I really don’t want to start this article by making enemies out of our readers who banked on Alabama to beat Ole Miss, but I’ve been itching all weekend to come back here and say that the writings were on our walls and you’d have probably dodged the bullet if you read us right. So to all Bama fans, kindly receive my half-hearted apologies in advance, as I wish you better luck in the rest of the season, why I also gloat over the fact that most of our College Football betting previews from last week repeatedly predicted and urged you to ride on Ole Miss for the SU and ATS in their clash against the Crimson Tide.
Plus, however bad it was to see the Tide losing, you can take comfort in the fact that you probably handled yourself better than these guys. With that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the hottest team in the country, the Ole Miss Rebels, and the on-going debates about whether or not they can make a genuine push for the college football playoffs.
Lets talk about if Ole Miss is A Contender for the 2015-16 NCAA Football Odds Playoff?
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) September 20, 2015
The Alabama-Mississippi Recap
Now, whereas I am tempted to say that the Rebels, who were wearing their circa-1988, powder-blue uniforms, beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa for the first time since 1988 because of their charmed uniforms, we all know too well that there was more to Ole Miss’ 43-37 victory than just luck. Yes, this inexplicable scoring play between QB Chad Kelly and WR Quincy Adeboyejo had a lot to do with luck than skill, and yes, Tony Bridges need a bit of some luck to intercept the deep ball from Alabama’s QB Jake Coker with 2:36 left on the clock. For most part, though, it was the vintage performance from the visiting Rebels on both ends of the field that was responsible for the huge win by Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa.
Offensively, Kelly overcame a middling first half performance by delivering a series of big plays that earned the Rebels a 30-10 lead in the third quarter. All done, Kelly finished the game with 18 of 33 passing for 3 TDs and zero picks, along with 21 rushing yards and another score on eight carries. Mississippi’s main ball-carrying trio of Jordan Wilkins, Jaylen Walton and Cody Core, who’ve combined for 4 rushing TDs this season, was not as explosive like in the first two games, but it was still good enough in helping the offense in gaining some yardages against Bama’s stingy rushing defense.
The slight slack from the runners was, however, not that costly, as the receivers had a solid night, producing 18 receptions for 341 receiving yards and 3 TDs compared to Alabama’s 288 receiving yards and 3 TDs on 32 receptions. Core led the receivers with 123 receiving yards on four receptions, as star receiver Laquon Treadwell and big-play specialist Adeboyejo also shined for the Rebels.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss’ defense also had a big night, as three different players intercepted passes from Alabama’s QBs, while the Mississippi front seven also played well and protected Kelly, who finished the game with no interceptions to his name. Oh, and defensive star Robert Nkemdiche did not record his third straight game with an offensive TD, but he had a player-of-the-match performance, terrorizing Alabama’s offensive players and finishing the game with six tackles, including two tackles for loss and a sack. The fact that the Rebels punished Alabama’s mistakes by racking up 24 points off turnovers from the Tide speaks volumes about the solid nature of Mississippi’s defense, and the good coordination they have with the offense.
The Season as it is…Thus Far
Like we discussed severally in last week’s articles, the Rebels (3-0, 1-0 SEC) have been a really good unit, with the offense showing massive improvements from last season, and defense continuing to impress, like they did in 2014. Blowing out the Skyhawks 76-3 in Week 1, and manhandling Fresno State in a 73-21 rout in Week 2 certainly created a lot of buzz, but there were still many question marks about their ability to play well against top-tier opposition.
Going into the Bryant-Denny Stadium as one-touchdown underdogs in the NCAAF lines and coming away with a remarkable 8-point victory is therefore a huge win and an unequivocal answer about Mississippi’s character and potential.
Essentially, that’s the reason the Rebels have made huge climbs in the latest power rankings across all the major sports sites. For instance, in the latest ESPN rankings, the Rebels jumped up 12 spots from their last week ranking, going from #15 to #3. Of course, it is still too early to give all-encompassing judgments, but based on how they’ve played so far, very few would be able to argue against the fact that the Rebels belong among the top 5 best teams in the nation right now.
Forecasting in the Playoffs and the Rest of the Season
Considering early SEC West favorites like Alabama (2-1, 0-1 SEC) and Auburn (2-1, 0-1 SEC) have already ruined their chances of finishing the regular season unbeaten, the Rebels should certainly feel buoyed of their chances of winning the divisional crown and challenging for the SEC Championship, along with a bid for the playoffs.
Texas A&M (3-0, 0-0 SEC) and LSU (2-0, 2-0 SEC) are the other unbeaten SEC West teams so far, meaning Ole Miss will need to stay focused if it is to make good value of its NCAAF odds to reach the 2015-16 college football playoffs. There is particularly a big concern that Ole Miss will be meeting Texas A&M (at home), Auburn (on the road), Arkansas (at home), LSU (at home) and Mississippi State (on the road) in its final five games of the regular season. After both Ole Miss and Mississippi State started the 2014 season strongly, but finished poorly and missed a chance to topple Alabama from its SEC dominance, it totally makes sense that there are doubts on the longevity of Rebels and their winning run.
That being duly noted, the Rebels are currently in the driving seat of the SEC West, and deservedly so. If Kelly and his talented offense can continue making big plays, and the defense also continues to force turnovers and run the gamut against opposing offenses, it would not be far-fetched to see the Rebels make a strong case for the College Football Playoff hunt at the end of the regular season.