When a Power 5 team that's expected to do reasonably well ends up losing to a mid-major program, there's usually something fluky or inexplicable about it. Maybe it's several turnovers or a never-to-be-repeated play. But, aside from the injuries on the defense, there was nothing fluky about Memphis' defeat of Ole Miss. The Tigers just flat-out beat the Rebels.
It didn't look like it would be that way early on. Ole Miss took a 14-0 lead early, with a pair of drives that covered a lot of the field, if not using a lot of time. The first drive included two plays and was capped off by a 68-yard Laquon Treadwell touchdown reception. The second took eight plays. It looked like the Rebels were going to coast through what could have been a scary game for them.
Then, Memphis tore off 31 straight points, and it was never really a game again. Tigers QB Paxton Lynch was 39-of-53 passing for 384 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Memphis picked Rebels QB Chad Kelly twice. And the Ole Miss run game was absolutely stuffed, finishing the game with 40 yards rushing on 24 carries, the longest rush going for 13 yards. Yes, Ole Miss picked up 480 yards and only got outgained by 11. Sure, the Rebels had 25 first downs, not too far off the 31 for Memphis. But anyone who watched the game knew it wasn't that close.
And there was likely at least one other SEC team keeping an eye on this one. Memphis head coach Justin Fuente has emerged as one of the top candidates on this year's coaching carousel, and could be an upper-tier target for South Carolina. But if Memphis keeps winning, other teams are going to take notice and the Gamecocks could face a bidding war. In the meantime, this is a huge building block for his Memphis program and a boost for the beleaguered American Athletic Conference.
It's also a crushing blow for Ole Miss. While the game won't count in the SEC standings, it certainly casts doubt on the ability of the Rebels to win the games they will need in order to wrap up the division. And it deep-sixes any hopes Ole Miss fans might have still harbored of sneaking into the playoffs; even a New Year's Six invitation looks questionable right now. Saturday's loss might end up being a microcosm of the Rebels' season -- a strong start, followed by an unwinding that's bitterly disappointing.