September 29, 2015

(AP) - The mutual respect between Mississippi's receivers and Florida's secondary is obvious.

The battle between these two talented groups could determine who wins the game when the third-ranked Rebels (4-0, 2-0 SEC) visit the 25th-ranked Gators (4-0, 2-0) on Saturday night.

''That should be a fun matchup,'' Florida coach Jim McElwain said.

Of particular interest is the duel between Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell and Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Both were among the nation's most highly regarded recruits in 2013.

Now the juniors are college stars and potential NFL first-round picks in the spring.

Treadwell and Hargreaves played against each other during the Under Armour All-America game about three years ago. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Treadwell - listed at three inches taller than Hargreaves - remembers a pretty even matchup.

''He made a couple plays on me and I made a couple plays on him,'' Treadwell said.

He expects a similar outcome Saturday if the two are matched against each other. McElwain didn't commit to any one-on-one matchups earlier in the week.

''He has great footwork - he's a great technician,'' Treadwell said of Hargreaves. ''He knows what he wants to do and he's skilled and comfortable. He's got an edge to him and he's got a swagger.''

Hargreaves has been limited by injuries this season but still leads the Gators with two interceptions. He missed the second game of the season with a leg injury and played through a sore back last week against Tennessee.

Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson said Treadwell immediately stands out when watching Ole Miss film. Treadwell had eight catches for a career-high 135 yards in the Rebels' 27-16 win over Vanderbilt last weekend.

Hargreaves hasn't spoken to the media much since the summer, but Wilson is confident Hargreaves is ready for the challenge.

''We'll have to see, but I feel like Vernon can win that matchup against him because Vernon is Vernon and he's going to get the job done,'' Wilson said.

Both sides say the positional matchup isn't all about Treadwell and Hargreaves. Ole Miss has a deep group of receivers that includes Treadwell, Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo, Markell Pack, Damore'ea Stringfellow and tight end Evan Engram. All six are at least 6-foot-2.

Adeboyejo leads the Rebels with five touchdown catches. Core has three and is averaging nearly 23 yards per catch.

Hargreaves is joined in the secondary by Wilson and safeties Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye, who Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly singled out as a ''very good player.''

''Everyone knows about their back end,'' Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. ''They are definitely one of the best defenses in the country and they are going to test us for sure.''

Both sides are confident in their personnel. For Florida, it's a chance to make a statement against an Ole Miss offense that's averaging 54.8 points, second in the nation.

''This will be a good challenge for our secondary, who I think are pretty good,'' McElwain said. ''I'm sure they're saying, 'Look, here's my chance to go up against the best.' To me, that's fun. That's the challenge. So go accept it and see how you do.''

The showdown with the Rebels doesn't give the Gators much time to celebrate their return to the rankings for the first time in nearly two years this week. It was the program's longest unranked stretch since a 32-week hiatus that ended in 1980.

Health concerns - at least nine players are suffering from flu-like symptoms - further dampened any euphoria in Gainesville going into Saturday's matchup.

''It hurts in preparation, but that's OK,'' McElwain said. ''Something we got to deal with.''

Still, Florida's thrilling 28-27 comeback win over the Volunteers has it feeling good. The Gators, who overcame a 13-point deficit in the final five minutes, had lost six of their last 11 home games.

That's resulted in the first Top 25 matchup at Florida Field since the Gators beat then-No. 9 South Carolina 44-11 on Oct. 20, 2012.

''This is what really gets us going,'' Wilson said. ''It's going to be a great matchup, and we're looking to upset them.''

McElwain had announced that quarterback Will Grier would make his fourth consecutive start, saying he "played pretty good in some situations last week" and "deserves to go this week," but the school said Friday that an illness could keep him on the sideline.

If Grier can't go, sophomore Treon Harris would make his second start of the season.

After splitting snaps with Harris in the first two games, Grier has gone the distance in the last two. He was at his best down the stretch against Tennessee, hitting 11 of his final 18 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns while Harris served a one-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

Grier has thrown for 725 yards and six touchdowns. He also has two rushing scores and four turnovers, including three interceptions.

McElwain said Harris also had a good week of practice, adding ''both guys are ready to go.''

Cornerback Jalen Tabor will also be back after being suspended last week.

These teams are meeting for the first time since 2008, with the Rebels having taken three of the past four matchups. The Gators have dropped the last two in Gainesville.

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