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Can Ole Miss Win A Road Game They Are Supposed to Win?

Ole Miss takes a rare trip to Gainesville tonight to face a SEC heavyweight program in the Florida Gators.

The Rebels and the Gators are not common opponents and have only faced off 24 times in history but Ole Miss has had success recently as the underdog as Ole Miss has won three of the last four, including the last two games in Gainesville.

The underdog tends to have a little more success in college football than professional sports. Emotions do not show up on a stat sheet. Maturity is not a guarantee. We have all seen a team lose a game and seen the underdog rise up and blow a top team off the field that no one expected.

Today in Florida, the Mississippi boys are 4-0, ranked in the top five, and favored by a touchdown on the road, not the Gators.

This is an odd position for Ole Miss fans and players.

The players have to learn to win the games that they are “supposed” to win. To be able to take another team’s best game, a game where they play over their ability; and still find a way to win.

The hardest thing for young athletes is to execute at a high level in a hostile environment. When the crowd is against you and the ball does not bounce your way, can you block out the external and have the maturity to focus on the internal process and continue to do your job?

It’s not easy obviously because very few college players are not affected by road games, especially non-traditional power house teams.

One thing fans can take solace in is that Ole Miss has already faced the hardest road game they will face all year in the early trip to Tuscaloosa so certainly that will prepare Hugh Freeze’s bunch for whatever Florida can throw at them.

I would make the point, however, that Ole Miss was playing the underdog role against BAMA, and did not feel the pressure to win that game, which aided them in the landmark win.

Today, the pressure is squarely on Ole Miss for the first time since that road game in Baton Rouge last year.

There are a lot of similarities between LSU last year and Florida this year. Both teams have some questions on offense with strong defenses and with a little help Florida can follow a similar script and use defense to help out a struggling offense.

The challenge for a #3 ranked Ole Miss team is to not focus on anything but Ole Miss.  Keep that same high level of energy they took to Tuscaloosa and execute. Protect the football, catch the football, make good decisions at the QB position and find a way to run the dang ball.

Florida is not good enough to win this game on paper, but at 7pm tonight the game will be played on the field.

at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Oxford, Mississippi.

Robert Nkemdiche and OleMiss Take On SEC Leadership Role

After week four in the 2015 season Ole Miss again finds itself as the #3 team in America, the same spot they were in last year prior to a rash of key injuries that resulted in losing four of their last six games in 2014.

Robert Nkemdiche began to step up and take on a leadership role during the apex last year by stating that high expectations is the “new normal” for Ole Miss.

Now in 2015, Robert is leading on the stats line as well. After moving inside to the defensive tackle position from the rush end, it took a minute for RN to embrace the position change and learn to use technique rather than brute strength.

With three dramatic tackles-for-loss, including a sack in the Alabama game, the younger Nkemdiche brother is standing out on the national stage.

NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper has moved Robert up to his #1 projected NFL draft pick for 2016.

Laremy Tunsil hasn’t even played a snap yet this year and is still projected as a top five NFL pick.

There could be as many as 6 or 7 NFL players next year from this roster.

The talent is good enough and Ole Miss is primed to go all the way.

Coach Hugh Freeze tried to temper the excitement on the young season today on his weekly media press conference. “We are relevant right now. I don’t know if we are deserving of any ranking. It is a long season and a lot of things happen that you can’t control. I just try to remain focused on this is what you can control, this is what you are and this is what defines you.”

After a sluggish Vanderbilt game, Coach Freeze promises better focus for the trip to Gainesville, Florida.

“We will be in a great place this Saturday. It will take great preparation and leadership in the locker room for us to be successful. Many of them stood up and talked about the expectations for this week and for preparing.”

Freeze spoke just a little about using RN on both sides of the ball.  “We knew when we recruited him he could be an offensive player. We knew he had that capability. We always knew he could do it. We just wanted to make sure he was prepared to do it in a game.”

The Rebels have a second shot at finishing the journey and will get everyone’s best game going forward. Coach Freeze talks about the “journey” this program is on and he mentioned his faith “helps me stay centered and helps me to keep enjoying the journey.”

You see the players talking a lot about ‘staying in the moment’ and not looking too far ahead. Robert Nkemdiche said it best after the Alabama win that this team is stuck in the moment.

“Because the moment’s real beautiful.”



Photo by Kevin Cox - Getty Images

Is Hugh Freeze the Best Coach in the SEC?

Hugh Freeze has started the 2015 season off on a hot streak at 3-0 and is currently the highest ranked SEC team in the nation at #3 in the latest Associated Press poll.

A lot of ink has been spent discussing the meteoric rise of Hugh Freeze from Briarcrest High School to a slumping SEC school to the Cover of Sport Issustrated, all within 10 years.

ole miss Sports-Illustrated

Hugh Freeze is seen as one of the new guard coaches in the SEC, along with Gus Malzhan, Kevin Sumlin and Dan Mullen.  As mentioned by Grantland there is a changing face in the SEC and a battle is on-going between the traditional SEC power teams and the more speed based teams.

Each of these new guard coaches have had a chance to sit on top of the SEC the last couple of years but no one has been able to sustain it for very long.

After Manziel left Texas A&M, the hype and the wins have reduced for Sumlin.  This year Auburn’s defense (and offense) looks very weak and Dan Mullen has fallen back in the pack just a bit while replacing 15 starters from last year’s team.

Currently, it is Hugh Freeze’s turn at bat to try his hand at “changing the face” of the SEC.

Freeze has the least amount of experience of the four coaches mentioned but has emerged as one of the best offensive minds in the game today.  But, what allows Freeze to stand above the crowd right now is his focus on defense.

With the nation’s top scoring defense last year and top NFL prospects like Robert Nkemdiche, they take a lot of pressure off the Ole Miss offense.

Nkemdiche Brothers - Photo via @olemisspix

Nkemdiche Brothers – Photo via @olemisspix

It seems like an obvious point to focus on winning with defense in the SEC, but Sumlin and Malzhan would rather sign an extra wide receiver than a third defensive lineman.

By developing an Elite defense, Freeze has been able to build momentum for his overall program rather than just one side of the football and as we have seen so far a one-sided program is just not sustainable.

It remains to be seen if Hugh Freeze can stay on top of the league throughout the year, but it seems the schedule is setting up to favor Ole Miss.

The best team’s on the remaining schedule are Texas A&M and LSU and both of those teams have to play in Oxford.

It’s a great story.  Everyone loves to see the “good ole’ boy do good,” but Freeze is on the verge of taking over as the King of College Football.





Chad Kelly scores over Alabama AP photo - Butch Dill

Ole Miss Leading The Race For The SEC West

With three weeks down in the college football season, we are starting to weed out the pretenders and see some prospective contenders. Ole-Miss (3-0) at this juncture has the most impressive win in the College Football Universe as they outlasted the Alabama Crimson Tide (2-1) this past Saturday 43-37 in the coveted prime-time 8:00 pm slot on ESPN.

The question is can the Rebels sustain their early success? The Rebels are in what many people anticipate to be a four way race for the SEC west between Ole Miss, LSU, Alabama, and Texas A&M.

Lets take a quick look at Ole Miss’ schedule going forward and see how or if this team gets to Atlanta for a chance to win the SEC overall for the first time in over 50 years.

Texas A&M Aggies (October 24, 2015)

Player to Watch: Kyle Allen QB

The Sophomore Scottsdale, Arizona native has been quite impressive thus far, completing 61% of his passes, for 594 yards and 9 touchdowns to only two interceptions. It’s safe to say that the Johnny Football Hangover period is over two years later as the Aggies once again have a lethal passing attack.

All Time Record vs Ole-Miss: The Aggies have a 6-1 record against the Rebels, dating back to 1911 in a sparsely played matchup. Hugh Freeze is 1-2 against the Aggies as the Rebels head man, defeating Texas A&M 35-20 last season in a matchup that was not as close as the scoreboard displayed.

2015 Advantage: Ole Miss.

The Rebels get Texas A&M at the perfect time; a week after the Aggie’s play Alabama and two weeks after playing the Dak Prescott led Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Granted Ole Miss has to play their brand of football for sixty minutes in order to come away with this win, but a heavy dose of bruiser back Derrick Henry and Alabama’s physical offensive line will be a tough task, and to expect the Aggies to perform with the same sort of intensity for three consecutive weeks is a tough task for any coach, especially against these three teams.

I give the Rebels a 7 point advantage in this much too early analysis with the belief that Number 78 Laremy Tunsil will be re-instated and Ole Miss can develop a sound running attack to go with Chad Kelly’s Aerial Assualt. Ole-Miss 45 – Texas A&M 38.


LSU Tigers (November 21, 2015)

Player to Watch: Brandon Harris QB

We are all very aware of Leonard Fournette’s emergence onto the national scene after huge games against Mississippi State and just making Will Muschamp’s Auburn D look plain silly. With that being said, the Tiger offense will go only as far as game manager Brandon Harris can take them.

Without a sound passing game, elite defenses will be able to put 9 in the box and put LSU offense in limbo for a second straight season. I do not see that happening as Brandon Harris has been what Miles needs him to be so far: a facilitator for the run game, with the capability of accurate short and intermediate passes to keep the defense honest. How he continues to develop will be critical in the win loss category for LSU.

All-time Record vs Ole-Miss: LSU has the advantage 59-40 in one of the more intense rivalries for the Rebels. Hugh Freeze led teams have played LSU extremely close all three years (all three games have been decided by 6 or fewer points) squeaking out a win in 2013 over what was then the #6 team in the country 27-24.

2015 Advantage: Slight Ole Miss

I could see this game going a hundred different ways. As I said above, the success of the LSU regime depends as much on the play of Brandon Harris as it does Leonard Fournette. He doesn’t have to be great, just consistent. With that being said, Ole Miss has one of the top defensive secondaries in the SEC and it will be an all day challenge for Harris to get the ball down field with a veteran front seven down on his back all day. This will be the Rebels “revenge game” for the 2003 heartbreaking loss that kept the Rebel faithful from the Georgia Dome. At the end of the day, LSU will not be able to keep up with the Rebel offense. The Rebels gets it done Ole Miss 31 – LSU 17

If the Rebels can get these two wins, they would not only have grips on the SEC West, but likely we are talking about an Ole Miss squad contending for a national title on Thanksgiving weekend in “Stark Vegas.” Oh what a weekend that will be!

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Kevin Cox - Getty Images

Post Alabama Game: This Ole Miss Team Is Very Different

Ole Miss fans just take a minute and relax.

Lets reflect just a minute on what happened in Tuscaloosa and where we find ourselves so early in the 2015 season.

I wrote in my article before the game Saturday that Ole Miss had a chance to take a huge step forward with a win over #2 Alabama.

Basically Ole Miss has been struggling up Mt. Everest for the last 50 years and after all the blood, sweat and tears, you look up and hey….  We actually made it!

Ole Miss fans woke up sunday to a # 3 national ranking and #1 in most of the ESPN FPI metrics.

I understand there are hurdles coming up for the Rebs and they could lose this weekend against Vanderbilt, but seriously, just take a minute and think about what has happened.

As someone that has been a Ole Miss fan since I was old enough to decide such things, this is crazy.  This is not supposed to happen.

Ole Miss is not supposed to have better talent than Alabama, they can’t compete with that budget, their facilities, their massive fanbase.

This is not just a fluke win either.  Ole Miss has caught Alabama in a down year before and beat them up a little but this is not a one-hit wonder.  This is not a down year for Alabama.

Ole Miss is not just good this year.  They are elite.  They are recognized as the best team in the best conference in college football for the first time in over 50 years.

An Ole Miss team is executing on offense and dominating on defense like I have never seen.  It’s really hard for me to comprehend how fast the turn-around has been from 2011 to 2015.

The ball is just bouncing our way, the breaks are happening when we need them, which just goes to show you that luck favors the brave and the harder you work, the more “lucky” you get.

In years past, a play like the “Tuscaloosa Tip-Drill” would never, ever have happened.

The only way that play happens is because Adeboyejo somehow anticipated Kelly to blindly throw a pass to Treadwell after taking a bad snap and facing down two huge Alabama defensive lineman.  Kelly didn’t fumble it, he didn’t throw it short, he didn’t weakly flip it to a player wearing crimson.  (All things that would normally happen to an Ole Miss team in that situation.)

No, Adeboyejo ran ahead of Treadwell, thinking Kelly would likely overthrow the play somehow and it fell it his lap.  A step to the left or the right and he probably bounces that ball around and it falls incomplete or is intercepted by a defensive back.

Quincy!? Why would you think that?  Why would you take off running away from Kelly when you saw the trainwreck that was occurring on that play?

Look, I have no idea what is going on right now, but something is happening here.

Something that has never happened before.

Robert Nkemdiche - Lauren Wood Daily Journal

Robert Nkemdiche – Lauren Wood Daily Journal

Robert Nkemdiche said as much at the end of fall practice.  He said, “This team is very different.  The whole DNA and the whole aura of the team is just unusual.  It’s very unorthodox, and the people on the team are coming together a lot more than I’ve ever seen, ever.”

The 6′-4″ 300 lb dream crusher of a defensive tackle continued his opine, “It’s more of a connection not a lot of football teams have.  We’ve gotten to the point where we’re playing for the person next to us, not for the NFL or ourselves.  We are playing so our brother can be happy.”

Rebel fans, when favor turns to you and it is your turn to stand on the mountain top, linger for a while.  You will have to come back down at some point but while you are here, have a seat and cherish a moment that almost never happens to teams in Oxford.

This team is very different.