The Ole Miss Rebels are heavily favored in a home showdown with Memphis Saturday night, but they cannot let the Tigers hang around deep into the game if they wish to stave off an upset bid.

Earlier this month, Memphis nearly stunned No. 11 UCLA (the Bruins escaped with a 42-35 win), and this Tigers team does not view itself as an underdog in Oxford. Meanwhile, Ole Miss must battle the distractions created by next week’s showdown with Alabama, maintaining their focus in a much less sexy game against Memphis.

The best way for Ole Miss to overcome the distractions and ensure a victory will be to start the game fast. If the Rebels can score on their opening possession and earn a convincing lead by the middle of the second quarter, it’ll melt away all the other circumstances surrounding this showdown. However, if the Rebels ease their way into the action and play conservative football early in the game, it’ll allow Memphis the opportunity to be the aggressor.

Ole Miss is the more talented team, but it must act as though this game is a toss up. Taking on an attitude that “this game will work itself out by the second half” could be costly for the Rebels, as Memphis will come out of the tunnel ready to blow past Ole Miss. The Rebels need to press their foot on the gas early and continue to apply pressure until a victory is certain (perhaps if they every build up a lead of at least 28 points).

Quarterback Bo Wallace should not force the ball in certain spots to try to record a big play, but he cannot afford to be lackadaisical either. He must play smart and focused, and must ensure every play is a positive one.

If Ole Miss treats this game the same way it plans to treat Alabama next week, it’ll have no issue improving to 4-0 in 2014.