OLE MISS AT MEMPHIS
Kickoff: 12 Noon ET/9 a.m. PT
TV: ABC or ESPN2
Las Vegas Line: Memphis +10.5
Regional counterparts Ole Miss and Memphis regularly play, but it wouldn’t be accurate to call the series a rivalry; not when the Rebels own a 49-10-2 advantage, won the last six straight and the last three by a combined 69 points.
But in this year’s installment, which Memphis hosts, the Tigers have an opportunity to score some serious cachet. Eliminating Ole Miss from Playoff contention, which a Memphis win would accomplish, is a very rivalry thing to do.
More important for the Tigers, however, a win over the Rebels would thrust them into the Playoff conversation.
The possibility of a Group of Five conference representative reaching the Playoff might seem a bit outlandish, but it’s worth noting that the American Athletic Conference was a guaranteed participant in the Bowl Championship Series.
Its sole representative in a BCS bowl after transitioning away from the Big East Conference, UCF, routed Big 12 champion Baylor in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl.
Since before the season, members of the American have played the conference up as the sixth power league. The play of Memphis, Houston, Temple and Navy thus far certainly strengthens that argument. A Memphis win over Ole Miss — nationally ranked and boasting a defeat of Alabama — could catapult both the Tigers and the AAC into the stratosphere.
“It’s important for our league to put our best foot forward outside the league, and continue to earn some respect on a national level,” head coach Justin Fuente said in the Week 7 AAC coaches teleconference, but added the importance of playing tough in a loss. “That doesn’t always mean winning every game. That just means trying to put a good product out there.”
With one of college football’s most unique offenses, Memphis has the pieces to put up a good product against the talented, if not somewhat underachieving Ole Miss defense.
Quarterback Paxton Lynch is completing more than 70 percent of his pass attempts and has yet to throw an interception, feeding off a multifaceted rushing attack that averaging more than 206 yards per game. The Tigers will put up points, but limiting the capable Ole Miss offense is a whole other matter. Chad Kelly, once a burgeoning name in the Heisman conversation, should regain his mojo against a lackluster Memphis secondary.
Expect fireworks, but ultimately, a close Ole Miss win.