Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has been paying attention to Memphis’ hot start.
The Tigers might have a new coach and new quarterback this season, but Freeze says the 16th-ranked Rebels (2-2) will be tested when Memphis (3-0) comes to town on Saturday night.
“They put up some crazy numbers offensively and defensively and they are playing very, very good football,” Freeze said.
Memphis beat Ole Miss last season 37-24 in Memphis, but that was with former coach Justin Fuente, who is now at Virginia Tech, and former quarterback Paxton Lynch, who is now in the NFL.
The new-look Memphis program appears just as dangerous.
While Ole Miss has had some ups and downs in September, the Tigers haven’t even been tested. Memphis has won its three games by an average of more than 40 points, including a 77-3 victory over Bowling Green last weekend.
That’s made Memphis a tough team to study.
“I am not sure we have a good sample size, because their games haven’t been close and they really don’t have to show a whole lot,” Freeze said. “So there are probably some things that we are not seeing.”
What’s certain is Memphis has the ability to score touchdowns in a hurry under first-year coach Mike Norvell, who was the offensive coordinator at Arizona State before joining the Tigers. Junior quarterback Riley Ferguson has completed 67 percent of his passes for 843 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions this season.
“I really like this team,” Norvell said. “I like their attitude, their physicality.”
Ole Miss will counter with an offense that’s averaging 40 points per game. The Rebels built a 45-0 lead last week over then-No. 12 Georgia before settling for the 45-14 victory.
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly said the Memphis defense will provide a challenge.
“They’re just all running around, flying to the ball and making plays,” Kelly said. “They’re athletic – they always have been. We’ve just got to make sure we go out and execute.”
Here are a few other things to watch when No. 16 Mississippi hosts Memphis on Saturday:
Watch Out For Engram:
Kelly’s favorite target this season has been tight end Evan Engram, who has caught 26 passes for 397 yards. Both of those totals are tops in the nation for a tight end.
Ole Miss Loves The First Half:
The Rebels have outscored opponents 41-6 in the first quarter and 66-27 in the second quarter through four games this season. They’ve been outscored 47-24 in the third quarter and 40-29 in the fourth quarter.
Rebels Looking For Picks:
Ole Miss has just one interception this season, which is tied for last in the SEC. The interception came last weekend against Georgia, when Derrick Jones picked off a pass and ran it 52 yards for a touchdown.
Massive Margins For Memphis:
Memphis has had some huge blowout wins over the past two weeks. The Tigers beat Kansas 43-7 on Sept. 17 and then crushed Bowling Green 77-3 last weekend. The 74-point margin of victory for Memphis was the biggest since World War II.
Elliott Can Kick:
Memphis senior Jake Elliott could help the Tigers at the end if the game is close. The two-time defending American Athletic Conference special teams player of the year is 5 of 6 on field goals this season and has hit nine field goals of over 50 yards during his career. He’s also made all 162 extra-point attempts over four seasons.
Memphis at Ole Miss
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Radio: 103.1 FM