Happy Wednesday, everybody, and welcome to the Ole Miss Wake-Up Call, your daily stop for all things Ole Miss sports.
One look need look no further than Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to notice that a lot of Ole Miss fans are ready to jump off a cliff after a 3-3 (1-2 SEC) start to the season. In the eyes of some, this season is already a failure.
But in the words of ESPN College GameDay’s Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friends.”
Sometimes, to appreciate where your team is, you have to remember where it’s been, and currently, that may be the case for fans of Ole Miss football. Take a walk with me through Ole Miss past:
From 1977-1982, Ole Miss had exactly zero winning seasons and went to zero bowl games. Ole Miss was a perennial SEC cellar dweller right along with Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Not fun times.
In 11 years as head coach (1983-1993), Brewer led Ole Miss to six winning seasons and five bowl games (four of which were repeat trips to the Independence and Liberty Bowls), which means there were also five losing seasons mixed in between the so-called good years. The best bowl game the Rebels ever saw during Brewer’s 11 seasons was the Gator Bowl, and the Rebels were wiped off the field by Michigan, which made the Gator Bowl substantially less exciting. The Brewer era ended in NCAA probation and a bowl ban.
Who could forget good ol’ “the only way I’m ever leaving here is in a pine box” Tommy Tuberville (1995-1998)? Tuberville had Ole Miss headed in the right direction, but eight wins and a trip to Detroit, Mich., for the Motor City Bowl was the climax before Tuberville bolted for Auburn (on a plane and not in the pine box he promised).
Cutcliffe (1998-2004) had a few good seasons, but it’s all relative. Is seven wins really that good when you’re coaching the greatest quarterback to ever play at Ole Miss? Cutcliffe had the good fortune of coaching Eli Manning and still couldn’t win more than seven games until Eli’s senior season. Once Manning was gone, so were the wins, and Cutcliffe posted a 4-7 record before being shown the door.
Orgeron (2005-2007) never had a winning record and went winless in the SEC during his third-and-final season. Let that sink in — winless (0-8) in the SEC.
Former Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone thought he had finally cracked the code when he hired Houston Nutt (2008-2011), but after a pair of winning campaigns, Nutt drove the program into the dirt, posting a 2-10 (0-8 SEC) record in his final season. That’s the season LSU took a mercy knee with five minutes remaining on the clock. Shame doesn’t fully describe the state of Ole Miss football when the Rebels tapped Hugh Freeze to take over.
Freeze won seven games his very first season (2012) and hasn’t looked back. He’s taken the Rebels to consecutive New Year’s Six bowls, including the school’s first Sugar Bowl since 1970, and unless the bottom completely falls out, the Rebels are headed for their fifth bowl in five seasons this year.
Ole Miss was a perennial mediocre SEC team at best before Freeze became the football coach at Ole Miss. At worst, the Rebels were laying stone cold against the floor of the SEC basement, and that happened more than once. Freeze’s teams haven’t missed a bowl game yet.
Remember that the next time you’re tempted to freak out about the 3-3 start to 2016. Things could be worse, and they have been many times before.
A fresh look at the schedule
Here’s a midseason look at the schedule, with predictions:
at LSU: Win (LSU doesn’t have an Austin Allen)
Auburn: Win (The Tigers can’t outscore Ole Miss)
Georgia Southern: Win
at Texas A&M: Loss (Ole Miss can beat A&M, but consistency is an issue)
at Vanderbilt: Win
Mississippi State: Win
Even if the Rebels do lose a game against LSU or Auburn, they should still realistically finish 7-5. That’s not bad for what would be considered a “down” year.
Ole Miss (+5 1/2) is the underdog to LSU on Bovada.com. That spread looks like an over-reaction to the loss at Arkansas, but Las Vegas is way smarter than me. Ole Miss is 3-3 against the spread this season.
What if Orgeron had stayed?
Freeze was on Ed Orgeron’s staff when Orgeron was the head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-2007. Orgeron was fired after three consecutive losing seasons, but Houston Nutt led Ole Miss to the Cotton Bowl the very next season, leading the players Orgeron had assembled.
It begs the question: How would Orgeron have fared if he’d been given one more season at Ole Miss?
Freeze seems to think a fourth season would have been the charm for Orgeron.
“I really think that we had recruited well under Ed here and it was close to turning a corner,” Freeze said at his Monday press conference. “Hindsight is 20/20 and who knows what decisions were made? I am not second-guessing any of those, I am just saying if you look at the athletes that Ed and his staff, our staff, had brought in, we thought we were really close.”
A 9-4 record under Nutt the next season seems to support Freeze’s belief, but it’s one of those things we’ll just never know.
Campaigning for Engram
Ole Miss is looking for fans to vote for Evan Engram to receive the Biletnikoff Award, an honor given to college football’s most outstanding receiver “regardless of position.” Those words are pulled straight from the Biletnikoff website, and they’re important became Engram plays tight end. No tight end has ever won the Biletnikoff Award. Engram currently leads all SEC receivers with 590 yards.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) October 18, 2016
These guys are fast
Ole Miss cross country is enjoying a successful fall. The Rebels are currently ranked No. 11. Learn more about these great athletes on “The Season.”