We all hate playing Memphis, right? We hate it when they come to Oxford and do their damnedest to make LSU fans look genteel. We hate having to go to the Liberty Bowl every other year or so to get sunburned in a concrete bowl while watching our Rebels underachiever. We hate being disappointed in a Rebel win almost as much as we hate watching their fans celebrate, and celebrate, and celebrate a rare Tiger win. After all, Memphis is an Ole Miss town if there ever was one, and with the familiarity between the two fan bases has come everything from annoyance to downright bad blood. We don’t enjoy this and, while we’re told that it’s a good series to keep Ole Miss’ sizable Memphis contingent happy and further secure Ole Miss’ recruiting ties in the Mid-South, we refuse to think of this far-too-regular occurrence as anything other than a waste of time.
But, here’s the thing: while I too do not enjoy Ole Miss keeping Memphis as a regular football opponent, I feel that there is something unique to the Ole Miss football experience in watching the Rebels play Memphis and hating every second of it. We complain and whine about having this game on the schedule, but that’s nothing new; we’ve been doing that for decades. If anything, complaining about Ole Miss playing against Memphis is as time-honored an Ole Miss tradition as any - perhaps only less time-honored than debating the value and merits of Ole Miss traditions.
Can I remind y’all that Memphis isn’t exactly a bad team this year? Nope, this isn’t the Memphis from last year, which should go without saying given Ole Miss’ 20-point victory over this season’s iteration of the Tigers, but they are a more than capable team. They’re most definitely bowling this year, and could very well be one of the better teams in the American Athletic Conference by the end of the year. Through five weeks, they’re ranked No. 41 in Bill C’s S&P+ numbers which, on its face might not seem all that impressive. But consider that, as of today, that makes them better than Notre Dame (43), West Virginia (47), Georgia (52), Michigan State (58), and South Carolina (76), not to mention 82 other teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Now, if Ole Miss were to have beaten Notre Dame, Michigan State, or Georgia (OH WAIT LOLOLOLOLOL) by 20 points, you’d probably not have at all found much to complain about. And I get it, it’s Memphis, so you’re not supposed to be happy with even playing them in the first damn place, but they are a demonstrably good team in spite of however we may feel about them. No, they’re not elite or even great, but they’re certainly better than a handful of teams Ole Miss has on the schedule this year. So do yourself a favor and be happy that the Rebs could disappoint their way to a convincing win over them.
“That Didn’t Sit Well”
We love Chad Kelly around here. His Favre-esque tendencies (not those Favre-esque tendencies), where he plays fast and loose and, when pressured, prefers to just huck the dang ball downfield instead of taking a sack or opting to check down, make him both incredibly exciting to watch and a legitimately dangerous offensive weapon. Defenses have to be particularly cautious with how they defend the box and the middle of the field when they play Ole Miss, and have to play extremely capably and physically in the backfield if they’re to win battles against Kelly’s tall, long receivers.
But, dang, Chad does some pretty dumb stuff sometimes. Take his interception thrown in the endzone against Memphis on Saturday. On the play, he was being pressured by the Memphis defensive line and, off of his back foot, slung a pass into coverage. It was dumb. He should have taken the sack or, if available, checked down.
Of course, he probably should have done the same for the Tip-Six against Alabama,* so whatever. That’s fine. You do you, Chad.
“Going Back for Seconds”
This website, being operated by folks more competent than myself, has already featured great stories on the improvement seen in the Ole Miss running game or how the Rebels could win by 20 even with a vanilla (but capable) defensive performance. So let me eschew talk of bigger picture stuff, and go straight to a very, very special moment from this past Saturday.
D.J. Jones, a pioneer in the field of fat guy diving interceptions: https://t.co/HiJuyOwsMj— Gray Hardison (@BellyoftheBeast) October 3, 2016
Forget the food metaphors for a bit and just mainline that shit right there directly into every single one of my veins.
You know what can soothe any and all intestinal discomfort caused by an unwelcomed date with the Memphis Tigers? A few servings’ worth of Schadenfreude, that’s what!
You’ll have to feast on that one for a while though, Rebel fans, because this series should be on a long hiatus. In fact, Ole Miss won’t play Memphis gain until....
//sees that we open 2019 in the Liberty Bowl
*ED: That play was actually designed that way. Don’t forget this.