Rebels Exposed as Pretenders

There's one thing we've known for a long time about Houston Nutt; the man can get his team ready for the big upset. Now there's another thing we know about the Ole Miss coach; the man does not relish the role of favorite. The Rebels entered Thursday's game staked to an absurdly high early-season ranking of No. 4, based on a 2008 season-ending six-game win streak and a 2-0 start to this season.

Then Nutt and the Rebels authored a terrible performance in Columbia, South Carolina that did much more than hand the Rebels a loss in their SEC opener. The 16-10 Gamecocks victory eliminated Ole Miss from being viewed as a serious threat in the SEC West.

I'm not saying that Nutt and his charges couldn't rebound and post a big upset or two the rest of the way. The problem is the Rebels are exposed as a team that is just as likely to lose to Mississippi State as it is to knock off the elite of the SEC. They showed that at mid-season last year when they went through a three game stretch where they lost to Vandy, beat Florida and lost to South Carolina – all improbable results.

But this year was supposed to be different. Ole Miss had a fringe Heisman candidate in Jevan Snead, an exciting multiple threat in Dexter McCluster and All-American defensive end Greg Hardy. Yet despite those assets the Rebels couldn't get much done on other side of the ball Thursday night.

Snead on the Schneid

No loss can be blamed entirely on one player, but this one comes close. Jevan Snead is supposed to be one of the top five quarterbacks in college football. Resident geniuses from Mel Kiper to Todd McShay and everyone in between will tell you he's a better pro prospect than Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy.

If that's true he did an excellent job disguising those skills from the national television audience that watched him in this one. Snead had one notable play all night, a 45-yard pass to Markeith Summers for a TD that got Ole Miss within six points with 9:47 to play. However on the final two possessions he got to throw just two passes, completing one while taking a critical sack on Ole Miss' final set of downs.

This game could have turned out differently if not for some bizarre play calling by Ole Miss late in the contest. The Rebels had the ball at the Carolina 32 with more than three minutes to go before two strange calls. First the Rebels tried the "Wild Rebel" formation, but did it with large, lumbering Brandon Bolden instead of McCluster. It went nowhere. Then they ran a double reverse with the ball ending up in McCluster's hands. Misdirection works best when the top player gives up the ball. Apparently they don't know this and the play also went nowhere.

Snead was sacked on a third down roll out before Ole Miss took an illegal substitution penalty after using a time out to set up a futile 4th-and-19 pass. How you can call time out and end up with 12 men on the field is beyond me.

Looking ahead there's no doubt in my mind that Ole Miss will win more games including a great chance that they will upset LSU or Alabama along the way. But Ole Miss proved on Thursday night they are the newest rendition of the "not ready for prime time players."

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