SIU, Hill face 'most athletic, the best FBS opponent' in 5 years

SIU, Hill face 'most athletic, the best FBS opponent' in 5 years
SIU tied a school record with three defensive touchdowns in its season-opening victory at Murray State. (photo courtesy of SIU Athletics)

Southern Illinois plays in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, arguably the best league in FCS. Ole Miss plays in the Southeastern Conference, recognized as the finest FBS league. The two programs will clash Saturday afternoon in the Magnolia State.

Fresh off its season-opening victory at Murray State,  SIU steps up in class.

"Watching them on film, they're probably the most athletic, the best FBS opponent that we've played since I've been coaching the last five years, some guys that you'll be seeing playing on Sunday, really all over their team," Hill said in his weekly media address.

Hill, in his third year as Salukis' head coach, wants his players to embrace the experience.

"Our guys are excited to go to Ole Miss and be a part of the rich tradition of the SEC. That is the best football conference in the country," Hill said. "We get an opportunity to go down there and do that and I want our student-athletes to remember this trip — going through The Grove, seeing what it's like, some of these guys would never have that opportunity other than being here at SIU."

The Salukis and Ole Miss have met twice before, with the Rebels posting wins in 1994 (59-3) and 2011 (42-24).

Hill is far from conceding the game.

"The way that we prepare is to do the best job that we can, as a coaching staff have the best practices and mental preparation that we can have, to go down and win a football game. I do think that it's an exciting trip for our fans to go down and see college football played at its highest level in an atmosphere that's as good as anybody's," he said.

Three key matchups

  1. SIU secondary vs. Ole Miss receivers:  Two Rebels caught more than 90 yards of passes in last week's 47-27 mauling of Texas Tech. Another had 81 receiving yards. "They're bigger, physical receivers and we have some bigger, physical DBs," Hill said. "Jeremy Chinn is going to look like an SEC safety out there. Madre Harper played Power 5 football last year. We have some physical, bigger DBs and they're going to have to do a good job of staying in front, contesting everything and not giving them easy looks."
  2. D.J. Davis vs. Ole Miss defense:  Coming off his first career 100-yard rushing game, the junior may be the key to Saluki success. SIU handed him the ball a career-high 19 times last week. Davis also caught three passes. If Southern is to be successful, chances are Davis is the key.
  3. The Big Play:  In its victory over Texas Tech, Ole Miss scored on runs of 39 and 65 yards, passes of 58 and 34 yards and a kickoff return of 94 yards. Rebel back Scottie Phillips rushed for 205 yards. Quarterback Jordan Ta'amu threw for 336 yards. SIU can't give up those numbers if it wants to stay in the game.

Game information

Southern Illinois at Ole Miss, 3 p.m. in Oxford, Miss. The game is on SEC Network Alternate.

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