Deep Breath

The Rebels got a needed open week as triple A approaches. What's next for the 3-2 Rebels? Depends on your perspective.

Nobody will ever mistake me for a member of Mensa, but after a rare fall Saturday off, replete with watching a lot of SEC football, it doesn't take a card-carrying genius to figure out the severity of the road the Rebels face coming off a much-needed open week.

Alabama - there, Arkansas - there, and Auburn, undefeated Auburn - home.

That's the task at hand and, without using much imagination, it appears daunting for the 3-2 Ole Miss Rebels. Without bothering to look anything up, I'd be willing to bet a sawbuck nobody in America has a tougher three-game stretch looking them in the eye.

But guess what?

Even knowing that the Tide will be mad after losing to South Carolina, the Hogs will be itching for another shot at Houston Nutt, and Auburn has one of the most dynamic players (Cameron Newton) in the nation and a pretty solid supporting cast, I'm not cowering and shivering in the fetal position waiting on my wife to bring me a blankie and a pillow.

You are probably asking yourself why.

Well, I really don't know, to be perfectly frank and honest.

After all, the Rebs have lost to Jacksonville State in one of the major el foldos of the current season, they needed a late flurry to hold off Tulane - of all teams, they lost to Vanderbilt in a sloppy mess and, even though they righted the ship against Fresno and Kentucky to raise their record above .500, they left those two games like Popeye after a round or two with Brutus, victorious but bruised.

To have much optimism right now seems incredulous and might give you a hint why Mensa isn't beating down my door, but let's, just for fun, look for the silver lining, shall we?

Starting at the top, Alabama.

Many prognosticators and fans of various schools, this one included, had placed them on such a pedestal of invincibility that some were saying their second team was the second best team in the SEC.

Houston Nutt

Balderdash. Almost idiocy. The SEC is too strong to be making that statement, even if it's just for affect.

South Carolina proved the Tide to be human and susceptible to a bad day just like everyone else. Nick Saban, who some on this very site have placed in the pantheon of great coaches, took reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and his twin Trent Richardson completely out of the game, giving them a combined and paltry 17 carries. Nice going, Nicky. Not a Mensa member either, huh? And you make, what, $85K a week?

OK, so that's a bit over the top. I know, you know, the world knows, Saban is an excellent coach, but he's not infallible. He has his off days too. They all do.

As humans, Alabama did the same thing the Rebels did last year - they went to Columbia and got swept away in a pit of emotion by a fan base, in this opinion, unequaled in enthusiasm anywhere in the country. I say that because I lived it on the Ole Miss sidelines last year. Couldn't hear properly until Tuesday of the week after our game with the Cocks.

Anyway, which Alabama do we get? The meek among us will say we'll get a mad, hungry, angry, bent-on-revenge Bama. The meek could be right. That would not be good for any team to face in Bama's back yard.

The optimistic among us, count me in, might say there is a chance, as slim as it seems, the Red Elephants could be feeling their own mortality. Their armor, seemingly made of titanium, has been pierced, gashed actually. There could be lingering doubt. There could be second-guessing. There could be an opening for an opportunistic club to slip in the back door and do some damage.

That may be a reach, may be a bit over dramatic as well, but hey, it's worth a shot. What's there to lose with that type of thinking? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Then there's Arkansas.

True story, one I probably shouldn't repeat, but I'm going to anyway for illustration purposes.

Nutt was enjoying a BBQ sandwich the other day out of town and two innocent little girls approached the table. I'd guess they were 8-10 years old.

"We're Arkansas fans and our Daddy sent us over to tell you we don't like you," one said.

Nutt did nothing. Awkwardly smiled until they went away.

I wanted to say something about their Daddy, I'm sure a toothless wonder of genetics, and his obvious lack of teaching them some manners, but I bit nearly through my lip.

Anyway, that incident will be typical of the disdain Nutt and the Rebels will receive in Arkansas at Wart Hog Stadium or whatever that cesspool of hillbilly-ism is called.

The meek among us will cower about Hog QB Ryan Mallett, a good one for sure. The optimistic among us will reflect back to last year where he was hit hard and often and coughed the ball up in a Rebel win.

In short, I have no respect for their hotheaded coach Bobby Petrino, not after the stunts he pulled two years ago over there, but I can't deny the Hogs are a better team than I anticipated they would be.

There's no question the Rebels will have their hands full, but welcome to the SEC. Easy isn't in the SEC handbook.

A.J. Hawkins

Moving on to Auburn, you knew last year the Tigers were turning things around.

Gene Chizik has done a nice job of assembling a solid team, but his master stroke was when he signed Newton. Folks, that guy is a beast. A young beast, but a beast nonetheless.

If he's not contained, the Rebel offense better put on their track shoes because outscoring them will be the only hope.

Kentucky, however, proved they can be scored on, in bunches, so nothing really to be intimidated by, the optimists will say.

There you have it. Triple A, and it ain't friendly road service. It's a road grader.

The only question to be answered is what Rebel team will show up for this stretch?

Hopefully the week off will allow for some healing. Ole Miss needs Center A.J. Hawkins, the wounded secondary folks, and some others back. This stretch will take all hands on deck, no doubt.

But if the healing process is quick, if the Rebel team that defeated Fresno State and Kentucky will show up, and do a little better here and a little better there, I'll take my chances.

If the Man is willing, and the creek don't rise, this Rebel will be there.

And I won't be anticipating losses.

It's just not my nature, maybe another reason why I've never received an application letter from Mensa.

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