| Mississippi Clarion Ledger
IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack getting ready for Ole Miss in Outback Bowl
Indiana defensive coordinator Kane Wommack will coach his final game with the Hoosiers in the Outback Bowl before he begins as South Alabama’s coach.
Courtesy of IU Athletics, Indianapolis Star
Experts like the Hoosiers in the Outback Bowl, and for good reason.
Ole Miss is expecting to go into the game Saturday (11:30 a.m., ABC) in Tampa, Florida, against No. 7 Indiana shorthanded. After Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said Monday that his team is “really struggling” with COVID-19, injuries and opt-outs, the Bet MGM betting line moved from favoring Indiana by 6.5 points to favoring the Hoosiers by 8.
Indiana (6-1) has a defense unlike any Ole Miss (4-5) has faced this year. The Hoosiers lead the FBS in interceptions and red zone defense. On top of that, Indiana had the No. 3 scoring offense in the Big Ten this season, averaging more than 30 points.
If Ole Miss wants to win, or even cover the eight-point spread, the Rebels are going to need to take away the Hoosiers’ strengths by leaning into the few matchup advantages they may have.
Here are three keys to victory for the Rebels:
1. Use mobility of Matt Corral
Indiana has rarely struggled on defense, but when it has, it’s often been because of a dual-threat quarterback.
Penn State and Ohio State are the only teams that scored more than 21 points against Indiana, totaling 35 and 42 points, respectively. The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes are also the only teams that broke more than 400 yards against the Hoosiers, gaining 488 and 607 yards.
Quarterbacks Sean Clifford and Justin Fields broke those games open with their legs. Adjusted for sacks, Clifford ran 16 times for 122 yards and a touchdown, and Fields ran 10 times for 101 yards and a touchdown. No other player ran for more than 100 yards against the Hoosiers.
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral has the legs to repeat this trend. Adjusting for sacks, Corral ran 15 times for 169 yards and a touchdown in his last game. Many of those carries were on scrambles when pass plays broke down, but the Rebels also leaned into this gameplan, calling on Corral to carry designed draws, read-options and naked bootlegs.
This wasn’t a one-time plan either. Corral ran nine times for 92 yards (sack adjusted) and two touchdowns against Auburn.
Kiffin famously built an offense around quarterback runs in 2016 while he was the offensive coordinator at Alabama when Jalen Hurts ran 191 times for 954 yards and 13 touchdowns. Don’t be shocked if Kiffin pulls a few calls from that old playbook against the Hoosiers.
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2. Control the pressure
Few teams rush the passer as well as Indiana. The Hoosiers led the Big Ten with 23 sacks and 22 quarterback hurries. No one player spearheads the effort. Twelve Hoosiers logged a sack and the leaders represent all three levels of the defense.
There are three ways for Ole Miss to succeed against this pass rush. The first, most simply, is to run the ball effectively and render Indiana’s rush irrelevant. But with starting running back Jerrion Ealy questionable, that idea seems easier said than done.
Second, there’s the Corral scramble plan. Letting Corral beat pressure by letting him run when he sensed it worked against LSU. The problem is even if Corral runs for 100 yards, that’s a win for Indiana because he’s not throwing for 400 yards.
Third comes down to trust. Corral has been hyper effective throwing to his first read against single coverage on the outside. When Ole Miss’ offense was at its best, Corral threw at one-on-one matchups nearly every time a defense gave him them. But those were in games where he had options like Elijah Moore and Braylon Sanders.
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Moore opted out. Sanders is injured and might not play. It’s unknown if Corral has the same trust and rapport with replacement receivers like Dontario Drummond and Jonathan Mingo in single coverage. If he does, getting the ball out quick and expecting receivers to make plays over cornerbacks is a good way to bust blitzes. If he doesn’t, the offensive line will have to hold up better than it has all season.
3. Don’t underestimate Jack Tuttle
Indiana starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is injured and will not play. In his place will be sophomore Jack Tuttle, who has only made one start and thrown 27 passes this season.
Tuttle’s numbers are mostly unimpressive. He’s averaging 6 yards per pass attempt and threw for 130 yards in his lone start. Tuttle isn’t as dynamic as Penix, nor do Indiana’s coaches ask him to do as much. But don’t confuse unimpressive with uninspired.
Tuttle took plenty of downfield shots in his start against Wisconsin. He connected with star receiver Ty Fryfogle for 35 yards on one of those deep shots and gained 30 more yards off two pass interference penalties targeting Fryfogle.
Outback Bowl a matchup of strengths: IU’s opportunistic defense vs. Ole Miss explosive offense
Tuttle’s two touchdown passes weren’t gimmes either. He found pass catchers running corner routes in the back of the end zone and had to loft touch passes over defenders to drop the ball into the receiver’s hands.
Ole Miss hasn’t really covered anyone well. Tuttle is going to throw for more than 130 yards against the Rebels, probably in the first half. But it’s important for Ole Miss to understand Tuttle isn’t coming into games as a backup quarterback willing to manage the field with handoffs and checkdowns. When he gets the chance to throw, he’ll heave some passes. The Rebels need to be ready for that.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or [email protected] Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.