My first Ole Miss football game as a student was a loss to Memphis. The Rebels, fresh off of a win against Oklahoma State and seeing a quarterback drafted as the No. 1 overall prospect, rode a hype train that saw Micheal Spurlock promoted as a legitimate SEC quarterback. They fell 20-13 to the Memphis Tigers after failing to mount any semblance of an offense.
It was bad.
That day, Memphis fans did what they do, which is namely behave unpleasantly and litter. But what made the game so bad was that it was a harbinger of things to come for my years in Oxford. Ole Miss only won four games that year, and David Cutcliffe was fired as a result. Ed Orgeron was hired, and three years later he was fired after failing to do anything impressive against any team of note.
We then started this here blog, Houston Nutt was hired, and somehow we're several years removed from that debacle of an "era." We now have a top-10 football team playing begrudging hosts to Memphis as prohibitive favorites. And, somehow, a lot of us feel somewhat nervous about how this game might play out.
But, back to that game in the fall of 2004. As it came to an end, a Rebel undergrad who was himself drunk enough to scare off the lot of his friends, began stomping around the Vaught's South end zone bleachers and shouting, "This is bullshit! We're in the SEC!" This happened for a few minutes before we left, but on our way back to the Grove, I couldn't help but think that his words rang true.
Losing to Memphis is bullshit. We are in the SEC. We won't lose this game, and it won't exactly be pretty. Deal with it, Memphis fans, and thanks for buying a ticket, I guess.
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
How to watch
When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m. CT
Online streaming: WatchESPN.com
Radio: Ole Miss Football Radio Network
Memphis at a glance
Conference: American Athletic
Famous alumni: Jerry Lawler, Derrick Rose, Isaac Bruce, DeAngelo Williams, Kathy Bates
- Austin Peay - W 63-0
- No. 11 UCLA - L 42-35
- Middle Tennessee - W 36-17
The GameDay Bowl
That's what I'm calling it anyway. One of the most oft-repeated cliches in sports is never look ahead to the next opponent -- well we're bloggers, so we get to look forward to whoever the hell we want. If Ole Miss beats Memphis, they're a virtual lock to host ESPN's College GameDay in Oxford for the first time ever when Alabama rolls into town next weekend.
The only real alternative was LSU-Auburn, but State's win in Baton Rouge last week ended that. There is the A&M-State game that Saturday, but if you think ESPN's choosing Starkville over Oxford, you can head back to Six Pack Speak.
So just win, Rebs. No pressure.
This season marks the 25th anniversary of Chucky Mullins's injury, and Ole Miss has chosen the Memphis game to honor him. The team will be wearing his number, 38, on the sides of their helmet, the 38-yard line on both sides will be painted red, buttons will be passed out in the stands, and there will undoubtedly be some sort of heavy ceremony and moment of silence.
If you're somehow unaware of Chucky's story, stop what you're doing and go watch ESPN's fabulous documentary, "It's Time." Known for his courage in the face of a devastating spinal injury suffered against Vanderbilt in 1989, Chucky has long been an inspiration not only to the Rebel football team, but the Ole Miss community and Mississippi at large.
We'll be having a drink or two for ya, Chucky.
Players to watch
Paxton Lynch, Memphis QB
The same Paxton Lynch that threw 10 picks to just nine touchdowns a year ago seems to have reinvented himself over the offseason. That TD:INT ratio now sits at 5:2, and he has a 66 completion percentage and a 140.6 passer rating to go along with it. And if you think he's going to be intimidated on the road against top competition, he threw for 305 yards and accounted for two scores against a ranked UCLA team on the other side of the country.
Doroland Dorceus, Memphis HB
This guy's explosive. Dorceus is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and two of his four touchdowns have come from at least 30 yards and out. His 40-yard score to open the fourth quarter against UCLA pulled Memphis to within seven points and shows you all you need to know about his big-play ability.
Tank Jakes, Memphis LB
Jakes lived up to his given name last week, blasting MTSU with one of the most absurd defensive stat lines you'll ever read: seven tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble, an interception, a safety and the AAC Defensive Player of the Week award. Those tackles for loss and sack numbers should be particularly concerning to an Ole Miss offensive line that has consistently allowed linebacker penetration this season. Let No. 13 into the backfield and things could get ugly.
Juco All-American: 41-17 Ole Miss
smeargle: 42-17 Ole Miss (because I'm more confident than Juco)
Ghost of Jay Cutler: 45-17 Ole Miss (because I'm more confident than smeargle)
Catfish Powe-boy: 38-24 Ole Miss (because I'm a pessimist)