Despite the well-deserved hype Ole Miss has received in the past week, the Rebels will not be a contender in the SEC West, not yet anyway.
It's not a question of competing. The matter at hand revolves around winning titles, and furthermore, being a true contender in the best conference in college football. Will the Rebels compete in the SEC in 2013? Absolutely. In fact, don't be surprised to see Ole Miss take down one of the SEC giants next season.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves and proclaim this Ole Miss team to be a contender just yet. Sure, no team in the SEC, or in the country for that matter, had a better Feb. 6, 2013.
On national signing day, Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss Rebels racked up. There's no denying that.
It's hard not to when you notice that all four of those men are in the Top 25 of the ESPN 150. Impressive, indeed. This will make Ole Miss better without a doubt, and it will make Freeze's club more competitive than they were last year.
That's saying something, considering the Rebels boasted a 7-6 record, had tight games with both Texas A&M and LSU and won the BBVA Compass Bowl 38-17. Ah, the future is bright at Ole Miss, and though the bandwagon is building for the Rebels after signing day, 2013 will not present a division title.
Maybe in another conference, maybe in a division that doesn't have two national championship winning coaches and a Heisman Trophy winner would Ole Miss succeed.
Ole Miss still has to travel to Bryant-Denny Stadium, you know? Odds are Nick Saban will have his club eager to defend its second national championship. By the way, Saban can see Freeze's stellar recruiting class and raise him by a few recruits.
However, faith and confidence are everything in sports. And whatever Freeze is doing at Ole Miss is certainly getting his team to believe they can make a run toward a championship.
Why else would all of these high-profile recruits choose to play at Ole Miss anyway (excluding Nkemdiche)?
Because really, Ole Miss isn't Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M, for that matter. They won't be in 2013 either. Instead, Ole Miss is now a middle-of-the-pack team in the SEC West. Heck, you could even view this Rebels team as folks have started to view Mississippi State.
"Certainly, you could have picked a better team to compare us to!" Ole Miss diehards shriek. Forgive me, it just fits so well.
Has Ole Miss arrived again?
Like Mississippi State in years past, Ole Miss will present a team capable of upsetting any team it plays. But the Bulldogs never seem to get over that hump. Not saying Ole Miss won't eventually get there, but that hump is currently too steep.
Sure, the Rebels get Texas A&M and LSU at home, and Ole Miss and LSU games are almost always nail-biters. But don't forget—both the Aggies and Tigers have impressive recruiting classes coming in also.
Not to mention, Texas A&M still has Johnny Manziel running the offense with Mike Evans and Jake Matthews returning to help support him. As for LSU, well, Ole Miss has the disadvantage of playing LSU immediately after playing the Aggies.
Talk about going from one big challenge to the next, but hey, that's life in the SEC.
And that's the very reason why Ole Miss won't be the dark horse in the conference next season. The expectations are growing, but the competition remains the same.