No. 17 Ole Miss rides hot start, ready for Tulane

Ole Miss is chasing its best start to a season since 2015, but head coach Lane Kiffin’s squad just is striving to zero in on Saturday.The No. 17-ranked Rebels (2-0) play their second straight home game Saturday night when they host Tulane (1-1) of the American Athletic Conference in Oxford, Miss.The consistent explosiveness of Kiffin’s offense and improvement by the Ole Miss defense led to convincing wins over Louisville and Austin Peay.Ole Miss is fourth in the FBS in total offense with 599.5 yards per game — trailing Memphis, UCF and Arkansas State — and is tied at seventh with Memphis in scoring offense at 48.5 points per game.Those numbers might exceed expectations. There’s no doubt the improved defense is raising the bar.A unit that struggled last season to keep points off the board despite its high-powered offense and quarterback Matt Corral lighting it up from end zone to end zone has yet to appear in 2021.In 2020 during its 5-5 regular season in the SEC West, Ole Miss’ defense finished 126th in the FBS — next to last and only ahead of North Texas — by surrendering a staggering 519 yards per game.The Rebels are 73rd through two games, allowing 358.5 yards per game.By winning its first two contests, Ole Miss has a chance to start a season with three wins for the first time since Sept. 19, 2015, when the Rebels went to Tuscaloosa to face second-ranked and eventual national champion Alabama.That 15th-ranked Ole Miss squad — led by head coach Hugh Freeze, quarterback Chad Kelly and defensive standouts Robert and Denzel Nkemdiche — built a 30-10 lead in the third quarter and held off a late charge by the Crimson Tide in a massive upset.”[Tulane] is a really good team that’s talented and well coached – and that’s not coach-speak,” Kiffin said Monday. “These Alabama and Louisiana schools have a lot of players that are in-state. They can’t all go to Alabama, Auburn or LSU.”I told our team today that if you don’t know about conferences and just watch film and watch them play, this is an SEC opponent.”