MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis opens its 2019 campaign on Saturday with an intriguing non-conference game against visiting Ole Miss. The Tigers are looking to improve upon their 8-6 record and appearance in the American Athletic Conference Championship last season, while the Rebels are hoping to get back to a bowl game after finishing 5-7 in 2018.
TV: Noon ET, ABC. LINE: Memphis -6
Ole Miss will be more of a run-based offense under new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez, which should help redshirt freshman Matt Corral (239 yards, 2 TDs) ease into the starting role at quarterback. Senior Scottie Phillips will get lots of carries after he ran for 928 yards in his first season with the Rebels after transferring from junior college. In contrast, Memphis has an experienced signal caller in Brady White, who threw for 3,296 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2018. He and Damonte Coxie (72 catches, 1,174 yards, seven TDs) will look to hook up often early on, especially with the Tigers missing their top running back from a season ago.
ABOUT OLE MISS (2018: 5-7)
The Rebels are switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 on defense under new defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre, which means the team is counting on nose tackle Benito Jones to come up big again. The 6-1, 329-pound Jones started every game last season, finishing with nine tackles for loss and three sacks, but he'll need to play even bigger in the new alignment. Jones has been durable, starting 26 games and playing in every contest for the Rebels over the last three seasons.
ABOUT MEMPHIS (2018: 8-6)
While Darrell Henderson (1,909 yards, 22 TDs) and Tony Pollard (552, six) both decided to leave the Memphis backfield to go to the NFL, Patrick Taylor Jr. opted to stick around for his senior season. Taylor had the numbers -- 1,122 yards, 16 TDs -- to make the jump, but he decided to come back and be the main man for the Memphis running game. He likely will get a majority of the carries early on, but Tigers coach Mike Norvell also has experience at the other skill positions and doesn't want to wear Taylor out without the depth in the backfield the team had last season.
1. The Rebels went 4-0 against non-conference opponents in 2018, averaging 57.8 points in the victories.
2. The Tigers gave up 31.9 points per game in 2018, including a total of 93 in their losses in the AAC Championship (UCF) and the Birmingham Bowl (Wake Forest).
3. Memphis has won five straight season openers, while Ole Miss has won 19 of its last 22.
PREDICTION: Memphis 35, Ole Miss 30