Georgia Tech and No. 17 Ole Miss should be awfully familiar with each other, in more ways than one.
The two programs separated by a little more than 300 miles had met only four times before the September 2022 meeting at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Now, the 2023 matchup, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, features two head coaches who were once on the same staff and a quartet of Ole Miss players who once wore the white and gold of Tech.
“I’ve actually tried to hire (Tech coach Brent Key) before at one point,” Kiffin said Monday during his weekly news conference. “Really good line coach, really good teacher, good recruiter, and he’s doing a good job there.”
Kiffin and the Rebels had their way with Tech last season, winning 42-0 in Atlanta thanks to 21 points in the third quarter. Ole Miss had 31 first downs, 547 total yards of offense and scored five touchdowns in five red-zone chances. The Yellow Jackets managed only 214 yards of total offense.
But 2023 is a new day, and Key will look to turn the tides of fortune against his old colleague. Key was Alabama’s offensive line coach in 2018 while Kiffin was Alabama’s offensive coordinator that same season.
“You ask if I know somebody? That’s what I know about Lane Kiffin, he’s going to run the football,” Key said. “He’s going to get No. 4 (running back Quinshon Judkins) going. We got to be balanced in what we do on defense to make sure that we’re able to cover and defend the explosives.”
A small group of Rebels also traded their Tech uniforms for Ole Miss ones in recent years. Cornerback Zamari Walton, defensive end Jared Ivey, defensive tackle Akelo Stone and running back Jam (formerly Jamious) Griffin are all now Ole Miss Rebels after formerly playing for Tech.
Walton made eight tackles in last year’s matchup for the Yellow Jackets against Ole Miss. This season, Walton has a modest four tackles for an Ole Miss team that should be an uber-confident bunch this week leading to kickoff. The Rebels went to New Orleans and beat No. 22 Tulane 37-20, scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Kiffin’s team once again breads its butter on the ground and goes as Judkins and junior quarterback Jaxson Dart go. Ole Miss ranked third nationally in rushing offense in 2022 and 11th the year before.
As tough as Ole Miss’ offense has been to defend in seasons past, it may have a defense to match, given the early returns. It held Mercer to seven points and 235 yards in the season opener, already has five takeaways and has recorded eight sacks. Pete Golding, also an assistant coach at Alabama in 2018 with Key and Kiffin, is the Ole Miss defensive coordinator.
“(Golding) has put a defense together that fits them and their personality and their personnel and compliments the entire team,” Key said. “They do a good job of being aggressive up front. They’ll mix up the coverages and try to vary the coverages on the back end to try to confuse the quarterback and receivers and the passing game. And they always try to get an extra hat down in the box when they can.”
Tech has never been to Oxford, Mississippi, and will look for its first win over an SEC program since defeating Kentucky in the 2016 Music City Bowl. The Jackets’ win over Georgia that year was the program’s last regular-season road victory over an SEC foe.
As three-touchdown underdogs this weekend, Key’s team will have to do a lot to change those facts and to erase the harsh memories of the 2022 result.
“I think a similar result to 50-to-nothing or whatever it was, I mean, I have high expectations, but that’s a little unrealistic. We’ve got to go win the game,” Kiffin said. “These guys are playing good. We have a lot of stuff to work on, and a lot of challenges.”
Lane to miss Saturday’s game
Key confirmed Tuesday that wide receiver Chase Lane sustained an injury in Saturday’s win over South Carolina State. Lane will miss the Jackets’ trip to Ole Miss, “then we’ll continue to see week-to-week with him where it ends up,” Key said.
Lane had six receptions in two games for Tech, three in each outing. He had 69 yards in the opener and a 48-yard touchdown catch, and three grabs for 36 yards before exiting Saturday’s contest. He was the sixth-best rated offensive player against S.C. State, according to Pro Football Focus, and the fourth-best against Louisville.
A 6-foot, 193-pound native of Texas, Lane transferred to Tech from Texas A&M. He had 48 receptions there and scored two touchdowns.
Georgia Tech at Ole Miss, 7:30 p.m., SEC, 680, 106.3, 1230