As big as the win over Arkansas was Saturday night, the victory was simply the set-up, the preliminary business before what lies ahead.
Houston Nutt was brought in to return the Rebels to respectability and make Ole Miss' name matter late in the season. Those things have so far been accomplished, and the upcoming game against Auburn houses the possibility to catapult this current campaign.
The Rebels are at .500 and a loss to the Tigers places the sole goal at taking two of the final three and finding those six wins that have been elusive in the post-Eli era.
But what about a win? That is where this thing gets interesting. The Ole Miss fan base has longed for a meaningful game in November, and that is exactly what November 1 will be when Auburn enters Vaught-Hemingway.
Let us count the ways – or at least three of them:
It's the fifth win:
Nutt has been clear since arrival that his top want is for the seniors to experience a bowl game. Well, beat Auburn, and Ole Miss can clinch eligibility on Nov. 15 against La. Monroe, a Sunbelt team that has struggled through much of the season.
There are no locks in college football, but entertaing the Warhawks with a 5-4 record is something every sane Rebel fan should have taken before the season began.
Give me Liberty or give me…Chick-Fil-A?
Check out the SEC standings, and the majority of the conference is marred in relative mediocrity. Alabama, Florida and Georgia are looking at trips somewhere sunny, but who else is lining up to snag the conference's bigger bowls?
Beat Auburn, and the Liberty Bowl becomes the back-up plan. 5-4 after winning against Auburn, 6-4 if the Rebels don't lay an egg against Monroe, but what about from there? LSU is talented, but the Tigers haven't exactly looked unbeatable lately.
And it is a free shot for Ole Miss. Nutt's troops would already be in a bowl, so go to Baton Rouge and see what happens. It took a Jamarcus Russell pass in regulation and a discombobulated overtime period by Ole Miss for the Tigers to escape two years ago in Death Valley.
Pull the shocker and suddenly you've got seven with the Egg on deck. The Bulldogs have struggled much of the season, and a sound game by the Rebels could grab that eighth win. 8-4, five straight wins and an energized fan base willing to travel.
If all those dominoes fall in place, The Chick-Fil-A Bowl becomes the expected game of choice, and don't rule out the Cotton coming callin'. The league is practicing cannibalism, and the Rebels can benefit from the lack of lofty records.
In his opening press conference, Nutt quoted Frank Broyles: "They remembah in Novembah." Yes they do, and now is the time to take advantage. The past few sentences are possible, but it all starts with Auburn.
Knockout punch, anyone?
Fitting that 10 years after Tommy Tuberville went east in not exactly the most honest fashion, the Rebels might be in position to end his reign as a Tiger. Auburn has lost three straight games, and the AU supporters are getting restless, even though Tuberville has made a habit of taking down top-ranked opponents and been better than successful during his tenure.
Success breeds a lot of things, but automatic staying power isn't one of them. The murmurs are getting louder, and Ole Miss may have the chance to put the final nail in Tuberville's pine box on the Plains.
Big things may be on the horizon, but taking down the Tigers Saturday is a must for those to come into effect. Beating Auburn isn't necessary to be in Memphis in January, but it is for Ole Miss to get ahead of the transition curve and be back in the football business quickly.
Six wins was the goal, but why stop there? The trip to Fayetteville was fun, meaningful and a must, but it is now in the past. The season starts now.
COMMENTARY: Time for November Run
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