Ohio State's domination of Oregon in Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship Game brought a close to the 2014 college football season -- one that was, all things considered, widely successful for the Ole Miss football program.
The College Gameday set made its first appearance in the Grove (along with Katy Perry throwing corndogs at camera men) and was followed by a thrilling win over Alabama that sent the goalpost's on tour of Oxford. Ole Miss was ranked in the top four in the first ever College Football Playoff poll. Most importantly, it was a nine-win season capped by a dominating performance over Mississippi State to bring the Golden Egg back to the Manning Center.
There is a lot to be excited about looking ahead to 2015 for Ole Miss fans. Yes, the Rebels lose a veteran quarterback in Bo Wallace, a consistent and under-appreciated wide receiver in Vince Sanders and a rising senior running back in I'Tavius Mathers on offense.
They also lose a consensus all-American corner in Senquez Golson, an all-American safety in Cody Prewitt, their two middle linebackers in Deterrian Shackelford and Serderius Bryant, and Bryon Bennett, who had a sneaky good year in the defensive tackle rotation.
Yes, those players leave big shoes to fill, but Hugh Freeze and staff have recruited quality depth across the board to alleviate those key losses. Some in the national media tend to agree.
The offseason in college football is filled with predictions, previews, countdowns (Ole Miss kicks off its 2015 campaign in 233 days, but who's counting?), and the way too early preseason poll.
In the grand scheme of things, all of it is meaningless. It is, however, a good way to gauge how the rest of the country views the status of your football program.
Mark Schlabach of ESPN has Ole Miss ranked No. 11 in his 2015 poll, citing the returning starters paired with the return of Denzel Nkemdiche and Tee Shepard from injury as a reason for optimism. He also, however, has his doubts about the quarterback position. Don't we all.
Paul Myerberg of the USA Today had this to say while ranking Ole Miss No. 9 in his poll:
The Rebels improve with each passing season under Hugh Freeze. The offense may be more consistent with a new starter under center, particularly with wide receiver Laquon Treadwell back from injury. The defense will retool in the secondary without two all-conference picks, but the talent along the defensive line is undeniable - and it's these contributors, led by Robert Nkemdiche, who set the tone for the entire defense. If they can stay healthy, the Rebels might sneak up and take the SEC West Division.
Dennis Dodd of CBS sports has the Rebels at No. 7:
The Rebels weren't a one-hit wonder. Hugh Freeze gets back receiver Laquon Treadwell and budding superstar Robert Nkemdiche in the defensive line. The Landshark defense returns with a snarl. If Chad Kelly can keep his nose clean, Ole Miss might be better at quarterback with the departure of Bo Wallace.
There are countless numbers of similar polls, all of which have Ole Miss around the same ranking with the same reasons. They're loaded at receiver, have a ton (if not more) talent on defense coming back, and just need decent play out of whichever quarterback wins the job to be a real threat in the west.
What does this mean? Nothing if they don't find a quarterback. If nothing else, it means what Hugh Freeze is doing at Ole Miss is working, and the rest of the country has taken notice.