Oxford, MS (SportsNetwork.com) – In a non-conference tune up before returning
to SEC play, the 10th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels will welcome the Memphis Tigers
to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday night.
Memphis has won two of its first three games this season, defeating Austin
Peay (63-0) and Middle Tennessee (36-17) in convincing fashion. This will mark
the Tigers’ second road game against a nationally-ranked opponent, having
already fought hard with UCLA on Sept. 6 before suffering a tough 42-35
Ole Miss has barely broken a sweat this season en route to its 3-0 record,
having made easy work of Boise State (35-13), Vanderbilt (41-3) and Louisiana
(56-15), while rising all the way to No. 10 in the AP Poll after being
appointed No. 18 in the preseason. The Rebels enjoyed a bye last week and will
continue a three-game homestand in Oxford that will conclude next week in a
showdown with Alabama.
“I’m glad to get back into game prep. I wasn’t crazy about our bye week being
that early,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “We’re playing a very difficult
opponent…It’s certainly going to be a game that we’re going to have to play
very, very well to win. It will be a good challenge for us. We need that at
this point in the season.”
Ole Miss has a 47-10-2 advantage over Memphis in the all-time series, which
includes a 45-14 win in Memphis the last time the two teams met in 2009.
Memphis’ offense has been outstanding through three games, putting up 44.7 ppg
and 498.0 ypg while scoring touchdowns on 81 percent of its red-zone drives
Paxton Lynch is rock solid under center, as he’s completing 66 percent of his
passes for 766 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions, while also
adding three rushing scores.
The Tigers show great offensive balance, passing for 255.3 ypg and rushing for
242.7 ypg. Doroland Dorceus (218 yards, four TDs) and Brandon Hayes (192
yards, TD) earn the majority of the backfield work.
Memphis boasts a stellar defense to go with its high-powered offense. The
unit gives up only 19.7 ppg and 337.0 ypg, holds teams to 30 percent on third
down and has created six turnovers.
Tank Jakes has emerged as one of the best defensive playmakers in the American
Athletic Conference with 25 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks, two forced fumbles
and an interception. Bobby McCain returned a fumble recovery 59 yards for a
touchdown in the Middle Tennessee win and also has an interception.
The Ole Miss offense has improved in every game this season, culminating in a
56-point, 554-yard effort in the win over Louisiana. The unit has shown very
little weakness this season in posting 44.0 ppg and 519.7 ypg.
Bo Wallace is the nation’s most accurate quarterback, ranking first in the FBS
with a .755 completion percentage for 1,023 yards with nine touchdowns. He’s
been prone to mistakes, however, with four interceptions.
“We’ve been consistent throughout the year, at least since the second half of
Boise,” Wallace said. “We want to keep going and stay sharp. We put some new
things in for this week. We have a jump start on Memphis.”
Wallace has no shortage of receivers to get the ball to. Vince Sanders (225
yards, two TDs) and Laquon Treadwell (184 yards, TD) lead the team with 15
receptions apiece, while Cody Core (12 receptions, 236 yards, four TDs) is an
impressive deep threat.
Jaylen Walton has turned 19 carries into 121 yards and two touchdowns while
also possessing playmaking ability as a receiver out of the backfield (five
receptions, 99 yards, TD). I’Tavius Mathers (17 carries, 94 yards, two TDs) is
questionable for this matchup with a toe injury.
The Rebels are far from one-dimensional, as the defense has performed
well in yielding just 10.3 ppg and 296.0 ypg, while creating nine takeaways.
Senquez Golson has three interceptions and has defended an additional two
passes. Mike Hilton has a team-best 16 tackles to go with a pick. The team’s
pass-rush has been quiet with only four sacks.