Ole Miss almost definitely can't win the SEC West this year, having already lost three conference games, which is not a good place to be when you play in a division with Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M.
Still, by virtue of their schedule and the form that they are slowly rounding into, the Rebels might have an important role to play in determining the fate of America's best conference—and, by extension, the entire landscape of college football.
This team is peaking at the right time, and if it can reach that apex against Missouri in a couple of weeks, it would reverberate all throughout the country.
It wasn't pretty against Arkansas, but Bo Wallace led his team to a 34-24 home victory on Saturday, racking up a career high with 407 passing yards and adding on three TDs.
The running game left something to be desired, but that Wallace is starting to put all of his physical gifts together is a very encouraging sign for this offense. Especially going up against Missouri, his arm would be the key to pulling an upset.
Missouri's defensive weakness, if it has one, would be the secondary, which is allowing 335 passing yards per game. That number is inflated, since Missouri has had some big leads and opponents have had to pass more often, but it cannot be ignored.
Only eight FBS teams give up more.
By contrast, the Tigers have been very impressive defending the run, having allowed the fewest yards per game and yards per attempt of any team in SEC play (as of Week 10).
South Carolina and Florida, two teams that rely heavily on setting up the run, combined to gain 134 rushing yards on 66 carries. Those numbers also jump off the page.
In order to beat Missouri, your passing game needs to be in tip-top shape. And even though his line was—per usual—marred by a couple of interceptions, Wallace appears to have this passing game playing at that type of level. Between Donte Moncrief, Laquon Teadwell and Ja-Mes Logan, the Rebels have enough weapons to give Missouri serious trouble.
"I haven't had receivers (like this) at other schools," said head coach Hugh Freeze, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN). "I've followed Ole Miss football for a long time, and our group could arguably be one of the top receiving corps throughout (program) history."
Those are fighting words, but it's had to argue with Freeze's sentiment. And that group of guys could give Missouri some serious problems.
The Tigers aren't a fluke—as far as I can tell—and should they hold on to their current one-game lead in the SEC East division, they would be worthy participants in the SEC Championship Game.
But where would they go from there? At its best, is Missouri capable of beating Alabama? If the Tide stay undefeated and a team like Ohio State needs them to lose, would Buckeye fans really want to see the Tigers in Atlanta? Or would they prefer to see, say, Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina.
I would vote the latter, even though Missouri has the more impressive body of work. When South Carolina is firing on cylinders, which I'm not sure we've properly seen this year, it is likely the most capable team from the East. It would have the best shot of bringing down the Tide.
A Missouri loss during the regular season would drop the Tigers—as things currently stand—into a three-way tie with South Carolina and Georgia, drastically decreasing their chances of winning the division. In turn, it might (slightly) decrease Alabama's chances of finishing undefeated.
Teams like Baylor and Ohio State are both very interested in how Ole Miss will play against Mizzou, and rightfully so. If they had just skimmed the line score instead of watching Saturday's game, there would be genuine reasons for concern.
But in truth, as long as Bo Wallace and the passing offense continue to operate at the level they demonstrated on Saturday, this team has a chance to beat Missouri.
That is, in a grander sense, this team has a chance to alter the season.
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