College football is back this week, and Northeast Mississippi’s SEC teams both figure prominently into the early action.
Ole Miss opens Thursday night at 8:15 on ESPN in an SEC game at Vanderbilt, while Mississippi State faces No. 13 Oklahoma State in a neutral-site matchup at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are both considered rising teams.
National No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche, a defensive end, will make his college debut for Ole Miss, which added a top 10 recruiting class to 19 returning starters from a team playing its best football at the end of 2012.
Vanderbilt’s summer has been marred by a June incident in which four players – none of them substantial contributors – were dismissed from the team for their roles in a campus rape case.
A fifth player, wide receiver Chris Boyd, was recently charged. Boyd, who had 50 catches for 774 yards and five touchdowns last year, has been suspended, and his status for the game remains unclear.
Vandy rallied to win 27-26 in Oxford last season. The Commodores have won three straight and five of the last six in the series.
MSU quarterback Tyler Russell has taken responsibility for last season’s slide to the finish that included losses in five of the final six games, each of them by at least two touchdowns.
Can the Bulldogs, who lost two NFL draft picks from their cornerback spots, slow down an offense that has been among the nation’s most explosive in recent seasons?
Oklahoma State ranked in the top 10 last year in passing offense, scoring offense and total offense.
OSU coach Mike Gundy says quarterbacks Clint Chelf, a senior, and J.W. Walsh, a sophomore and better runner, will both play against the Bulldogs.
Both teams finished 8-5 last season.
WEEK 1 SEC SCHEDULE
North Carolina at South Carolina, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Toledo at Florida, 11:21 a.m. (SEC Network)
Rice at Texas A&M, noon (ESPN)
Mississippi State vs Oklahoma State (at Houston), 2:30 p.m. (TBA)
La.-Lafayette at Arkansas, 3 p.m. (FSN)
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (at Atlanta), 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Austin Peay at Tennessee (PPV), 5 p.m.
Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky (at Nashville), 6 p.m. (ESPNews)
Washington State at Auburn, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Georgia at Clemson, 7 p.m. (ABC)
LSU vs. TCU (at Arlington, Texas), 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Murray State at Missouri, 6 p.m. (PPV)