In February, I found myself at a sports book in Lake Tahoe. Starring at an odds sheet for the upcoming college football season, one odd really stood out to me. They had ole miss as at 75 to 1 to winning the national championship. Right then and there, I bought into ole miss.
Sure, some of you may say the SEC is the strongest conference in all of the land (I believe this as well) but this year can be Ole Miss's year. When Houston Nutt arrived at Ole Miss, he brought a new style to Oxford. Of course his predecessor Ed Orgeron did leave him some gifted players, but Nutt has been able to find ways to win games with them.
Last year the Rebel's were able to stop the unstoppable superman Tim Tebow on 4th and 1. How many times has Tebow been stopped on 4th and 1 in his three years at Florida? I can’t give you a definite answer, but being a former UF season ticket holder, that was the most memorable. Nutt's defense didn’t just stop Tim Tebow they were able to beat the National Champions.
Ole Miss’s four losses last year where all by seven points are less. This year Ole Miss has arguably the easiest path to Atlanta just based on their schedule. For starters, out of conference Ole Miss faces Northern Arizona, SE Louisiana, UAB, and Memphis. Memphis who was 6-7 last season can be seen as the toughest foe here, but don’t expect any fatigue or falters from out of conference opponents.
In the SEC the Rebels have Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU and Alabama at home and on the road face South Carolina, Auburn, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State. Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Auburn and Arkansas should all be wins. I am not a believer in Lane Kiffin at Tennessee and can’t see him pulling anything special together in his first year. South Carolina I believe is a trap game for the Rebels.
A Thursday night ESPN game in Columbia can spell trouble for the rebels as there only 1-5 in their last 6 SEC openers. Last year Ole Miss beat LSU 30-13 on the road. This year’s game could set up to be the SEC West Championship game. Ole Miss’s defense had LSU’s number last year holding them to only 215 yards of offense. Along with LSU at home Alabama will travel to Oxford. The last four games of this series have been decided by only three points per game. Ole Miss almost did it last year, but faltered at the end. This year at home I’m giving the Rebels the nod because of their defense and quarterback play.
Ole Miss’s Jevan Snead can be seen as the top quarterback in the SEC West. And from watching years and years of SEC football, you need a successful productive quarterback to be successful in the SEC. The other Rebels quarterback ATH Dexter McCluster who lines up in the “Wild Rebel” at quarterback creates all sorts of problems for the SECs elite defenses. His quickness and athleticism will provide an option for the offense at WR, QB and HB.
Florida won the SEC in 2006 and 2008 they had one of the top defensive lines. With Ole Miss returning a majority of the group that had 38 sacks last year, they should have one of the top lines in the conference. DE Greg Hardy and DE Marcus Tillman should be very productive in opponent’s backfields.
In the SEC, it is almost impossible to go undefeated. That’s why if everything falls into place I’m giving Ole Miss a shot at Atlanta. Realistically somewhere along the way they will falter and lose one game. But if Jevan Sneed finds his form and the team is able to keep focused look for two-time SEC coach of the year Houston Nutt to have his Rebels in Atlanta, where who knows maybe superman will be waiting. Hopefully Ole Miss can bring the kryptonite again.