Mississippi Rebels at Memphis Tigers
College Football: Sunday September 6, 2009 3:30 PM EST (ESPN)
The Line: Memphis +17
Houston Nutt enters his second year at Ole Miss with high expectations. Nutt's Rebels entered last season as just another SEC team, this year they enter the season ranked and as one of the favorites to make the SEC Title game.
All you have to do is take a quick look at Mississippi's roster and you know why they are excited in Oxford. The Rebels have 16 starters coming back from a team that went to the Cotton Bowl and of course were the only team to defeat the eventual National Champion Florida Gators.
The Rebels lost two players to the NFL's first round of the entry draft, that's a heck of a lot for a program whose success has been somewhat limited but surprisingly some of the best players still remain on the roster.
Jevan Snead will be running the offense at QB and his main man, Dexter McCluster is back as well. While McCluster had nice numbers, it was more the timing and magnitude of the plays he made which stood out. Their biggest loss will be at tackle where Michael Oher has gone on to greener pastures of the NFL.
On defense, the defensive line is simply one of the best in the country. Greg Hardy is the best of the lot and he's an absolute terror. He missed a few game last year but still managed big numbers.
The linebackers look to be solid but maybe not quite the group they had last season and the secondary is the weakest part of the defense and will need to improve from last season.
I'm never quite sure what to expect from Tommy West and his Memphis Tigers. West is a coach who traditionally has his team up for their big games and can look just flat in other ones.
The Tigers just always seem to be an interesting mix of superlative talent and the unknown. On offense, the core of the skill positions all return and they are all very good. Arkelon Hall had a nice year at QB and Curtis Steele had over 1,200 yards rushing and will have plenty of help as the Tigers have a complete stable of talented back ups.
Unfortunately the Tigers need to replace almost their entire offensive line. If the Tigers have a major concern the OL is it and it may be their eventual undoing.
The Memphis defense should be pretty strong and they have a nice mix of returning players and newcomers. What makes the newcomers so interesting is that most of them are transfers from SEC schools like Mississippi State, LSU, and Auburn.
Memphis is a good Conference USA team and should be competitive in their conference but may be in over their heads in this game.
Mississippi has gone 5-0 against the spread in their last five non conference games and 7-1 against the spread in their last eight road games. However, the favorite role has not been as kind to Ole Miss as they are 6-13-1 against the spread in their last 20 as a road favorite and 0-4 against the spread in their last four as a road favorite.
Memphis has gone 7-2 against the spread in their last nine as a double digit home underdog but they are just 1-5 against the spread in their last six games outside of C-USA.
I hate laying this many points on the road, especially in the opener but I don't see any other way to play it, especially with Ole Miss playing so well at the end of last season and Memphis getting stomped in their bowl game against South Florida with a better O-line than they will suit up for this one.
Mitch's Pick: Mississippi -17