You've heard the hype.
The preseason buzz for Ole Miss is evident through the national media's attention on a team that is two years removed from a winless SEC season.
Even ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit has made a trip to Oxford for an interview with Jevan Snead and to scope out the campus for a possible College Gameday location.
So, why so much hype? Here are five reasons why you could be seeing Ole Miss in a BCS bowl in January.
5. The Strong Finish in 2008
No team was hotter at the end of the season than the Rebs. Since the October 18 narrow 24-20 loss to Alabama, Ole Miss ran off six straight games.
Many critics questioned the strength of the late schedule, but after the Rebel's convincing 47-34 victory over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl, and seeing LSU destroy Georgia Tech 38-3—a team in which Ole Miss blew out at Tiger Stadium 31-13—it was evident how hot Ole Miss was.
4. Fearless Defensive Line
Even losing All-American Peria Jerry doesn't slow this group down. Of course it hurts, but the Rebels still have Greg Hardy, Marcus Tillman, Kentrell Lockett, Lawon Scott, Ted Laurent, Emmanuel Stephens, and Jerrell Powe to anchor the "Landsharks."
Throw in enrolled freshman and Army All-American Craig Drummond, who chose Ole Miss over teams like Illinois and Ohio State, and the defensive line for the Rebs is one of the best in the country.
3. Seasoned QB Jevan Snead
Jevan Snead, the rising junior from Stephenville, Texas, really turned things around after early season struggles. After starting the season with 10 TDs and 10 INTs through the first seven games of the season, Snead finished the season during the six-game winning streak, with 16 TDs and three INTs.
He has currently been the topic of multiple preseason Heisman discussions and is unarguably the best returning quarterback in the SEC West.
2. Favorable Schedule
Although many believe this could hurt the Rebels in the long run, the fact that Ole Miss plays Memphis, Northern Arizona, UAB, and Southeastern Louisiana could help the Rebels stay in the preseason top 10 and get in a BCS bowl game.
It will put more pressure on the Rebels on the conference schedule, but with a favorable schedule, which includes Alabama and LSU at home, and avoiding Georgia and Florida in the East, could benefit the Rebs in their effort to clinch their first SEC championship game berth and a chance to earn a BCS bowl game.
1. Seventeen Starters Returning
Ed Orgeron was pitiful as an SEC head coach and a motivator, but he did get some decent talent into Oxford.
The Rebels need to fill some holes in the offensive line, but with Snead, ATH Dexter McCluster, and flourishing sophomore RB Brandon Bolden, the Rebels will be a force on the offensive side of the ball due to talent returning.
On the defensive side, Peria Jerry has to be replaced, but the former five star Jerrell Powe has dropped nearly 30 pounds and looks to fill the role.
The Rebels, with at least 14 seniors projected to start, have the ability to make a run in 2009. Having the talent coming back is the most definite strength the Rebels have. Keeping their starters healthy is crucial, due to the lack of depth compared to the rest of the SEC teams.
If the Rebels can stay healthy, you could see the Rebels in early January playing in the Sugar Bowl or possibly even the BCS Champio... we'll see about that.
Derek Stephens is the Ole Miss Community Leader for BleacherReport.com. He can be reached on his bulletin board. Be sure to check out his new site, OleMissAthletics.net, for up-to-date stories on everything Ole Miss.
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