Monday, October 20, 2014

Keep this Dream Alive

This is it. We're entering the most critical stretch of the season for Ole Miss, and it starts this week as the Rebels travel to Death Valley, that "place where dreams go to die," as LSU coach Les Miles once famously said.

That's scary stuff because right now we're dreaming big. 

This is uncharted territory for Ole Miss fans. Typically this is the time of year that we're hoping to find enough wins to get bowl eligible. LSU would be the heavy favorite, and we'd be excited about heading down to Death Valley and spoiling for that big upset.

Not this year. 

Ole Miss is 7-0, and as Senquez Golson said shortly after the Rebels beat don't mean nothing unless the Rebels keep winning. 

That's what makes this season so different. 

It's a feeling we've never felt before. 

A team hoping to get bowl eligible can afford to drop a game. There's always the next one, and six or seven is all it takes.

A team trying to go undefeated? Well, that's a different story altogether. Please, spare me the "one game at a time" cliche'. That's a point for Hugh Freeze and his coaches to hammer home. We're fans, we're allowed, and if you're not looking at that schedule right now dreaming of 12-0 and a trip to Atlanta then you are a robot. 

I can promise you that the players want to go undefeated. 

For the first time in my lifetime it's late October and the dreams of Ole Miss fans reach far beyond the Music City Bowl.  

Right now the dream is this:

Ole Miss, 11-0 in Oxford on November 29, hosting No. 1 Mississippi State with nothing less than an SEC West Championship and a ticket to the College Football Playoff on the line. And in that dream the Rebels win of course. We finish the season where we started it - in Atlanta, and then more wins, Jameis Winston getting attacked repeatedly by a ferocious group of hungry Landsharks followed by trophies and confetti. Lots and lots of red and blue confetti. 

That's the dream.

And that's what's on the line when Ole Miss travels down to Baton Rouge for a Saturday night dance with LSU in Death Valley - the place where dreams go to die. 

Only not this time Rebels. Don't let this one die. We're having way too much fun. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

LandShark D Could Carry Rebels Far

Bone. Crushing. Defense.

The kind that doesn't give up touchdowns, creates turnovers and strikes fear in its opponents. 

That's what Ole Miss has in this LandShark Defense. Just ask its latest victim, the Tennessee Volunteers, who escaped the shark tank known as Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with their lives, but not much more, after falling prey in a 34-3 loss. 

Tennessee managed just 191 total yards, with 0 yards rushing. Zero. Zip. Nada. Nil. 

Poor quarterback Justin Worley was sacked 7 times, and was smelling the breath of Ole Miss defensive linemen for most of the night. Three of his passes went to Ole Miss defensive backs, including ball hawk Senquez Golson, who now leads the country with 7 interceptions. 

Worley actually had a relieved smile on his face as he nursed a sore shoulder on the sidelines during the 4th quarter, and that's not to make fun of Worley. Any quarterback in his shoes would have hoped for a similar fate. 

"Just hurt me a little, so I can sit. Please."

On Saturday night, Tennessee was the baby jungle animal and Ole Miss was the boa constrictor. The LandShark D just squeezed the life right out of the Vols. It was the same fate suffered by Alabama and Texas A&M.

A defense like this is a game-changer. 

Hugh Freeze doesn't have to wring his hands over his offensive playbook, trying to script the perfect gameplan. Quarterback Bo Wallace doesn't need to force throws into tight coverage to create scores. 

If there's anything we've learned about Ole Miss the last three weeks, it's that the LandShark Defense is good enough to win the games almost all by itself. All the offense needs to do is stay out of the way, don't cause problems, and await the next opportunity created by college football's best defense. 

This is what it felt like to be LSU or Alabama in those BCS Championship years. 

You can't be beaten if your opponent can't score. 

Ole Miss has allowed seven touchdowns in seven games. That's just one touchdown per game for the 7-0 Rebels. 

The Rebels will remain No. 3 tomorrow following No. 2 Florida State's narrow win over 5th ranked Notre Dame, but Ole Miss is quickly becoming a favorite to win the top seed in the 1st ever College Football Playoff, and that's mainly because of the LandShark D. 

Two huge games are coming up. LSU and Auburn. 

If Ole Miss wins those this could be one crazy season. We'll know in two weeks whether you need to start searching for hotel reservations. That's not to overlook No. 1 Mississippi State, but my guess is that if Ole Miss and Mississippi State could somehow stay undefeated, the loser of the Egg Bowl could still make the Playoff.

Crazy, but true. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

SEC Power Rankings

A few short weeks ago, I had Mississippi State at the bottom of my SEC West rankings (LOL!). I was obviously way, way wrong. The Bulldogs have not just beaten, but pummeled, three consecutive Top 10 teams and rocketed from unranked to No. 1 in the AP Poll. They earned that ranking. 

But Ole Miss has almost as compelling an argument. The Rebels are also 6-0 after beating then No. 2 Alabama and No. 14 Texas A&M in consecutive weeks. 

Mississippi Mayhem continues, and its turning the SEC West upside down, literally. Ain't if fun?

1. Mississippi State - The Bulldogs didn't just beat Auburn, they whipped the Tigers. Dak Prescott seems to be getting better each and every game. 

2. Ole Miss - It's all about the LandShark D. The Rebels are better than adequate on offense, but the LandShark D is a modern day Steel Curtain, good enough to keep Ole Miss in any game. 

3. Auburn - Against Mississippi State, the Tigers looked like a team that had used up all its good luck in 2013. 

4. Alabama - The Crimson Tide barely escaped Arkansas, and suddenly looks susceptible to a multi-loss season.

5. Texas A&M - Johnny Manziel is now officially missed. 

6. Arkansas - A 14-13 loss to Alabama is a testament to how far the Razorbacks have come. Brett Bielema's first big win will come soon. 

7. LSU - I know, I know...the Tigers beat Florida. While it was a good win, let's not forget that Florida isn't good. This game shows just how bad the SEC East is. Florida is possibly the 2nd best team in the East, LSU is the worst team in the West, and the Tigers beat the Gators. The judgment to be made here is that the SEC East is terrible. The End.

1. Georgia - The Bulldogs are the class of the East. Too bad they won't be able to live down that loss to one of Steve Spurrier's worst ever teams.

2. Florida - The fact that the Gators are the 2nd best team in the East tells you everything you need to know about the East. 

3. Kentucky - Sadly, the Wildcats' rise doesn't really mean much among this stellar group. 

4. Tennessee - Ole Miss hosts Tennessee on Saturday. If both teams stay true to form the LandSharks should feast. 

5. Missouri - Whoa, the Tigers are falling fast after losses to Indiana and a blowout loss to Georgia. 

6. South Carolina - You're right, Steve. The Gamecocks aren't very good. 

7. Vanderbilt - It's good to see Vanderbilt comfortably back where it belongs.

Cinderella No More

Ole Miss solidified its case as one of college football's best with a 35-20 win over Texas A&M in front of a Texas football record crowd of 110,633 startled onlookers at Kyle Field.

Aggie fans aren't accustomed to seeing their team's offense stifled.

They also aren't used to losing in consecutive weeks to teams from Mississippi or losing to Ole Miss, ever.

This game was full of surprises for Texas A&M.

But Ole Miss is a surprise no longer.

With the convincing road win over 14th ranked A&M the Rebels improved to 6-0 and graduated from one-hit wonder to a team that must be considered as a potential top seed in the College Football Playoff.

Ole Miss isn't Cinderella anymore. It's a favorite.

Of course, there are still six games to be played, but the schedule sets up well for Ole Miss.

Tennessee - very winnable.
at LSU - winnable.
Auburn - winnable.
Presbyterian - winnable.
at Arkansas - winnable.
Mississippi State - HOLY COW WHAT A GAME!

Obviously anything can happen, but with Alabama and A&M in the rear view mirror and a LandShark Defense that is positively lock-down tight, undefeated heading into the Egg Bowl seems just as likely as any of the alternatives. As teams are learning week by week, it's hard to beat Ole Miss without scoring, and most of the remaining teams on the schedule won't be able to score on the Rebels barring some seismic shifts in performance. Texas A&M managed 3 touchdowns (the first time multiple TD's have been scored on the Rebels this season), but two of those were after Ole Miss had the game in hand. A&M being one of the most prolific scoring offenses in the country, the LandSharks shouldn't take those two garbage-time TD's too personally.

With Mississippi State showing no signs of slowing down after plowing over Auburn, Mississippi's rare season of college football domination continues. And so does the fun.

Because of their strength of schedule both Ole Miss and State have a strong case for leapfrogging Florida State and moving into the No. 1 and No. 2 positions in the polls on Sunday.

It's where they deserve to be.

After another thrilling weekend Ole Miss and Mississippi State look like the two best teams in the country.

Say that to yourself a few times without smiling. I bet you can't!