The Ole Miss Rebels cracked the top 10 in this week’s Associated Press poll for the first time in five years, but the Rebels are still fifth among seven SEC West teams in those same rankings. For an Ole Miss program that failed to win a single conference game as recently as 2011, it has been a meteoric rise over the last three seasons, even as the rest of the West has remained dominant on a national level.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze spoke to the media Monday afternoon, and talked about his team’s ranking and how it might affect the Rebels as they enter a bye this week.

“The trouble with being ranked, it’s a good thing, but if all that you ever worry about is the rankings or the score, what it says, I think that you lose sight of the process and are just result-oriented,” Freeze said Monday. “Certainly that’s not what we’re about in our program. We hope those things go our way, we hope those rankings stay that way, but I’ve seen already just in a short amount of time a lot of people that love this program so dearly get really caught up in that and we’ve got to just maintain our focus on the process.

“That’s what we want to be about. … If all you’re worried about is how we can mess that up because that’s the single goal, you miss the joy of the journey.”

The Rebels’ season has been filled with joy through three weeks, as Ole Miss won each of its first three games by an average of more than 33 points per contest. But Freeze knows his team has a tough road ahead, with all six of its games against SEC West foes remaining on the schedule. Four of those six teams are currently ranked ahead of Ole Miss in the AP Top 25, and Freeze knows if his team continues to focus on its ranking rather than the process, it may be ushered right back out of the Top 25 by a handful of elite opponents.

Freeze spoke highly of the SEC West on Monday, suggesting the division may have actually been underestimated by the Associated Press in this week’s rankings.

“I do know we have a very difficult stretch of games to come. If you look in our half alone, I think all seven teams should be ranked in the Top 25 in the SEC West. I think it’s that strong,” Freeze said. “Let’s not lose sight of enjoying the journey and keeping our eyes focused on the process and not so much the results.”

The process changes a bit this week with no game to prepare for. Freeze said Ole Miss would practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but also noted his coaching staff will begin a critical stretch in recruiting beginning Wednesday night and extending through the end of the weekend. The head coach said the Rebels would “study ourselves in the mornings and our opponents in the afternoon,” referring to Ole Miss’ next opponent, the Memphis Tigers, who visit Oxford on September 27.

However, Freeze did note the team may try and do some prep work for the Rebels’ next two opponents, which brings Ole Miss’ October 4 showdown with Alabama into the mix. Freeze was asked how he plans to keep his players focused on improving during the bye week rather than locking in on the game against Alabama, and he was rather honest in his response.

“I don’t know if it’s totally possible,” Freeze said.

The Rebels’ head coach reiterated the importance of focusing on the process, not on rankings or future matchups or playoff implications. Taking his advice, of course, is easier said than done for an Ole Miss team beginning to emerge on a national stage. But Freeze vowed to remain “proactive” in keeping his team’s focus on today and not any uncertainties down the line.

“It’s the process. It’s winning today and not tomorrow or worrying about what didn’t go right yesterday. It’s about what we do today to make sure we’re prepared for the next step in this journey, which is September 27. We’ll constantly remind (the players) of that.”

Injury note: Freeze also noted Monday that middle linebacker Deterrian Shackelford and tailbacks I’Tavius Mathers and Jordan Wilkins may be limited in practice this week due to injuries.