OXFORD • Ole Miss players are eager to get through camp and focus on someone else, in this case the Memphis Tigers.
With that comes the reminder that the Rebels are not expected to win, at least not in the gambling community.
Odds-makers some time ago declared Ole Miss the underdog in a series in which it has held the upper hand.
The Rebels lead the on-the-field series 49-11-2, though Memphis has beaten Ole Miss in two of its most successful modern-era seasons: 2003 and 2015.
This time the Tigers enter as 6½-point favorites.
Rebels tight end Jason Pellerin brought up the underdog topic unprompted this week.
“You kind of get tired of hitting your own guys. You’re looking for some fresh people to hit,” he said. “With Memphis coming up, us being an underdog and everything, I feel like it’s a good opportunity for us to just grind in, settle in, and get focused on our goal to beat Memphis and go 1-0.”
Beginning with Arizona and Hawaii tonight and continuing through the first big weekend there are 25 games over college football’s opening that will involve a Power Five Conference team against a team from the Group of Five or the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA.
Ole Miss is one of only two Power Five teams not named a favorite by odds-makers. Cincinnati right now is a 4½-point favorite over UCLA.
Both Cincinnati and Memphis are members of The American Athletic Conference.
As Ole Miss tries to build offensive line depth assistant coach Jack Bicknell is spreading the word about what people think about the Rebels.
“Our O-line coach says it every day to us. We’ve got to have a hard edge. We’ve got to go out there and prove them wrong,” junior left guard Royce Newman said.
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said earlier this week that he expected to have a more definite word on the status of senior right tackle Alex Givens this Monday. Givens had a surgical procedure on his back in mid-July and hasn’t practiced this month. He has not yet been ruled out of the Memphis game.
Luke and his staff began to introduce to players some of the Memphis game plan this week.
Pellerin downplayed the significance of the betting lines.
Toeing the line
“We don’t like to feed into all that. We just like to take care of what we can take care of,” he said. “Obviously we hear it. It’s going to give us a chip on our shoulder. A lot of the guys on this team and coaching staff … we have a lot to prove.
“This game is going to be very important for us, and we’re taking it very seriously.”