Ole Miss-Memphis Odds
After six consecutive wins to end the season, there was no shortage of votes for Ole Miss.
That's the case again to begin 2009, and the No. 8 Rebels hope to live up to their highest ranking in nearly 40 years beginning Sunday when they travel to Memphis looking for a fifth straight season-opening win over the Tigers.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made
Little was expected in Nutt's first season in
A stunning 31-30 win at
Ole Miss (9-4) began its turnaround Oct. 25 at
Ole Miss hasn't been this high in the AP poll since the 1970 season, which it entered with the No. 5 ranking.
"Last year, I didn't know if we were going to get them to believe in themselves, it took us that long," Nutt said. "This (year) is different because our guys haven't been in these uncharted waters. But I'd rather it be this way."
Much of the preseason hype surrounds Jevan Snead, a former top recruit at
Snead threw 16 touchdown passes and three interceptions in the final six games of his sophomore season, and he's the preseason All-SEC second team quarterback -
"I think that's one of the things that's helping us work hard," Snead said. "We know the expectations are high. We work hard every year, but we've definitely got our eye on the prize this year and just working as hard as we can to get to those expectations and our goals."
Snead's Ole Miss debut came against
Snead and senior wideout Dexter McCluster - who had more than 600 yards rushing and receiving in Nutt's "Wild Rebel" formation - are among six returning starters on offense, but one loss in particular will be felt. Tackle Michael Oher was a first-round draft pick, leaving sophomore Bradley Sowell to protect Snead's blind side.
Defensive tackle Peria Jerry also was a first-rounder, leaving a big hole up front, but Ole Miss has its premier pass rusher coming back. Senior defensive end Greg Hardy, one of eight returning defensive starters, had 8 1/2 sacks last season in eight games.
Hardy missed four games due to a stress fracture in his right foot and had surgery that kept him out of some spring drills. He was on track for full preseason participation when he and McCluster were involved in a car accident in July.
Now, he likely won't start against
"Greg is going to have significant snaps, but probably won't be out there the very first play," Nutt said. "We consider Greg a starter. ... I want him to get confidence in his foot. Hopefully he will be as good as ever."
The Tigers started last season 0-3 but bounced back to qualify for their fourth bowl game in five seasons.
A trip to the St. Petersburg Bowl didn't go well for coach Tommy West's team, though.
The Tigers' biggest challenge will be replacing four offensive linemen, which may leave senior quarterback Arkelon Hall under a lot of pressure. Hall completed 57.0 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, his first as a starter.
Behind Hall will be tailback Curtis Steele, a junior college transfer who ran for 1,223 yards in 2008 and was named Conference USA's newcomer of the year. Steele had 83 yards on 15 carries against the Rebels last season.
Ole Miss leads the series 46-10-2, winning 13 of the past 17 meetings.
Posted: 9/2/09 5:57PM ET