This Saturday, the Ole Miss Rebels are back in action at the Liberty Bowl taking on the Memphis Tigers for the first time since 2015. With only 80 miles separating the two, this rivalry dates back to the 1920s when the West Tennessee Normal College Tigers took on the Ole Miss Rebels for the first time. Although throughout the history of the rivalry the Rebels have dominated (47-11-2), the recent rise of the Tigers Football program has made for a much more anticipated match between the two. The Last time the Rebels suited up in the Liberty Bowl, the Memphis Tigers handed the ranked #13 Rebels their hardest loss of the season. The last time the two met 2016, the Rebels revenged their loss at home beating the Tigers 48-28, giving the 4th highest attended game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Since then, a lot has changed between the two. Both teams have seen major coaching changes. The Rebels are still curing their Hugh Freeze hangover with the 33 vacated wins, loss of 13 scholarships and Bowl ban they received from the NCAA. On the other hand, the Tigers are continuing to climb to the top of the American Athletic Conference with back-to-back Divisional championships and conference championship appearances.
Last Season, The Rebels finished with a 5-7 record (1-7 SEC) and the Tigers finished 8-6 (5-3 AAC).
So the outcome should be a no brainer, right? Actually, no.
I wouldn’t count the Rebels out just yet.
Sure, the Tigers have the pieces to go for a 3-peat in the West. With WR Damonte Coxie, RB Patrick Taylor, and a much more confident QB Brady White, the Tigers have what it takes to start the season off with a win over the boys from Oxford. What will it take for the Tigers to win? Defense. Consistency. And most importantly, an improved passing game from Brady White. With the Tigers winning their past 5 season openers, the Tigers will be confident and ready to take on on of their rivals. However, despite how sweet of a win this would be for the Tigers, this game is not season altering.
That’s not the case for the Rebels. This season, the Rebels have a lot to prove; it's time for them to recover. The Rebels are swimming in uncharted territory being the underdogs. When DB Jaylon Jones referred to the Tigers as the “Little Brother”, he was wrong. For what is possibly the first time, the Rebels are the “Little Brother”. With this being one of the few possible wins for the Rebs, this is a must-win. The Rebels are looking to make their first bowl since 2015. Since then, the have been missing a pretty big piece: defense. An improved defensive game is exactly what it will take for the Rebels to beat the Tigers. Although Freshman QB Matt Corral will be one of the youngest starting QBs in recent rebel history, the bar is set high and expectations even higher. On top of that, even on an offseason, SEC is still SEC. They still produce high-quality players. They still have talent. And that talent will be showcased on Saturday at the Liberty Bowl. But, is that enough?
Prediction: Tigers 34 Rebels 31