Ole Miss may have had a disappointing finish to the 2013 regular season with losses against Missouri and Mississippi State, but 2014 sets up as the Rebels’ year to be a contender for the division.
But in order for the program to stay the course and be on track to contend in 2014, a win against Georgia Tech is nearly imperative heading into the offseason.
Here’s what a win would do for Ole Miss:
1. Help ease a QB controversy: If you look around the SEC for 2014, you’ll notice nearly every program will have a new starting quarterback. In fact, Bo Wallace will be the SEC’s seasoned veteran with two years as a starter under his belt. That’s when teams are supposed to contend for the division, with weathered veteran starters who can lead an efficient offense. But I’m not sure Bo Wallace has shown that in 2013. Should Rebel fans write Wallace off as a championship quarterback? That’s probably too presumptuous. A win against the Yellow Jackets would likely mean Wallace remains the starter to open 2014, barring injury, but with a loss against Tech and three total to close out 2013, the Rebels’ signal caller could find himself in a precarious situation battling DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan. Honestly, maybe that’s what Wallace needs anyway – competition to light a fire this offseason. Remember, he didn’t have last offseason to work on his game; he was recovering from shoulder surgery.
There’s a better chance of Wallace improving and becoming more efficient than for a first-year redshirt freshman to lead the team to a division title. Over the last two years, Wallace has thrown 20 touchdowns and 20 INTs against SEC competition, and he threw just eight touchdowns, compared to nine INTs in 2013 in SEC play. A big game against Tech would create more confidence and keep Wallace on schedule and heading in the right direction this offseason.
2. Help persuade Donte Moncrief to return: There’s a big decision looming for Donte Moncrief about whether to return to Ole Miss or not. His production has been somewhat overshadowed by freshman Laquon Treadwell, but he’s had another strong season with 53 catches for a team-high 825 yards and five touchdowns. Regardless of his draft grade and projection from the NFL Advisory Board, a win against Georgia Tech could help persuade Moncrief to return; it could help show him there’s a serious chance of the Rebels putting a magical season together in 2014; it could help persuade him that he has unfinished business. Frustrations could mount after three straight losses to close the season, and that could help persuade Moncrief take his talents to the NFL. He’s a key piece to a championship puzzle.
3. Create offseason momentum for recruiting: Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss’ turnaround last season helped ensure they landed all their top targets and finished with one of the country’s best recruiting classes. The Rebels aren’t going to close as strong as last season, but prospects for 2014 and even 2015 will take notice. Strong closes to the season help recruiting momentum. Ole Miss is currently sitting with the #13 class in the country, and another splash of top talent at key positions will be an added benefit in 2014.
Does a loss spell doom for the Rebels’ program? Of course not, but a win against Georgia Tech would show they are on target and staying the course for building a real contender next season.
Ole Miss didn’t hire Hugh Freeze to win eight or nine games per season; they hired him to win the division and compete for championships. 2014 will be the Rebels’ best chance yet.
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