It’s a balmy Monday morning in mid-September, and the Ole Miss Rebels are by-gosh-dang No. 17 in the nation.
So, of course, absolutely totally natural to start the wringing of hands and furrowing of the brow over a Tulane Green Wave football team who will visit Oxford on Saturday.
Yes, we’ve all heard about the 5-point loss to Oklahoma in week one in Norman, Okla., but just how worried are you, an Ole Miss fan, for this game?
And on a scale of 1-10, the staff at the Cup seems to land somewhere between a four and a six when we chatted this morning. Here’s what we do know — historically, there’s a game like this that trips up Ole Miss teams.
Hugh Freeze and Memphis, for example in the Sugar Bowl season of 2015, or Houston Nutt dropping road games to Wake Forest in 2008 and South Carolina in 2009 despite ending the year in the dadgum Cotton Bowl.
So there’s some history there to cause some heartburn for fans, undoubtedly, but also what we don’t know is how head coach Lane Kiffin will fare in a game like this. In his first season, he had no non-conference games with the Rebels for us to gauge motivating his squad against a perceived “lesser than” opponent.
In Kiffin’s seasons in Boca Raton at Florida Atlantic, his teams typically went and played a couple very stout, very difficult non-conference games, an FCS team, and a fourth non-conference game that would be winnable. Typically, he succeeded in notching the wins he was supposed to get, and he never logged the huge upset.
So that’s why our staff and fans probably aren’t sure how confident to feel going into Saturday. Yes, Tulane put a scare into Oklahoma, but here’s what I see as the most important stat in that game no one seems to be talking about — 23-0 second quarter.
The Sooners and Green Wave were tied 14-14 at the end of the first quarter, but then OU flexed its muscle for a 23-0 second quarter seemingly putting the game out of reach by halftime. This is an OU program that has had issues closing out games the last couple seasons and even losing a couple games they probably could have won with one more score or defensive stand.
After winning 54-17 over Austin Peay, it looks like the Rebels know how to come out strong out of the gate regardless who the opponent is. By halftime, Ole Miss was up 37-7, and by the end of the third 51-10. It was supposed to be a blowout and that’s exactly what we got.
This still isn’t a game to be taken lightly or too much assumed, and I think Kiffin and his staff will be hammering that point home. If the Rebels can win Saturday, the team is a quarter of the way through the regular season, undefeated, and gets almost two whole weeks to prepare for No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.