Media plays into Nutt's plan

At the end of 2008, Ole Miss became the sexy pick for success in 2009.  Jevan Snead had thrown 16 tds and only 3 ints to end the season, and the defense had vastly improved.  All of the "experts" picked us in their top 10 to begin the next season.  The hype was building.

The summer came, and the Rebels graced two regional covers of the Sports Illustrated preview editions.  The hype was  building.  Then, this question came:

"There's a perception, whether it's fair or not, that you have been a better coach when you're not picked to do well than when you are picked to do well, as you are this year. What is your take on that?"

Houston responded, "Last year, the same group of experts picked us towards the bottom.  Same group of experts now picking us toward the top. We tell our team: 'What does that mean?' Doesn't mean anything. You are going to be hunted."

It was a beautiful love story.  A coach that poured his life into a university is run off by its mentally deranged fans.  However, he was welcomed with opened arms to Ole Miss where he promptly "turned around the program."  

Then, something bad happened.  The same "experts" that had pumped up the Rebels turned their backs on them.  

On September 24th, Nutt's Rebels gave them more ammunition by falling on the road.  "Expectations too much for Rebels!!!" cried the masses (ESPN, Al.com, Gonzohog).  "They couldn't handle the pressure!" 

The idea that South Carolina was underrated or that winning on a Thursday is really hard never crossed their minds.  Did the media cry that USC couldn't handle the hype when it lost to Stanford or Oregon State on a Thursday night?  What about when Oregon lost to Arizona on a Thursday night?  Has any other team played more Thursday night games since 2000 than South Carolina?  

Anyway, I digress.  Gonzohog, Finebaum, and others claim victory over Houston Nutt and then climbed back into whatever hellhole they came from.  

The Rebels tanked in the polls by falling 17 spots in the AP poll and 14 spots in the Coaches' Poll.  On October 3rd,  they played a good bit better, and Snead finally showed a couple of flashes of what he was capable of last season.  The D looked outstanding.  OM had gotten a 16 point SEC road win.  That would gain the media's respect again, right?  We can climb back on our throne as media darlings, correct?  Everyone expects their to be an SEC West deciding battle in Oxford on October 10th.  WRONG.  

Team Speed Kills, the SBNation blog that covers the SEC, wrote this on Saturday, "Which game will go further to deciding the SEC West Championship: Alabama-LSU or the Iron Bowl? It's debatable whether the Bayou Bengals will even be undefeated in the SEC when they go to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 7. They might be the most controversial Top 5 team in recent memory -- well, aside from Ole Miss a few weeks ago, anyway. Meanwhile, Auburn looks like a serious player for the division title, even if the Tennessee game shows they're not quite as good as they've looked the last four weeks."

In the same article, they spoke more specifically about OM: "Is Ole Miss back to being relevant? That's 397 yards of offense in a 23-7 win over Vanderbilt -- which, I'd remind you, is just as good a job as LSU did against the Commodores. Jevan Snead wasn't great, gaining 7.0 yards per passing attempting and throwing 3 TDs and 3 INTs. But Shay Hodge's 122 yards receiving and a 160-yard performance by the ground game led the Rebels to the win."

However, no one respects Ole Miss anymore.   We're no longer the "hunted."  There are new media darlings on the scene.  Auburn is 5-0 and the Iron Bowl is shaping up to be great for TV ratings.  LSU is defining what it means to be lucky.  Alabama is a complete team.  Is there room for 4 great teams in the SEC West?  

No.  All of these teams will play one another soon enough.  One will knock the other two out of the top 10 (or keep them out in Auburn's case) more than likely.  Maybe they will mutually knock themselves out of the top 10.  

No one expects Ole Miss to contend.  No one expects Ole Miss to contend.  I'll say this one more time, No one expects Ole Miss to contend.

Here's my argument using everyone's flawed, pre-season logic:  the Rebels are about to turn it on because "There's a perception, whether it's fair or not, that Houston Nutt has been a better coach when he's not picked to do well than when he's picked to do well."

We're no longer the hunted.  The hype is no longer hanging over our shoulders.  When teams play us, they'll be unable to "get up" for the game because "we are Ole Miss" and "overrated."

I expect us to make a run because no one expects us to and Houston Nutt is simply a better coach in that situation.  What are your thoughts?

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