After five weeks of dwindling offensive and defensive production, which culminated in a 38-10 loss to Florida, Ole Miss got things headed in the right direction again with a 52-3 victory over New Mexico State. Now, the Rebels turn their attention to Memphis.
The Tigers are 5-0 and have won in large part because of an explosive offense that has gained 541.2 total yards and scored 47.8 points per contest – both of which are slightly better than Ole Miss (528 yards and 46.8 points per game). Also, Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch (1,535 passing yards, 10 TD, 0 INT) is a candidate to be a first round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
However, Memphis has struggled at times defensively, and has allowed 26.8 points and 438.4 total yards per contest. That’s more than 100 yards and a touchdown more than the Rebels (337.5 yards and 19.7 points per game) against inferior competition (the only Power Five team the Tigers have played this season is Kansas).
Still, there is reason for the Rebels to be concerned. Ole Miss is obviously the more talented team and features All-American candidates Laquon Treadwell and Robert Nkemdiche, but the Rebels have also been bitten by the injury bug. Defensive starters Tony Conner and C.J. Johnson are expected to miss Saturday’s game. Also, the game is close to home (the Liberty Bowl is roughly 80 miles from Ole Miss’ Oxford campus) and there will be plenty of Rebels fans in the stands, but the 11 AM local kickoff time should benefit the home underdogs.
Finally, Ole Miss may already be looking ahead to next week’s huge SEC West clash with Texas A&M, which is the beginning of a pivotal five-game season-ending stretch against division opponents. With so much riding on the second half of the season (Ole Miss controls its own destiny in the West), this is the perfect trap game scenario for Memphis.