First Look: Memphis is Upon Us

This week’s game: No. 20 MSU at Memphis, Thursday, 7 p.m., SportSouth (Ron Thulin play-by-play, J.C. Pearson analyst, Jeremy Bloom sideline)

Finally, here we are. It’s the first game week of the 2011 college football season, and it’s gonna be a short one. In just three days MSU will visit the Liberty Bowl to open a season that is chock full of anticipation.

I hope you’ve prepared yourself for this season by picking up a copy of the Football Journal, which came out Sunday. MSU’s first set of game notes was also released, and here’s the updated depth chart. Nothing notable there, with defensive end and left tackle starting jobs still undecided.

At 1 p.m. today, coach Dan Mullen will hold his regular game week press conference, so I’ll be tweeting and blogging from that. You can expect a lengthy notebook for Tuesday’s paper and plenty more copy throughout the week. And don’t forget, I’ve got three more entries due this week in my “31 Reasons” series.

Now, let’s get to the main objective of this “First Look” entry, which will get each game week started by honing in on the upcoming opponent.

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Last meeting: MSU 49, Memphis 7 (Sept. 4, 2010, in Starkville)

Series: MSU leads 32-11.

2010 records: MSU 9-4 (4-4 SEC), Memphis 1-11 (0-8 C-USA)

Memphis on the Web: gotigersgo.com

Memphis blog to follow: The Memphis Edge (Commercial Appeal)

Memphis on Twitter: @Phil_Stukenborg, @kyleveazey, @TigersAthletics

Memphis coach: Larry Porter (1-11, second year)

3 Memphis Players to Watch: QB Andy Summerlin, RB Jerrell Rhodes, DL Dontari Poe

Premature review: In my Premature Preview of Memphis, I looked at the woeful debut season of Porter and the particular struggles of the offense. There’s a new man leading that unit: 23-year-old sophomore Andy Summerlin, who was named the starter late last week.

Can he turn around an offense that ranked 117th in yards per game and 119th in scoring last season? He’s got a tough place to start, having to go against an MSU secondary that’s loaded with experienced players who have a habit of intercepting even the best quarterbacks.

The Tigers will likely have to lean on their defense, in particular the defensive line, led by Poe and Frank Trotter. A story in Sunday’s Commercial Appeal looks at the D-line, and defensive coordinator Jay Hopson said that Poe and Trotter have “got to be dominating players for us.”

As I pointed out in my early look at Memphis, it wasn’t much better on defense than it was on offense. In short, this is a mismatch.

Vegas agrees: MSU is a 27.5-point favorite.