No. 21 Ole Miss opens season against Troy

Troy (0-0) at No. 21 Mississippi (0-0), Saturday, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

Line: Ole Miss by 21 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Ole Miss 1-0.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Coach Lane Kiffin and the Rebels are trying to sustain success after their first 10-win regular season. They’ll be relying on a big group of transfers and a new quarterback — either USC transfer Jaxson Dart or Luke Altmyer. New Troy coach Jon Sumrall, meanwhile, is trying to get his tenure off to a strong start. He had recently been promoted to co-defensive coordinator at Kentucky before landing the Troy job.

KEY MATCHUP

Troy’s offense versus the Rebels’ defense. With all the new pieces, it’s possible that Ole Miss will take a while to get going offensively. But a defense that was much improved last season faces a Trojans offense that averaged just 22.8 points and 338.4 yards a game in 2021. The Rebels’ also turned to the portal for some instant defensive starters.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Troy: LB Carlton Martial. Leads active players with a career average of 9.40 tackles per game. His 442 career tackles ranks 18 shy of the Sun Belt record of 460.

Ole Miss: RB Zach Evans could actually be an upgrade for a team that lost its top three tailbacks. The TCU transfer averaged 7.3 yards per carry in two seasons at TCU, including nearly 5 after contact. Evans was a top 20 overall prospect according to recruiting services coming out of high school.

FACTS & FIGURES

Ole Miss’s 51-21 win over Troy in 2013 in the teams’ only other meeting was later vacated under NCAA sanctions. … The Rebels have won nine straight home games dating to Nov. 14, 2020. … The Trojans have won three straight openers but have dropped four of their last five against FBS opponents. … Troy has four returning starters on the offensive line with a combined 105 starts. … Sumrall is the third straight Troy head coach who is a former assistant at the school. He was also on the Rebels’ 2018 coaching staff. … The Trojans are 3-23 against current Southeastern Conference members.

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