Manning tries to push along Rebels, Heisman hopes vs. Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- So far this young season, Eli Manning has the stats to call himself a Heisman Trophy contender. His team's 2-2 record, however, isn't helping the cause.
One way to push the candidacy forward would be to lead Mississippi to a victory at No. 24 Florida on Saturday. Manning, a senior who has thrown for 1,329 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, is seeking success at The Swamp, where his older brother, Peyton, went 0-2 when he was with Tennessee.
"Yes, I saw him play there once," was all Eli would offer when asked if he had any recollection of his brother's bad memories at Florida.
Indeed, Eli already has one victory over the Gators (3-2, 1-1 SEC), which is one more than Peyton had in four tries, three as a starter. Last year, in a surprisingly defense-oriented game, the Rebels (2-2, 1-0) defeated Florida 17-14. Gators quarterback Rex Grossman finished with 205 yards passing and four interceptions, and that game marked the beginning of the end of his Heisman candidacy.
All are one breakout game from possibly becoming a front-runner. Mississippi coach David Cutcliffe doesn't want his guy worrying about that.
"I don't concern myself much with that, and I know he doesn't, either," Cutcliffe said. "He's a player playing as good at his position as probably anyone in America."
The Eli Manning web site, being run by the Ole Miss sports information office, attests to that.
As the site points out, Manning leads the SEC in passing yards per game (332), completions (98), touchdowns (11) and pass efficiency (a rating of 152.5). He is fourth in the nation in total offense.
Yet some of it could be getting lost because of game's like last week's. Manning threw for 409 yards, but his defense allowed Texas Tech's B.J. Symons to throw for 661 in a 49-45 loss. It dropped the Rebels to 2-2, and clearly, quarterbacks who don't win are at a disadvantage when it comes time to hand out awards.
"When it's going to be a shootout like that, our offense has to produce points," said Manning, whose offense scored three touchdowns and six field goals last week. "We can't just keep settling for field goals."
What kind of defense will Manning go against? It's hard to tell.
The Gators, ranked 41st nationally in yards allowed this year, have been unpredictable. One moment, they stifled Miami en route to a 23-point lead. The next, they blew that lead and the game. Their defense was decent against Tennessee and Kentucky, although neither of those programs had the passing attack of Ole Miss.
"When you look at their offense, you're going to see an offense that's similar to Tennessee," Gators coach Ron Zook said. "Not this past Tennessee team, but the ones they had back in the '90s with some of the quarterbacks they had."
More often than not, Florida figured out how to beat those teams. The Gators will need to discover the formula again to keep their SEC East hopes alive.
Ole Miss, meanwhile, can still have a say in the SEC West race -- and Manning could be playing for even more.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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