The waiting and anticipation for the football season to start lasted a little longer than some other conferences, but the SEC is back Saturday, and one of the first games on the slate features the No. 5 Florida Gators traveling to face the Ole Miss Rebels. Saturday's game between the Gators and the Rebels marks the first time these teams have met since 2015, and a lot has changed since that 38-10 Florida victory in The Swamp. The Gators were still led by Jim McElwain, while Hugh Freeze ran the show in Oxford, Mississippi. Now it's Dan Mullen starting his third season in Gainesville going up against Lane Kiffin in his first game with the Rebels. It will be the first time Kiffin has been at the helm of an SEC school since his ill-fated time with Tennessee in 2009.
What might come as a surprise given recent trends with both programs is that the Rebels have the edge all-time against the Gators. They hold a record of 12-11-1 in the series, and though they lost the last meeting in 2015, they've won three of the last five. Florida did win the previous game in Oxford, however, beating the Rebels 30-24 in 2007.
Florida: Mullen has not wasted any time in turning the Florida program around and raising expectations. This team went 13-11 in McElwain's final two seasons but has gone 21-5 in Mullen's first two, and now the Gators are seen as a legitimate threat to reach the SEC Championship Game again. Still, while expectations are high, the 2020 season could be Mullen's biggest challenge yet. Even when we put aside an offseason unlike any other we've ever seen, the Gators have a lot to replace offensively. Leading rusher La'Mical Perine is gone, as are the team's two leading receivers in Van Jefferson and Freddie Swain. Of course, Kyle Trask is back at quarterback, and tight end Kyle Pitts is likely to be one of his favorite targets.
Ole Miss: So which Kiffin are we going to get? The one who struggled in his first go-round in the SEC, or the guy who rehabbed his image under Nick Saban and then won two conference titles in three seasons at FAU? We won't find out on Saturday, but it will be our first glimpse at the new-look Rebels under Kiffin. I would imagine things could look a bit rough early, as a truncated offseason made life even more difficult for new coaches, and I don't know how well-suited Ole Miss' roster is to the style of offense Kiffin prefers. No matter what the results look like, it'll be interesting.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 26 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium -- Oxford, Mississippi
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Game prediction, picks
I can't help but lean toward the side of this equation with more knowns. It's Mullen's third season in Florida, and he has a returning starter at QB. Having that kind of continuity will be critical for a lot of teams early in a season like this one, and the fact Trask is one of the best QBs in the conference doesn't hurt. Then there's an Ole Miss team using a new playbook for the first time, under a new coach. Kiffin has always been able to put together good gameplans, so I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Rebels jump out to an early lead, but the Gators will pull away over 60 minutes. Pick: Florida (-14.5)
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