Dr. Bo giveth, and Dr. Bo taketh away.
The latter happened to Ole Miss Saturday night at LSU, when capricious quarterback Bo Wallace completed 14 of 33 passes for 176 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a 10-7 loss that dropped the Rebels to 7-1 and crippled their chances of making the College Football Playoff.
Trailing 10-7 with 1:19 left in the game, Ole Miss got the ball back on its 25-yard line with no timeouts. Wallace drove the offense 50 yards in 70 seconds, looking sharper than he had all night to set up a 42-yard field goal with nine seconds left on the clock.
But the Rebels fell asleep at the wheel, incurring a five-yard delay-of-game penalty before they could get off the snap. Now looking at a 47-yard field goal, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze called true freshman kicker Gary Wunderlich to the sideline and sent Wallace and the offense back onto the field, ostensibly directing them to run a quick play toward the sideline and gain back some of the lost yardage.
And that is when things got…well, here, have a look for yourself:
In the span of one minute of real time, the Rebels went from lining up for a plausible field goal to send the game into overtime to hurling a downfield pass into double coverage and losing the game.
But who, out of Wallace and Freeze, was at fault?
Did Freeze dial up a misdirection, a play designed to beat LSU over the top if it bit on the quick-out to the sideline? Or did Wallace go rogue—something he is sometimes wont to do—and disobey the play call for the sake of what can only be described as "hero ball"?
The face Freeze made after the play says it all:
"I thought we were pretty clear we would take that flat throw or throw it out of bounds," Freeze said after the game, per TJ Werre of WJTV in Jackson, Mississippi. "[I] wish I could do it over."
The "Good Bo, Bad Bo" dichotomy has been used to describe Wallace's lapses in judgement—the type of decision he made on the last play of the game. But the grubby little secret about Saturday is that "Bad Bo" showed up long before the final nine seconds. He didn't throw an interception, but he was just as "Bad" as ever.
Only this time, it was wildly more mundane.
Ole Miss punted on seven consecutive possessions after its only touchdown, at one point gaining minus-30 yards and punting thrice in the span of nine plays. Its defense looked semi-vulnerable for the first time all season, but even an average performance from the Rebels offense might have been enough to survive.
Instead, the performance it got was decidedly below average. Not all of that was on Wallace, who at times was the victim of an outmuscled offensive line, but Wallace deserves more blame than the rest.
If the quarterback is revered when his team is playing well—see: the ridiculous fact that Wallace entered Saturday the No. 8 favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, per Odds Shark—he must also be willing to shoulder the blame when his offense turns to muck.
So…where does Ole Miss go from here?
Technically, the Rebels still control their own fate in the SEC West, the SEC and (in all likelihood) the race to make the CFP. If they win the rest of their games—a feat which would include beating Mississippi State in Oxford Nov. 29—they could do no worse than forcing a three-way tie with the Bulldogs and Alabama atop the division.
If either—not both—of those teams lost a second game, Ole Miss would win the West by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker.
No matter what happens in the other power conferences and with Notre Dame, a one-loss SEC champion will not be excluded from the playoff. It just won't be. The best team from the best conference will have a spot in the national semifinals. Yes, that is basically a fact.
Mathematically, that means Ole Miss' playoff hopes are more than just alive, but healthy. If it wins the rest of the games on its schedule, its chances of missing the CFP are remote. No matter where it lands in the polls tomorrow, the only thing that has changed for the Rebels is the thinness of their margin for error.
Well…that and their faith in their quarterback.