Last year Ole Miss was as good as anybody in the country in November. A 17-7 win over Auburn, a 59-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe, a 31-13 win at LSU, and a 45-0 massacre of Mississippi State. The Rebels appeared capable of beating anybody who lined up against them.
Not so this time around. Unless some things start clicking, there won't be the same type November domination for this year's squad. However, in October last season few would have predicted that either. So who knows?
The opposition down the stretch this time is better. That's the way it looks, after this coming Saturday.
All the Rebels have to be in the first game this November is good enough to beat Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks were upset Saturday on the road, just like the Rebels were, with one major difference. Doing the upsetting of NAU was Sacramento State. Not exactly Auburn.
Here's a brief from the NAU sports website.
"Sacramento State dominated the third quarter and picked off Michael Herrick two times in the fourth quarter to upset 21st-ranked (FCS poll) Northern Arizona 27-24 Saturday at Hornet Stadium. It snapped a four-game winning streak by the Lumberjacks and was the third consecutive loss in Sacramento for Northern Arizona. NAU dropped to 5-3 overall, 4-2 in Big Sky play."
The Rebels should be able to dispatch of the Lumberjacks by halftime, UAB style. If so, then the coaches can let some of the younger players get some additional playing time, like against UAB in the second half.
NAU was placed on the schedule when basically no other team was still available. How many teams were rumored or reported to be the Rebels' 12th game for this season?
When Northern Arizona was announced, that meant two FCS (formerly Division I-AA) opponents were on the schedule (Southeastern Louisiana being the other). Ole Miss didn't get as much bad press for that as was originally thought by some. As a matter of fact, few seemed to notice or care.
The only concern was from some who wondered if two FCS opponents might keep the Rebels out of the national title game in Pasadena if that predicament arose. The other scenario? If Ole Miss won only six games…well, let's not go there.
The Rebels got some work in under the lights of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Hollingsworth Field late Sunday afternoon/early evening, with the time change bringing on darkness earlier. The 6:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday means the entire game will be played at night.
How many Ole Miss fans will show up for the Rebels and Lumberjacks after three losses in Southeastern Conference play already? Even having former Reb Herrick at the controls of the NAU offense won't draw them in.
At times like these, the fact that there were 51,000 season tickets distributed means there's a shot at having a decent crowd. But only if it isn't cold or wet. It is November so both could be the case.
So now it's try to get better this week for the Rebels, get a win, let a lot of players get in the game, and see if this squad can show some early signs of another November like last season. They'll need to be better.
Tennessee continues to improve, the last three games beating Georgia 45-19, losing that close one 12-10 at Alabama a week ago and beating South Carolina 31-13 at home.
LSU appears to be playing well, beating Auburn 31-10 and Tulane 42-0 at home the past two weeks. State's Bulldogs are proving they are certainly no last year.
Few likely would have predicted a 5-3, 2-3 record at this point for Ole Miss. Not in the preseason and not when the Rebels were ranked No. 4 some six weeks ago.
But that's where they stand, a team that can still have an outstanding season and play in a quality bowl somewhere. Or not.
There's still time for either.
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