With five games remaining, four of which coming in Oxford, the Ole Miss Rebels are now firmly in control of their final bowl destination. Sitting at 4-3 (2-3 SEC), it’s not a matter of if Hugh Freeze will lead his club to back-to-back bowl games, but rather where they’ll go bowling.
Following the upset win over then-No. 6 LSU, the Rebels now sit at 4-3 overall (2-3 SEC).
Sure the Rebels dropped road games at No. 1 Alabama and on the Plains, not to mention having lost a heartbreaker to Texas A&M in Oxford for the second time in as many years.
But guess what?
Each of those three teams, all ranked inside the Top 15, have a combined record of 18-3.
Here were the three losses: Alabama over A&M, Auburn over A&M and LSU over Auburn.
That’s called the SEC.
Remaining Regular Season Slate for Rebels
Coming off the LSU win, Jeff Sagarin ranks the Rebels as having played the No. 1 toughest schedule (SOS) in America through October 19. It’s a very telling figure.
With the hardest part of their schedule in the rear-view mirror, the Rebels now have a chance to close out the regular season well. Very well, actually.
October 26: Idaho (1-6) SOS No. 64
November 2: Open
November 9: Arkansas (3-5) SOS No. 17
November 16: Troy (4-3) SOS No. 130
November 23: Missouri (7-0) SOS No. 30
November 28: at Miss State SOS No. 34
Assuming the world doesn’t end on Saturday and Ole Miss makes easy work of Idaho, the Rebels will have a week off to rest up a truly banged up bunch. Then, a struggling Arkansas Razorbacks club heads to Oxford on November 9.
And struggling the Razorbacks are (3-5, 0-4 SEC), having lost its four SEC games by an average 32.25 PPG. That being said, any given SEC club can upset another on any given Saturday. It’ll be something Freeze preaches to his kids leading up to the Arkansas game.
However, a win over the Hogs would propel the Rebels to bowl-eligibility at 6-3 (3-3 SEC).
The following weekend, a Troy team (4-3, 1-3 away) that Mississippi State (3-3, 0-2 SEC) handled 62-7 earlier this year travels to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. When the Trojans and Rebels square off, so should begin the Rebels’ season within a season of “playing for a warmer bowl location.”
A win over Troy would improve the Rebels to 7-3 (3-3 SEC) with only two games remaining.
And honestly, if Ole Miss isn’t 7-3 after Troy, they will (and should) be very disappointed.
Final Two Regular Season Games Will Tell Story
In the end, look no further than the Rebels’ final two regular-season games to make the biggest impact on where the boys in red and blue spend the bowl season.
Their final two games will be at home on senior night against No. 5 Missouri (7-0, 3-0 SEC) and on the road vs. Mississippi State for a Thanksgiving Night Egg Bowl.
While one game will be against yet another highly-ranked opponent in the Tigers, the other will be equally as challenging against a Bulldogs team looking to avenge an embarrassing Egg Bowl loss in 2012.
By the time November 23 rolls around, Mizzou may have well already locked up the SEC East title and a spot in the SEC Championship Game. If that’s the case, it’ll be quite interesting to see how motivated Mizzou will be heading to Oxford, with Texas A&M only a week ahead.
Then on Thanksgiving, the Rebels will face in-state rival Mississippi State. There’s a great possibility the Bulldogs will be looking for an all-important sixth win in the Egg Bowl to become bowl eligible.
Making Sense of a Clouded Bowl Picture
Assuming Ole Miss advances to 7-3 ahead of the Mizzou game, wins over the Tigers and Bulldogs would put the Rebs at 9-3 and in excellent position for a New Years Day bowl bid.
Likely remaining ahead of the Rebels in SEC bowl pecking order will be Alabama, Missouri and Auburn. The most likely bowl destinations of these three, at the moment, would be the BCS National Championship, Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl.
From there, things get a little more cloudy with the Outback, Capital One, Chick-fil-A, Gator and Music City Bowl left to make their picks (and try and work with one another).
A 4-3 Georgia club still faces Auburn and rival Georgia Tech on the road.
A 5-2 South Carolina team travels to Mizzou this weekend, before hosting Florida and Clemson.
A 6-2 LSU squad must travel to Tuscaloosa before hosting Texas A&M at home.
A 5-2 Texas A&M team must still play at both LSU and Mizzou.
Still with a lot of football left to play, as evidenced by the schedules above, Georgia and Ole Miss clearly have easier paths to nine regular season wins than South Carolina, LSU and Texas A&M.
If the Rebels finish 9-3, they likely won’t fall below the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
If they finish 8-4, the Gator Bowl becomes the most likely destination.
If the Rebels drop two more to finish 7-5, they’d all but be assured a trip to Nashville.
And if Ole Miss drops three of its next five to finish 6-6, it’ll be a 70-mile drive to the Liberty Bowl.
Before the season began, I predicted a 9-3 record and a trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.