Matchup Breakdown: Tennessee's offensive line vs. Robert Nkemdiche
The Tennessee Volunteers (3-3) will travel to Oxford, Miss., to take on No. 3 Ole Miss (6-0). The Vols are coming off a 45-10 win over Chattanooga in Week 7. The Rebels captured a 35-20 victory over Texas A&M on Saturday, continuing what has been a stellar start to the season.
Ole Miss has seen a dramatic turnaround since last season. The Rebels were 8-5 overall and 3-5 in SEC games, finishing sixth in the SEC West. But the emergence of several sophomores from a top-5 2013 recruiting class has propelled Ole Miss into the national spotlight.
Robert Nkemdiche is a key part of the Rebels’ turnaround. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound defensive tackle is the centerpiece of a defensive unit that ranks No. 8 overall in pass defense and No 21 in rush defense. Nkemdiche has 14 tackles, including a sack, but his presence alone takes pressure off his teammates in the trenches.
He will face a Tennessee offensive line that has struggled this season. The Vols have allowed 23 sacks this season, including six to FCS Chattanooga on Saturday. Tennessee returned zero starters on its offensive line from the previous season and its inexperience in the trenches has shown throughout the season.
Much like Ole Miss, the Vols hope to see a quick turnaround after signing a top-5 recruiting class in 2014. However, the offensive line seems to be progressing much slower than the skill players, which will continue to be the case facing Nkemdiche and the Rebels’ top ranked defense.
Quarterback Justin Worley has a history of injuries, with his most recent coming in Week 4 against Georgia. Standing behind an inept offensive line that looks to stop one of the nation’s best pass rushing units, one should expect Worley to see another game spent on the turf. Nkemdiche and the Ole Miss defense will dominate Tennessee’s struggling line and continue their dominance of SEC offenses.