Does Ole Miss deserve “New Year’s Six” bowl consideration?
The Rebels’ resume looks great on paper: One home thumping of LSU, one seismic road upset of Alabama and a 5-2 record in the vaunted SEC West (8-3 overall). Plus, there’s the marquee presence of an aw-shucks head coach (Hugh Freeze) who once had an indirect role in an Oscar-winning movie and three potential top-10 picks in next year’s NFL draft (Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell, Laremy Tunsil) — if they choose to leave school early.
Now for the bad news: Of this year’s four non-semifinal premium bowls (Rose, Sugar, Peach, Fiesta), only the Fiesta and Peach can select multiple at-large schools; and conventional wisdom dictates Ole Miss wouldn’t receive back-to-back invites to the Peach Bowl — on the heels of last December’s 42-3 loss to TCU.
That leaves the Fiesta with options galore in the desert, likely choosing Ohio State, Iowa, Notre Dame, Florida State, Michigan State, Baylor or Oklahoma ahead of Ole Miss — programs with better records (the 4th-and-25 miracle keeps haunting the Rebels) and likely more “buzz” on the TV/ticket sales side of ledger. Lest we forget: Each year, only three bowls — the two national semifinals and the Rose Bowl — are immune from using every trick in the marketing book to lure college fans, en masse, to their cities and stadiums, for a minimum stay of five days (pleasing hotel and restaurant groups).
And all things being equal, brand names usually win out.
The “Kelly” name has had football value for numerous decades. Hall of Famer Jim Kelly led the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s, and now his nephew — quarterback Chad Kelly — has blossomed into the SEC’s most prolific passer (3,504 yards passing, 25 TDs). Of course, the younger Kelly altered that perception a little bit on Saturday, leading the Rebels in rushing (81 yards) … and running for two of his four touchdowns.
The “Treadwell” name should bring value to the NFL for multiple decades. Yes, receiver Laquon Treadwell only had four catches for 58 yards against LSU … but his catch-and-drag-defenders touchdown reception was a thing of quickness/power beauty — so much that it’s easy to imagine Treadwell (career marks: 192 catches, 2,300 yards, 18 TDs) mimicking the success of Julio Jones, A.J. Green or Dez Bryant at the next level.