Consistent play from the linebackers
Memphis' offense will spread the Rebels out and put a premium on making solo tackles. The inexperienced Ole Miss linebackers will need to clean up the Tiger running backs and also assist in pass coverage against shifty Memphis skill players. The Rebel linebackers have been a carousel throughout camp but knowing assignments and playing as a unit will be paramount. Mistakes in pass coverage could put Ole Miss in an hole it can't dig out of.
Key player: Ashlee Palmer
The transfer has locked up the SAM linebacker position and made some noise with a big hit on Dexter McCluster on Meet the Rebels Day. The athletic Palmer has the ability to thrive in pass coverage and to step up and defend the run. His day could dictate how the Rebels fare.
Control the tempo
Ole Miss ran for 240 yards against Memphis last season and will need a similar performance Saturday. A clear advantage for the Rebels is their offensive line against the Memphis defense. A steady dose of running the football will move the chains and give Seth Adams confidence. The physical Ole Miss line can wear down the Tigers by the second half and have opportunities to bust the big play.
Key player: Bruce Hall and Cordera Eason
BenJarvus Green-Ellis picked up 127 yards on 26 carries in his Rebel debut and will most likely do it again. However, his two backups in Hall and Eason are more than capable as well. Both Hall and Eason can give BJGE a breather and keep the Rebel offense productive. That depth in the backfield will help Ole Miss stay consistent for four quarters and constantly have a back in the game that is fresh and tough to take down.
Win on special teams
Field position is another way to jumpstart the Ole Miss offense. With the kickoffs now coming from the 30, Rebel returners will have more room to make people miss and increase momentum. Early on with Adams settling in, special teams may be the best way to put up a big play. Not leaving points on the field is of great importance in a series that has been decided by only seven points over the last two seasons. Josh Shene will be counted on to continue building off his spectacular 2006 season. It hasn't been decided on who will punt, but the competition winner needs to flip the field and make the Memphis offense have to navigate a long drive to score.
Key player: Josh Shene
The former freshman all-American has to be solid on field goals and also be ready for action as the kickoff specialist as well. Orgeron appears to have given the nod to Christain Albarracin, but one shank and Shene will very likely be called on. Aiding the coverage team with above average hang time no matter who is kicking and Shene's ability to convert field goals will tell the special teams story Saturday.
Avoid being a one-dimensional offense
The biggest question mark surrounding Ole Miss is quarterback Seth Adams' ability to go downfield with the football. The Rebels are proven as a team that can run the football, but an aerial attack is key to avoid eight or nine men in the box for Memphis. Throwing enough so that the Tigers have to respect Adams' arm will go a long way toward winning. Moderate to big gains through the air will loosen up the Memphis front and keep the opposing linebackers from running downhill.
Key player: Dexter McCluster and Marshay Green
The two Rebel speedsters need to take some of the burden off Adams by turning short passes into big gains. YAC yardage will be important at least in the early going and can rattle the Memphis defense as much as a 30-yard post would. The Tigers are inexperienced in the secondary and can be taken advantage of by both McCluster and Green.
Limit the big play
The Memphis receivers are tall, and Tommy West is going to go after the athletic but unproven Ole Miss secondary. Ed Orgeron's defenses have been effective in stopping the Tigers from popping big plays, and that has to be the case again. If quarterback Martin Hankins is on his game, it will be difficult for the Rebel corners to play defense on an island. Pressure needs to be applied by the front four, and there can't be a single coverage bust. The young Ole Miss defense will have to grow up quickly against the spread attack that exposes mistakes.
Key player: Jamarca Sanford
The seasoned athlete in the Rebel secondary has to lead by example and play a great game. The strong safety will be counted on to defend the run near the line of scrimmage and help direct other players into their coverage assignments. Having the experienced Sanford at the back of the defense will help limit the growing pains of those around him.
Keys to Victory: Memphis Game
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