and the Rebels will welcome the Tulane Green Wave to Oxford on Saturday night.
Tulane is 1-1 after giving Oklahoma a late scare in Week 1 followed by a throttling of Morgan State 69-20 last Saturday. The Green Wave feature a high-powered offense led by freshman quarterback Michael Pratt, and the Ole Miss defense will have its hands full trying to corral him through the air.
On the flip side, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral is chugging along in his Heisman campaign, and he will look to play his third-straight turnover-free game to start 2021.
Let's dive into the staff predictions for Ole Miss' Week 3 matchup against Tulane.
Tulane is no sneaky, trap-game type team. Sure, Alabama looms two weeks down the road, but this Rebel bunch appears on task regardless of the opponent, as proven by Saturday's ease against Austin Peay after the national spotlight in the opener against Louisville. The skill talent is above-average relative to Group of Five expectation, and the defense is opportunistic, as everybody saw when Tulane nearly came all the way back against Oklahoma.
Quarterback Michael Pratt is tough, accurate and mobile enough to keep the defense honest, and he doesn't turn the football over through the air. Ole Miss has been well above expectation on defense and probably near expectation on offense, so this will be our first true window into how improved the defense may be. I do expect Ole Miss to be very stout against the Tulane running game, which has been rock solid early on, so making Pratt throw the ball 40-plus times could be a recipe for a win or even getting him to throw to the wrong color jersey here and there.
When Matt Corral and the offense is on the field, I think the matchups favor Ole Miss in strong fashion, particularly in the run game where Ole Miss does it by committee. The wave of ball carriers, and Lane Kiffin sticking to his chops as a balanced play caller, will aid in protecting the ball and controlling the tempo against a team that won't see the SEC logo and tuck its tail between its legs. Run to set up the pass and take timely vertical shots, a recipe that can carry over once SEC play begins.
Prediction: Ole Miss 38, Tulane 20
Matt Corral continues to be on the nation's watch by being a candidate for the Heisman trophy and scoring through the air. Ole Miss is ranked No. 17 with hopes to keep climbing up the rankings after this game as well, and the Rebels have dominated their last two opponents to open the 2021 season. Tulane kept up very well with No. 3-ranked Oklahoma in Week 1, and I feel like Ole Miss may have a challenge to overcome after the nation watched that happen. I predict that Ole Miss will improve to 3-0 after the game on Saturday, however, with the real test of the Ole Miss offense and defense coming against the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in two weeks.
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Prediction: Ole Miss 47, Tulane 38
Tulane is a scary team that put Oklahoma on upset alert earlier in the year. This is an excellent warmup before two weeks of preparation for Alabama. If Ole Miss wants to win this game, they need to win it on the defensive side of the ball because Tulane is capable of winning a shootout.
Prediction: Ole Miss 42, Tulane 38
Tulane proved to be a difficult out for Oklahoma in Week 1 and looked dominant in its Week 2 win. Suffice it to say, Lane Kiffin and the Rebels met give Tulane their full attention. I expect them to do just that and pull out a challenging but convincing win over the Green Wave.
Prediction: Ole Miss 43, Tulane 27
John Macon Gillespie
Much will be (and has been) said about Tulane's performance against Oklahoma earlier this year, and for good reason. The Green Wave can be dangerous. What we fail to oftentimes remember, however, is that the Sooners led that game 37-14 at the half and likely took their foot off the gas after the intermission.
Tulane is a stiff Group of Five opponent for the Rebels, and they visit at a good time for Ole Miss as it will head into Alabama preparations following Saturday's game. At the end of the day, however, I'll pick Matt Corral, Lane Kiffin and an improved Ole Miss defense to get a win over a freshman quarterback on the road in the SEC. Tulane will score some points, but I think Ole Miss heads into its open date next week 3-0, setting up a potential College GameDay atmosphere in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 2.
Prediction: Ole Miss 42, Tulane 21
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