However, after trouncing Tennessee 42-17 a week ago, Ole Miss has certainly played its way into high consideration amongst bowl representatives with a nationally televised matchup against LSU just days away.
At 7-3 overall (3-3 SEC), the general consensus is the Rebels are controllers of their own destiny. Win your final regular-season games, and the likelihood of the team's first trip to the Capital One Bowl appears more than promising.
But again, it's pure conjecture.
"The more you win the better it gets," Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said Monday. "The warmer it gets."
The Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., has the first choice of SEC teams after the BCS bowls are filled and must choose a team with either the best record available or only one game worse. In other words, if the best team available is 10-2, then the Capital One, by contract, may only choose that team or a team with a 9-3 record.
If Ole Miss beats LSU, the Tigers down Arkansas, and Ole Miss tops Mississippi State, then Rebels hold the tiebreaker head-to-head, meaning Ole Miss stands as the frontrunner for a trip to Mickey Mouse country January 1.
If contending teams have the same record for the Capital One, the bowl committee's 200 members vote on the team to pick.
"(Ole Miss) was on our board last year, and we talked about them. But Georgia had the better record," Matt Repchak, assistant director of communications for the Capital One Bowl, said. "We definitely know there is fan excitement, and we know how well they have traveled to previous bowl games. The reports we have gotten back are positive."
After all games have been played just two weeks from now, all will have a better understanding of where exactly Ole Miss stands in the hunt for a major bowl bid.
To put it simply, nothing is certain. However, the clearer path to Orlando could be decided at 2:30 p.m. on CBS this weekend.
"The Ole Miss-LSU game is certainly one we've got our eye on," said Repchak. "We will have two representatives there. Some have mentioned that it's a play-in game for the Capital One Bowl. It won't quite be a play-in game. There are still games to be played next week."
On the other hand, a loss Saturday probably means the Capital One bowl is out of the picture for Ole Miss. However, the Rebels would remain in prime position for the subsequent bowl slots of the Outback and Cotton if they get a win over in-state rival Mississippi State a week later.
Traditionally, the Outback takes the next-best SEC team from the Eastern Division after the Capital One, while the Cotton holds first preference from the West. But if both teams agree, either bowl can take teams from the opposite division.
"Ole Miss is coveted by a lot of bowls," Jim McVay, president and CEO of the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., said. "Last week against Tennessee was very impressive. There are several SEC teams that have a shot at our bowl right now. We have great interest in Ole Miss."
Another substantial Ole Miss draw for the Outback is the Florida connection with senior running back Dexter McCluster.
Against Tennessee, the Largo, Fla. native posted school records of 282 rushing yards and 324 all-purpose yards. The performance marked the most rushing yards ever surrendered by Tennessee to a single player, and the 11th-best rushing performance in SEC history.
"He's from this area. I know I'd pay to watch him play," said McVay. "That was the darndest thing I've seen (his performance against the Volunteers). I think he's still running up and down the field."
But while all reports are positive according to McVay, the caveat for a trip to Tampa is to keep on winning.
"There are as many as eight SEC teams (with Outback possibilities). I don't want to mislead anybody, but Ole Miss is definitely one we're watching," he said. "It looks like they are hitting their stride."
Now played in Arlington, Texas, inside the newly opened $1.3 billion Cowboys Stadium, Ole Miss fans are obviously familiar with the Cotton Bowl. After finishing the regular season with five-straight wins a year ago, the Rebels took close to 40,000 fans to Dallas, where Ole Miss topped Texas Tech 47-34 in thrilling fashion.
Despite having participated in the contest twice in six years, Charlie Fiss, the Cotton Bowl's Vice President of Communications, said Ole Miss is surely in the discussion.
"We're still gazing into the crystal ball. You just never know in the SEC," Fiss said. "Two weeks ago, we were thinking one thing, now we're thinking something else. Ole Miss is definitely one of the best teams in the SEC and, in particular, the SEC West. They're on our radar screen.
"It was fun to host them last year. It was a tremendous game and Ole Miss had some marquee players. Dexter (McCluster) was our MVP last year and he's playing great. Again, they're on our radar screen, but other bowls pick in front of us. We'll have to wait our turn."
For Ole Miss, the worst-case scenario would be losing its remaining two games. At 7-5 overall and 3-5 in the SEC, the most likely landing spots would either be the Chick-fil-A bowl in Atlanta, Ga. or the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.
But to senior free safety Kendrick Lewis, projected postseason destinations can wait. With senior day Saturday and the Egg Bowl looming, more pressing matters are at hand.
"It's a little too early. We've still got two more games left in our season," he said. "These are big-time ballgames that we've got to win. Those two teams will come to play because they're riding on the same thing. We've got to take care of our business and then we'll see (the bowl picture) when the time comes."
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