College football's Week 1 marathon winds down Monday night when Louisville and Ole Miss meet at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to cap off five consecutive days of football games to open the 2021 season. The Cardinals and Rebels will be meeting for the first time, but the matchup pits two offensive-minded teams with playmaking quarterbacks against each other. It could be a high-scoring contest to close out the weekend.
Ole Miss enters regarded as a potential breakout team after finishing 5-5 last season under first-year coach Lane Kiffin, who helped develop quarterback Matt Corral into a star. Corral threw for 3,337 yards and 29 touchdowns last season and will be pitted against Louisville's Malik Cunningham, who is entering his fifth season in the program with 5,151 yards passing, 1,588 yards rushing and 61 total touchdowns on his resume.
Cunningham took a step back last year during a disappointing 4-7 season as he threw 12 interceptions and saw his yards per attempt decrease from 11.6 to 8.6. But as a true dual-threat quarterback now entering his third season in coach Scott Satterfield's system, Cunningham will be a worthy challenger to Corral in a game that could feature plenty of highlights.
Ole Miss vs. Louisville: Need to know
Watch for JRP: Elijah Moore is now a member of the New York Jets as a second-round NFL Draft choice after leading Ole Miss with 86 receptions for 1,193 yards last season. Replacing him won't be the job of any one receiver, but there is an especially in the mix to help with the task. Former quarterback John Rhys Plumlee is a full-time receiver now after catching six passes for 79 yards in Ole Miss' bowl win over Indiana. That was his first game at the position, and now that he's had an offseason to prepare for life in the slot, Plumlee could be an impact player.
Upward trajectory? Making sense of Louisville coach Scott Satterfield's tenure thus far is a challenge, as he inherited a 2-10 team from Bobby Petrino and immediately improved it to 8-5 in 2019 to win ACC Coach of the Year. But last season's 4-7 regression and Satterfield's admitted flirtation with the South Carolina opening seems to have soured some fans. Beating an SEC foe in Week 1 would go a long way toward smoothing over the tension. With UCF and Kentucky also on the nonconference slate, this schedule features some big risk/reward spots for a coach whose standing feels a bit volatile.
Turnover battle is key: Louisville ranked second-to-last nationally in turnover margin last season by committing 24 turnovers and forcing just 12. It's a stat that helps explain why the Cardinals finished 0-4 in games decided by a touchdown or less and one the program needs to get corrected in 2021. Playing Ole Miss might help them get back on track, because the Rebels were also among the worst in turnover margin by committing 18 and forcing just 13 last season. Defensive stops will be at a premium in this game, and whichever teams wins the turnover battle will probably win the game.
No Lane Train: Kiffin will not be on the sideline Monday night with Ole Miss as the second-year coach has tested positive for COVID-19 and will remain home rather than travel to Atlanta. Kiffin's availability for the Rebels' next game will not be known until he tests negative, but Kiffin said his symptoms are mild given he's vaccinated.
How to watch Ole Miss vs. Louisville live
Date: Monday, Sept. 6 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium -- Atlanta
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Ole Miss vs. Louisville prediction, picks
The assumption is that the Ole Miss defense will be better in 2021 because it simply can't be worse after ranking 126th of 127 teams nationally by allowing 519 yards per game. While that's likely true, it's also unlikely the defense will suddenly become good. Louisville's offense is capable of keeping this one close. Prediction: Louisville (+9.5)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 1, and which national title contender will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned over $3,600 in profit over the past five-plus seasons -- and find out.