Don't look now, but Ole Miss has a chance to start 5-2
Ole Miss survived a daunting 3-game stretch to begin the 2020 and now, with its offense clicking but its defense lagging, the Rebels enter a fascinating and vital stretch of games.
The Rebels travel to Arkansas on Saturday before a home game with Auburn and a road trip at Vanderbilt. All 3 games are winnable and anything less than a 2-1 stretch would be a disappointment. Then lies a home contest with South Carolina that, if the Rebels win the next 3, would provide them an opportunity to get to 5-2 in Year 1 of Lane Kiffin.
That would be a remarkable spot for this program heading into the final 3 games of the year when you consider the lack of an offseason, the schedule change and everything else out of the ordinary that occurred before the season’s opening kickoff. Oddmakers didn’t think the Rebels would win more than 4 games this season.
Is it likely Ole Miss reels off 4 in a row? Probably not and perhaps debatable at best. But it is certainly possible and if the Rebels are going to make headway in the win column, they need to do so in these next 4 games.
Arkansas looks more competent than everybody thought and probably should have beaten Auburn in Auburn last weekend if not for a questionable call regarding a fumble on the Tigers’ game-winning final drive.
Auburn still boasts one of the SEC’s better defenses despite not being able to score, and if the Rebels somehow lose to Vanderbilt, then this premise is likely irrelevant altogether.
But what last Saturday’s 63-48 loss cemented is that Ole Miss is going to score points on everybody and likely enough to stay in games no matter how poorly its defense plays. Matt Corral is playing at a first-team All SEC level. So are others. Ole Miss’ offense gives it a chance every week.
“I don’t want to rat poison the guy but A-plus,” Kiffin said of Corral’s season to this point. “He’s made so many plays, bailed us out of different things. He’s played lights-out, which is difficult. I don’t know many people would’ve expected that having no spring and in a quarterback competition. It’s not like he’s an established starter in the third year of a system. This is all new for him.”
Ole Miss desperately needs to improve on defense. The Rebels have no consistent pass rush and are one of the poorest tackling teams in the conference. They’re allowing too many big plays, etc. It’s easy to identify the issues. But the offense’s remarkable start has kept this team in games — even against a program as dominant as Alabama.
There is legitimate and reasonable excitement about this team’s present and future.
That’s why fans are so excited about this upcoming stretch. If the Rebels can reel in the next 2, it’ll have a great shot at 2 more against the 2 worst SEC East teams.
Ole Miss hasn’t won 4 consecutive SEC games since the 2014 season.
It’ll come down narrowing the monstrous gap between its offensive excellence and defense ineptitude, but getting through the first 3 games at 1-2 positioned the Rebels nicely to go on a midseason spurt before ending the year with road games at A&M and LSU with the Egg Bowl in Oxford sandwiched in between.
The mediocrity of the SEC West behind Alabama has produced opportunity for programs like Ole Miss and Arkansas to capture momentum in Year 1 of their current regimes. Will either take advantage of it? We will begin to find out this Saturday in Fayetteville.
“Like I’ve said before, we’re getting started,” Kiffin said. “Got a lot of work to do. This is just the beginning. I said it the other day, this is the beginning of the future.”