Rebels still have a chance for what might have been
Ole Miss is ranked No. 14 in the country and coming off its first two-game win streak of the season. Headed into the bye, there are plenty worse predicaments the Rebels could be in.
It could also be better.
What if the Rebels hadn’t blown either of the three-touchdown leads against Florida State or Alabama? Where would they be? No. 1?
Maybe not. Teams like Clemson still may lay claim, though it would be tough to argue if Ole Miss had navigated 4-0 through the toughest September in college football before taking care of Memphis on the first of this month.
That’s where it could be. Where they are still leaves room to get there. An SEC title game is realistically a stretch. Alabama would have to lose a couple of games, and Ole Miss can’t. However, the Crimson Tide is entering a brutal four-game stretch that will define its season. That starts this week at Arkansas, then at Tennessee, vs. Texas A&M and then at LSU.
If Alabama makes it through that gauntlet unscathed, then all you can do as an Ole Miss fan is tip your cap to the Tide.
But a Playoff shot is not out of the question. Ranked where they are, the Rebels have a shot to get in and reverse (re-reverse?) its fortunes.
With road games coming up at Arkansas, LSU and Texas A&M, and assuming the poll positions related to those games — specifically Nov. 12 in College Station — Ole Miss has a big chance to re-steer the ship towards where it looked like it was headed in the first halves against the Seminoles and Crimson Tide.
But Ole Miss’ failures may wind up its savior. Judging from the blowout of Georgia and a pretty complete win over Memphis, it looks as though the Rebels have learned and moved on from their mistakes.
The time of possession has increased, thanks in large part to Eugene Brazley’s rise as a (potential) feature back. Key third downs are being converted to give the defense a few extra breaths on the sidelines. The defense had no interceptions in the first three games, but they’ve had pick-sixes in the last two. The offense has found extra rhythm with Jason Pellerin spelling Chad Kelly near the goal line.
The fact that the Rebels are improving is a scary thought for the rest of the opponents on their schedule.
They are the highest-ranked, two-loss team in the country and have outscored opponents 55-6 in the first quarter and 131-40 in the first half. Boy, if you could combine the Ole Miss team in the Florida State and Alabama game with the second-half Tennessee team.
Lessons were definitely learned over the rough September. Another rough stretch lies just ahead. If the Rebels play the rest of the season even close to how they played before halftime against Florida State and Alabama and the whole game against Georgia, what might have been may still be.
But even one more loss and the season will go down as what could have been, not what was.