Mississippi Rebels vs. Memphis Tigers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

No. 8 Mississippi Rebels (0-0) at Memphis Tigers (0-0)
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Memphis, T.N. Sunday, September 6th, 3:30PM Est.

by Jay Horne of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Mississippi -16.5,
Over/under: 54.5

Houston Nutt may have accomplished the best coaching job out of anyone in America last season turning the Ole Miss Rebels from bottom dweller in the SEC to among the best in the conference. The Rebels also came on strong towards the end of the season and capped it off with a huge win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl 47-34. The Rebels found much of their success behind the emerging star of quarterback Jevan Snead. The Rebels offense now enters 2009 among the most feared units in the SEC resulting in their 8th place national ranking. However, the Rebels will go on the road in their season opener to take on the Memphis Tigers.

The Tigers had a disappointing 6-7 record last year, but they have plenty of weapons returning on offense to raise expectations. Memphis will try to make a big statement this Sunday when they try and knock off the 8th ranked Rebels at the home of the Liberty Bowl.

Ole Miss will turn much of the offensive focus to the arm of Jevan Snead. Snead may sport the best arm in the SEC and there are many who think he is on the verge of a great year. Snead looked very sharp last year making all the throws needed to have a great passing game.

The Rebels had a top 30 offense and those numbers should only increase in 2009 with Snead back along with the all-purpose threat of Dexter McCluster. McCluster gained 655 yards on the ground last season while also adding another 625 yards through the air. McCluster gives the offense that homerun threat teams need to pose fear in defenses.

Also, Shay Hodge has plenty of ability on the outside at the receiver position and should be an equally used target from Snead.

Tailbacks Cordera Eason and Brandon Bolden are also both returning. Each running back gained right around 600 yards last season with limited carries and should help contribute even more this year. All these players on the offensive side of the ball should give the Rebels offense every opportunity to be explosive.

The Memphis Tigers will be another team who will rely heavily on their offensive production this season. The Tigers ranked 26th in America in total offense averaging over 400 yards per game last season. Memphis has a balanced offense that loves to punish defenses through the ground game. Running back Curtis Steele provided plenty of excitement last season compiling 1,223 yards and 7 touchdowns. Steele was a big reason the Tigers rushing offense ranked 22nd in the country.

Also, quarterback Arkelon Hall is a gifted athlete that can move the ball through the air or on the ground. Despite his ability to pick up yards on the ground, he’ll look to pass the ball first and foremost. Hall threw for 2,275 yards last year at just a 57% completion percentage. The Tigers quarterback could see an increase in action via his arm. The reason is because they have lost some key run-block talent up front, so the ground game may not be as easy and that is why Hall is expected to have a better season statistically. Will this result in an increase in wins for the team? The jury is still out on that one.

The bookie has the Rebels at 16.5 point favorites over the Memphis Tigers. Due to the fact both offenses have been successful, the over/under total is set at the 54.5 mark. Early betting action shows a large portion of the betting public is favoring with Mississippi ATS while also favoring the over total.

The Ole Miss defense in 2008 was a tale of two different stories. The defensive front was among the most feared front 7 in the country. The Rebels defense ranked 4th in the nation holding opponents to just 85 yards per game. The front 7 will again be the forefront of success.

However as good as the defensive front was able to play, the secondary was just as bad. The secondary ranked dead last in the SEC allowing 221 yards per game through the air which is also another reason Memphis will likely resort to the air attack.

The other defense on the field will be the Memphis Tigers. The Tigers were shaky at times as well in 2008, but were fairly solid in general. Memphis held teams to 350 yards per game ranking right outside the top 50. The Memphis defense will likely be the biggest aspect of their game that determines how much success they have this season. The defense must see improvement, and they may face no bigger challenge than their first outing with the Rebels.

Jay’s Pick: The spread opened up with Ole Miss as a -16.5 favorite. It has since moved to -17 and it ain’t sharp money that caused the move. This is the bookie trying to pull a fast one on the general betting public who probably has no idea that a spread of 17 is actually a key number (common final score spread) in college football betting. We look for Memphis to stay within the number here and grab the cover. Take the Tigers at +17.