Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze deserves props for acknowledging the elephant in the room after his team’s Egg Bowl victory
An ineffectual head coach of colorless means would have submerged the temptation during his post-game press conference. A blander leader, upon some reflection, would have publicly rationalized that many odd plays — good and bad — contribute to a team’s record at the end of a regular season.
But not Freeze, my new coaching idol (figuratively speaking).
On Saturday night, after the Rebels’ road rout of Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, Freeze breezily lamented how his Ole Miss squad — which finished at 6-2 in SEC play, one game behind No. 2 Alabama — ended up “one fourth-and-25 play from (going) to Atlanta.” It was a direct reference to the Nov. 7 loss to Arkansas in which the Razorbacks needed a once-in-a-lifetime hook-and-across-the-field-lateral miracle to stay alive in overtime.
And Freeze should be commended for stating the obvious. After all, Ole Miss thumped Alabama on the road in September, and the Rebels only had one poor performance during conference play — a blowout loss to Florida in October.
If the Rebels had just squeaked past the Razorbacks, they would have represented the West division in the SEC championship game … and might have been favored in a title-game rematch with the offensively challenged Gators.
Which raises the question: If Ole Miss had earned the SEC championship invite (thanks to the tiebreaker advantage) … would Alabama still hold the No. 2 ranking with the Playoff committee?
In a vacuum, the short answer is “yes,” since the Crimson Tide had nothing to do with Ole Miss’s road loss to Memphis (Oct. 17) — hindering the Rebels’ overall ranking.
The longer answer should also be “yes,” given how Alabama (elite-level strength of schedule) has proffered nine consecutive wins … by a healthy average margin of 22.5 points.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.