A&M is a must-win for Ole Miss

How far has Ole Miss come in 2.5 years under Lane Kiffin?

Ole Miss is 7-1 and we’re devastated by one loss. The bar has been raised.

To keep this positive momentum going, however, it’s important to get a win at Texas A&M on Saturday.

The Aggies have lost three straight and their chances at bowl eligibility are on the ropes. Jimbo Fisher has lost almost all credibility in College Station after losing to South Carolina on Saturday. A loss to Ole Miss could put his program into a tailspin.

Ole Miss needs this one almost bad as A&M, but for less sad reasons.

Losing to Texas A&M would undo a lot of the positive momentum Kiffin built this season and confirm for some that those first seven wins were merely the result of a soft schedule.

Aspirations of a quality bowl game would also take a huge hit with a loss to the Aggies. Three tougher opponents await in November. 7-1 could turn into 7-5 or 8-4 real fast if Ole Miss can’t get past A&M.

The Rebs just gotta win this one.

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A&M’s back is up against the wall.

We lost. Now what?

There’s something about winning seven straight games that makes that first loss hurt worse than it would if you watched your team lose its second game of the season to Memphis.

Ask me how I know.

So I needed 48 hours and several adult beverages at the Tennessee Titans game to process what exactly happened when LSU manhandled Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. The Rebs simply got dominated in almost every phase of the game.

The Ole Miss defense made Jayden Daniels look like the second coming of Johnny Manziel the way he was skating around defenders and throwing, dare I say, darts to a plethora of open receivers. Tackling, getting pressure on Daniels and covering receivers were all major issues much like they were against Auburn.

And on offense the befuddling disappearing Rebs did that thing again where they looked like the most unstoppable team in college football for about a quarter and half and then POOF! they disappeared. Ole Miss didn’t score a single point in the second half.

Bad tackling, not covering, not getting pressure on the quarterback and not scoring in the second half of a football game will equal an SEC loss nine times out of ten.

And that’s the really concerning part.

Ole Miss has Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State left on the schedule.

The problems have to be fixed or 7-1 could easily turn into 7-5.

This is why Lane Kiffin and his assistants get paid the big bucks. They’ve got to figure it out, and they’ve got to do it now because Ole Miss faces the desperate Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday.

Ole Miss could get bowl eligible this weekend and that’s a big deal

It’s Vanderbilt week, and the Ole Miss Rebels are 17-point favorites.

With a win Ole Miss (5-0, 1-0 SEC) will become bowl eligible in the first week of October.

You probably aspire for more than that. When Lane Kiffin is your head coach and your team is 16-3 over its last 19 games you might be tempted to take bowl eligibility for granted.

However, a “mature” Ole Miss fan like me knows not to do that.

In my time on this earth the Rebels have been to 19 bowl games. That may sound like a lot to a few of you, but I’ve been alive 47 years.

That means I’ve experienced 28 years when the season ended in November and the only bowl game was a sloppy brawl against Mississippi State.

That means I’ve lived through 28 sad Christmas’s and New Years watching other teams play and consoling myself by cheering for “SEC” schools as though I as an Ole Miss fan could somehow take pride in those victories.

And so, should Ole Miss do as it should and achieve a victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday I will be thankful for 6-0 and holiday football plans.

This is the BIG one

In my best Keith Jackson voice, “This iiiiiis the big one.”

The No. 14 Ole Miss Rebels (4-0, 0-0 SEC) host the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday (11am, ESPN) in what sets up to be a doozy of a game.

It’s the one we’ve been waiting for since the season ended last January.

This is the game that finally shows us whether Ole Miss is a contender or a pretender.

At times this season the Rebels have looked like contenders (see Georgia Tech and the 2nd quarter against Tulsa) and at times they’ve looked like pretenders (see entire 2nd half against Tulsa).

But on Saturday Ole Miss will get Kentucky’s best shot, and if the Rebs come out on top we’ll know this team really is legit.

A win over the Wildcats would thrust Ole Miss into the Top 10 and set it on a collision course with Alabama on November 12 in what could possibly be a battle for entry into the SEC Championship Game.

I know, I know, I’m getting waaay ahead of myself here, but if you look at the Ole Miss schedule, the Rebs are likely favorites in every game between now and Alabama if, and it’s a big if, they beat Kentucky.

So, yeah, Kentucky really is the big one.

This game could be won or lost any number of ways, but I can’t help but think it’s all going to come down to Jaxson Dart playing a mistake-free football game and stepping up with the big passes at the right time.

Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans should be able to do the heavy lifting, but eventually Dart will have to make some passes, and probably more of them than any other game he’s played thus far.

If he can do that without giving away the football the Rebs win.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a sophomore quarterback, but playing in the SEC spotlight as Lane Kiffin’s latest protégée is what brought Dart to Oxford in the first place.

This is the moment he’s been waiting for.

It’s the moment we’ve all be waiting for.

SEC football in sold out Vaught-Hemingway between a pair of undefeated teams with a seat at the Top 10 table on the line.

It doesn’t get much bigger than that.

Let’s do this!

The stingy Ole Miss defense may get tested against Tulsa

The Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2-1) may be the toughest opponent No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels (3-0) has faced yet and that’s mainly because Tulsa’s offense has something stronger than a pulse (I’m looking at you, Georgia Tech).

The Golden Wave leads the nation with 413 yards passing per game after three games, including a double overtime loss to Wyoming, a narrow victory over Northern Illinois and a blowout win over Jacksonville State. Those teams aren’t juggernauts, but neither are the three cupcakes Ole Miss has played.

The Ole Miss defense, meanwhile, is 2nd to only Georgia in points allowed per game (4.3) after three games against admittedly subpar competition none of which can pass the ball around like Tulsa. The Rebels are tied for 4th in the country in sacks (13).

So if you’re looking for some intrigue in this Saturday afternoon contest here it is:

Will the Ole Miss defensive domination continue against a good offense?

Ole Miss Travels for First Power Five Test

After two games against inferior competition it’s difficult to get a read on just how good Ole Miss can be.

We know the Rebs have a couple talented running backs and we think the defense might be pretty good, but even those thoughts are subject to scrutiny until Ole Miss faces a team with Power Five level talent.

Enter the Georgia Tech Ramblin Wreck – a team that just broke a seven game losing streak a week ago against Western Carolina in not so convincing fashion.

While Georgia Tech isn’t the greatest Power Five team ever, it’s definitely a step up from Troy and a big step up from Central Arkansas.

Thanks to those two cupcakes Lane Kiffin and his staff enjoyed two extra weeks of preseason preparation to get ready for Tech.

In those two weeks we saw Zach Evans and Quinshon Judkins run for a bunch of yards and we saw what appears to be a feisty defense.

What we haven’t seen is a QB establish himself as the starter and on a somewhat related note we haven’t seen domination from the wide receiver unit – a couple amazing catches by Jonathan Mingo notwithstanding.

So the Rebels still have a lot to prove on the road in Atlanta starting with Jaxson Dart and Luke Altmyer.

As good as Evans and Judkins are they can’t do it by themselves against SEC competition.

That’s why Ole Miss really needs to develop a downfield passing attack in the next couple weeks.

If one of those two guys can become “the guy” and establish a passing game to compliment the rushing attack then Ole Miss could be headed to double digit wins this season.

That’s the hope anyway.