After Vanderbilt, Ole Miss Stands at a Crossroads

Derek StephensSenior Analyst ISeptember 20, 2008

If you told me that Ole Miss would commit six—I repeat six—turnovers against Vanderbilt, I would be thinking of a score of something like 42-14. But 23-17?

When Ole Miss was winning, 10-0, with 4:54 left in the first quarter, a part of me was thinking our team is ready to make a statement and blow this game out. Then, that little voice inside my head said, “Slow down, Derek, not so fast.”

It didn’t take long for the voice inside my head to become the voice of reason, as Jevan Snead threw the first of his four interceptions for a pick-six, as Ryan Hamilton took it to the house the series after.

The key of the game came with less than three minutes to go—Dexter McCluster took the snap in the Wild Rebels zone, made it to the 1-yard line (which would’ve given Ole Miss the go-ahead score) and coughed up the ball, which rolled into the end zone and was recovered by a Commodore for a touchback, eventually sealing the win.

Needless to say, the SEC curse for Ole Miss continues as it lost its ninth straight SEC game. The worst part is, during the nine game losing streak in the SEC, the average margin of loss is 14 points.

If you eliminate last year’s 36-point loss against Houston Nutt-coached Arkansas and the Georgia blowout, the other seven games have been lost by a combined 63 points, averaging a nine-point loss.

That includes a six-point loss to Florida, three-point loss to Alabama, a three-point loss to Mississippi State, and, now, a six-point loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday.

It’s deflating as a fan to see your team, week in and week out, come so close to victory and, somehow, whether it be luck/skill/execution/(insert any word here) by the other team or coaching/team execution/turnovers/(insert any word here), every time your team loses.

Ole Miss is at a crossroads, it looks like. At 2-2, a bowl game is still manageable, but it sure won't be easy. It’s not as if Ole Miss lost to a horrible team tonight, as Vanderbilt will likely enter the top 25.

Ole Miss’ schedule doesn’t get any easier, though. Next, it must travel to arguably the hardest place to win in college football—the Swamp—to take on the undefeated and top-five ranked Florida Gators. If Ole Miss performs like it did tonight, Florida will put 50 up on the scoreboard.

This may just be an postgame rant, but I would rather see Florida blow out the Rebels than see Ole Miss play the Gators close and lose another heartbreaker.

Florida, in my opinion, besides USC, looks like the most complete football team in the nation right now. Although Ole Miss has won two out of the last three and actually leads the series vs. the Gators, Florida looks like an overmatched opponent for the Rebels right now.

Let’s assume this is another loss for the Rebels. They sit at 2-3. The games against South Carolina, Arkansas, UL-Monroe, and Mississippi State are all crucial for a bowl game. Can the Rebels do it? Sure. Is it likely? Ask me in two weeks.