Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Playoffs Start Now

The College Football Playoff doesn't officially begin until January, but it might as well start this Saturday when No. 3 Auburn visits No. 4 Ole Miss. 

The winner won't be guaranteed a spot in the Playoff, but with each team already having one loss, the loser of Ole Miss - Auburn can kiss its Playoff dreams goodbye. As far as Playoff hopes go this game truly is do or die. 

For that reason Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will be the center of the college football universe for a few more hours Saturday night (6 p.m., ESPN). It's a familiar place for the Rebels. All eyes have been locked on Ole Miss throughout the month of October, ever since that historic win over No. 1 Alabama. Even after the loss to LSU the Rebels have stayed in the national spotlight thanks to the CFB Playoff's No. 4 ranking and this Top 5 showdown with Auburn. 

ESPN has advertised the game non-stop, leaving little room to debate that Ole Miss v. Auburn will be college football's main attraction this weekend. 

After a month that included games against Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU, Ole Miss should feel at home in another high stakes SEC West showdown. 

The attention the Rebels have received this season has been incredible. 

Thanks to a 7-0 start and the SEC saturation of ESPN, the Ole Miss brand has probably grown exponentially. A win against Gus Malzahn's Tigers would keep the Rebels near the top, and heap more even attention Oxford's way. 

Make no mistake, the winner of this contest will still have tough games ahead. The season will be far, far from over. Ole Miss plays at Arkansas and hosts Mississippi State while Georgia and Alabama await Auburn. Not easy games. 

But the winner this Saturday night will keep its National Championship dreams alive one more week, and survival is what college football is all about. 

Survive baby. Just Survive. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Amazing Season Continues

Come down off that ledge. 

Ole Miss plays Auburn on Saturday, and everything is out in front for the Rebels. Everything

Ole Miss only fell to 7th in the AP Poll after Saturday's 10-7 loss to LSU. 

Home games against No. 4 Auburn and No. 1 Mississippi State await. 

Win those (and beat Arkansas) and Ole Miss will play in its first ever SEC Championship Game. Win that and the Rebels will undoubtedly make the first ever College Football Playoff as one of the four best teams in the country. 

It's all out in front of Ole Miss. 

There is no looking back other than to learn from the mistakes that were made - coaches and players alike - and move on. Life's hardest lessons are taught in defeat, but used correctly those lessons can lead to the greatest victories. 

The Rebels are 7-1. 

An SEC West Championship and entry into the College Football Playoff is still their's for the taking. 

This amazing season continues. 

Get on the bus. 

This will be an exciting ride. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I'm All In and I Want You With Me

Have you noticed that Ole Miss cornerback Mike Hilton arrives at the ball with a ferocity that's noticably more purposeful than ever before?

Does the LandShark defense seem more determined, more tenacious and more confident than any Ole Miss defense you've ever seen?

Ole Miss is a team on a mission. It's not satisfied with 7-0. These Rebels just want to win the next one, and that relentless approach has been an out of this world experience for most of us to witness. The Rebels are ranked No. 3 and widely considered favorites to make the first ever College Football Playoff.

What is happening?

Maybe this is just two years of experience and some great recruiting coming to fruition.

It could be that Hugh Freeze and Dave Wommack and their staffs are just really good coaches.

Maybe the stars are just aligned for that one in a million season Ole Miss fans have long desired.

All of that is probably true, but there's something more. There's just got to be. Most SEC teams have great coaches and rosters full of talent. They all want to win just as badly, and most of them have more resources that the Rebels to do it.

What makes Ole Miss special?

I submit that it just might be because this team really is "All In".

All In is a book by Mark Batterson. Hugh Freeze mentioned it in his "Aw shucks I read this book" kind of way in one of his preseason press conferences. He said he used the book in the preseason to shape his message to the team and give them a theme to live and play by.

You've probably heard some of those themes in Freeze's locker room speeches or seen them on Twitter.

"All In!"

"Burn the ships!"

"Pick a fight!"

Catchy phrases all.

But after you read Mark Batterson's book you'll find them to be so much more than just fun words to write on Twitter or Facebook.

All In by itself doesn't mean much.

Yeah, we're all in!

All in for what?

To be All In, you have to be all in for something far greater than winning football games, coaching or blogging. Otherwise, you're really right back where you started.

All In isn't about you, and it isn't about me.

All In means nothing less than giving yourself to God completely, holding nothing back, with all your chips at the center of the table. It's about following God with reckless abandon, and not following myself or yourself.

It's about chasing your dreams knowing that if the Lord is on your side, you can not lose. When you play as if you can't lose you take risks you otherwise might not take (maybe that's what's going on with those ferocious LandSharks).

Hugh Freeze's career path looks just like this book. He would be a great chapter if Batterson ever wanted to add one.

Freeze dreamed of being an SEC football coach for many years before he actually became one. His wife Jill told the story on television recently of Freeze sneaking her into Tennessee's Neyland Stadium on their honeymoon and telling her he would be an SEC coach one day.

But then real life happened, and Freeze found himself coaching girls basketball and high school football for twelve years. He was comfortable and successful, but coaching high school wasn't his dream.

In 2005, Freeze accepted a job as assistant athletic director for football external affairs at Ole Miss under Ed Orgeron. Writer Bruce Feldman described the position as being a gopher for Orgeron. Freeze was taking the coaching staff's lunch orders among many other less than glorious tasks. Freeze humbled himself to follow his dream.

Batterson writes that before God can use you to be something, you have to be willing to become nothing. Start at the bottom. To chase your God ordained dreams there is no room for "I". Freeze did that, and as his reward, after Houston Nutt took over, Freeze was let go.

Being All In isn't without setbacks. Batterson writes that before there can be a resurrection there has to be a crucifixion.

Freeze humbled himself again by taking the head coaching job at tiny Lambuth, a school that doesn't even exist anymore in a place far less romantic than Oxford. That could not have been a fun move for the Freeze family to make, but Lambuth is exactly where Freeze's resurrection began. You know the story. Freeze won at Lambuth, then Arkansas State and then in 2012 he took the stage as the new head coach at Ole Miss.

God has used Hugh Freeze, but before he could follow his dream he had to be willing to lose it.

All In is about devoting yourself to God completely, chasing your God-ordained dream with everything you've got and knowing that with Him on your side you can not lose. No matter what happens, you are loved by the Almighty, you are His treasured possession and you will be with Him forever. When you know that, and I mean really know that, you can not lose.

So what made me pick up this book?

Well, I accepted a new job that begins next week, and I have a little down time.

It's actually somewhat of a dream job for me. It's at a place where I wanted to work when I graduated 11 years ago, and, as far as my position goes, I am the lowest man on the totem pole. But that's okay, because the job is a dream come true for me, and an answer to prayer. I pray that I will attack it with as much vigor as Freeze pursued his dream.

I thought it would be a good idea to read something motivational before I started. Something to help me fire the engines, if you will, and avid Ole Miss follower that I am I remembered Hugh Freeze saying in the preseason press conference...."I read this book..."

Ole Miss is 7-0. I've watched the Rebels burn the ships, lock the gate and pick a fight all season. I thought it might be worth a read.

Understatement of my life.

I'm All In.

I want you with me.

Read the book.

ROMANS 8:31-32: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?