When the polls are released on Sunday, Ole Miss will almost certainly find itself in the top 10. With a win on the road against Alabama, the biggest conference foe, the Rebels are de facto leaders in the race for the SEC West crown.
Arkansas continues to look pretty terrible. Auburn is hot garbage. Mississippi State seems like a fine team but not one threatening to win the West.
So that leaves four teams in the division who I think have a chance at this moment: Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M.
Every Day Should Be Saturday's Spencer Hall once described a particularly talented LSU defense as a "werewolf with a chainsaw for a dick." If that label can apply to just one person now, it has to be Leonard Fournette. The guy is just impossible to bring down and much, much faster than your average fan likely assumes. He will cause every defense they face huge, huge problems. But the LSU passing offense still looks terrible. Through two games, Brandon Harris, the only LSU Tiger to attempt a pass, has 145 passing yards... total. You just have to think that the Rebels will load the box and dare Brandon Harris to beat them. Maybe he will. Their offensive line is excellent. I don't know. I just think a Tiger victory unlikely, especially in Oxford.
Texas A&M on the other hand is chugging along with an offensive approach that has yielded almost 1,500 yards of offense through three games. Quarterback Kyle Allen is playing great football in terms of output. He has thrown nine touchdowns and only two picks. ESPN's Total QBR however, which Chad Kelly still leads nationally, tells a somewhat different story, ranking Kyle Allen at 40th. [As an aside, LSU's Brandon Harris is second nationally, which isn't actually all that surprising, seeing as how he has a small sample size and is able to play efficiently, given the defense's focus on Fournette.] Allen and the Aggies have to go through the defenses of Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Alabama in the three weeks leading up to their matchup versus the Rebels. That's a tough stretch of physical teams. Again, the Rebels face the Aggies in Oxford. With the team we saw last night in Tuscaloosa, I think Ole Miss has to be favored in that game as well as of this moment.
And the Rebels already beat Bama.
And what happens when Laremy Tunsil (hopefully) gets back? The offensive line did fine against Alabama, giving up, I believe, three sacks against an uber-talented unit. When Tunsil gets back on the field and allows some trickle-down in the way of players reshuffling, this team could be even better. Imagine last night's game if the Rebels could have consistently picked up a couple of yards on the ground when they needed them.
Now look, I'm not sitting here saying this Ole Miss team will win the West. I'm just saying that right now, they have to be considered the favorites. They have had excellent quarterback play and a strong defense (when it's not ridiculously tired after 100 plays (which is, way, way more than usual). All the SEC West opponents will be tough. None should be taken lightly. It's just that this team looks tough and able.
Obviously if the Rebels do ultimately play for and win an SEC Championship, they would be strong contenders for a spot in the second college football playoff. If they get there, it's anyone's game. But there's a lot of football to be played before then.
Chad Kelly is probably in the Heisman race now
Right now Chad Kelly has to be getting consideration for Heisman contention. He's 3-0 and has put up huge stats in all three games. His one interception this year was perfectly thrown to Laquon Treadwell, who let it bounce off his hands and into those of a waiting UT-Martin defender. The guy has been incredible to watch and seems to have the ability to generate something from nothing. Sure, Ole Miss benefited from a lot of luck last night. But they had to be in a position to capitalize and execute when they did get lucky bounces. Kelly made it possible for them to do that, and it paid off.
If you think about it, he really only had one terrible pass in terms of decision-making, and that went for a touchdown. I'm sure he missed other reads and things, but Kelly didn't put the ball in places where Alabama could intercept it. The Ole Miss offense didn't turn the ball over once, and it made the difference.
As I said to friend after the game, "He's.... he's just really, really good. Like, All-SEC good. Maybe All-American good." Maybe things will come crashing down for him. I think we've seen enough at this point, though, to know what he's capable of: greatness.