In one of the few instances in which we celebrate the unrelenting march of time, the calendar has declared that the start of the 2022 version of Ole Miss football is one month away.
What will unfold from September through November is unclear, but one can assume the events will be a potpourri of joy, excitement, hollerin’, crippling anxiety, wailing and gnashing of teeth, and 1,000-yard stares.
However, we do know who’s on the schedule in September, which is awash in payday games and games that could get spicier than they should be. If you’ve yet to memorize the schedule because your brain has important things to remember, here’s the non-conference gauntlet Ole Miss has to run:
- vs. Troy (Sept. 3)
- vs. Central Arkansas (Sept. 10)
- at Georgia Tech (Sept. 17)
- vs. Tulsa (Sept. 24)
Not exactly an award-winning cast with Troy turning into kinda butt and Georgia Tech becoming major butt. That leaves Tulsa as the cornerstone of the non-conference schedule, which, again, will not inspire great works of literature or music.
It is important to note the Golden Hurricane won its last three games in 2021 to reach and win the Myrtle Beach Bowl presented by TaxAct, which feels like a phrase that will later be said during a trial involving fraud or embezzlement (or maybe both!). On a personal note, I would like to see it as a Wheel of Fortune puzzle because it would drive everyone to madness and take them the entire 22-minute show to solve. DO IT, PAT SAJAK YOU COWARD.
To take a deeper dive into these four games, let’s break out the power rankings.
Potential Spiciness Power Rankings
- Georgia Tech
- Central Arkansas
While Tulsa will likely be the best of the bunch, Georgia Tech will be Ole Miss’ first road game for an offense that is replacing almost all of its skill position production. I’m not sure how much they’ll learn about themselves against Troy and Central Arkansas, other than they are more physically gifted, so this will be a learning on the fly experience.
Throw in a quarterback scenario where neither Luke Altmyer or Jaxson Dart has taken control and Ole Miss catches a few bad breaks (has that ever happened before?), and things can go from mild to spicy in a hurry, as it’s now a one-score game in the fourth quarter and the living room pacing has commenced.
More than likely none of that happens, but we’re ranking the potential for spiciness here.
Best Win in 2021 Power Rankings
- Tulsa 34, SMU 30
- Georgia Tech 45, North Carolina 22
- Troy 31, Texas State 28
- Central Arkansas 38, Jacksonville State 14
I still cackle out loud when I remember that North Carolina, ranked 21st in all the land at the time, got BLASTED (AT HOME) by a Georgia Tech team that finished 3-9. Mack Brown, you are a wizard.
Although the win over North Carolina was the best when it happened, Tulsa stands on top of the mountain because SMU was 8-3 at the end of the season, and that win got the Golden Hurricane bowl eligible.
Worst Loss in 2021 Power Rankings
- Tulsa by 2 to UC Davis (19-17)
- Troy by 27 to Georgia State (37-10)
- Georgia Tech by 6 to Clemson (14-8)
- Central Arkansas by 21 to Tarleton (24-3)
Losing to an unrecognizable California state school is a good way to take over the top spot. Troy finished a close second only because of the circumstances, which qualify as a tough scene.
Sitting at 5-6, the Trojans needed to beat Georgia State to become bowl eligible. Troy responded by turning it over four times and averaging 1.5 yards per rush on 38 attempts. YIKES.
Georgia Tech also brought the heat in this category. After kicking a field goal to cut the score to 14-6 with just over a minute to go, the Yellow Jackets recovered the ensuing onside kick. With 30 seconds left, they had a first and goal at the Clemson three, with two timeouts available.
Then this happened:
- Incomplete pass
- Completed pass for no gain (timeout)
- Run for 1 yard (timeout)
- Completed pass for no gain
That qualifies for wandering into a national forest never to be seen again. Oddly enough, the next week is when the Yellow Jackets wrecked North Carolina. As a reminder, gambling on college football is reasonable and good for your mental health, and everyone should do it.
Town Power Rankings
- Georgia Tech (Atlanta)
- Tulsa (Tulsa)
- Troy (Troy)
- Central Arkansas (Conway)
With apologies to Bunkie Perkins, our Senior Ole Miss Golf Correspondent, the ATL takes the top spot because [gestures at the billion things to do in Atlanta]. In no way is this Tulsa slander, which we won’t tolerate!
BONUS FACT: I once ate at a Wendy’s in Troy while passing through.
DOUBLE BONUS FACT: I’ve driven through Conway on I-40, and I assume, like the entirety of I-40, they have active construction zones.
State Power Rankings
- Georgia Tech
- Central Arkansas
Now we get to the part where everyone starts screaming at one another. Stealing a bit from Hannibal Buress, just know that I’m right, and you can stop booing.
While Alabama and Arkansas are almost interchangeable in these rankings, Oklahoma is a distant fourth. I drove across the entire state on the way to Omaha in 2014 and no thank you.
Head Coach’s Name Power Rankings
- Tulsa (Philip Montgomery)
- Central Arkansas (Nathan Brown)
- Troy (Jon Sumrall)
- Georgia Tech (Geoff Collins)
“When we talked with Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery earlier this week, Bob, he emphasized how they have to get off to a good start...” sounds like you’re dealing with a savant or a guy who has been the offensive coordinator for 25% of NFL teams. Either way, I love it.
I’m not sure if Nick Saban will make Geoff Collins spell his name “Jeff” when he becomes a defense analyst in 2023.
Best Quarterback Name on the Roster Power Rankings
- Georgia Tech (Taisun Phommachanch)
- Troy (Tucker Kilcrease)
- Tulsa (Braylon Braxton)
- Central Arkansas (Clifton McDowell)
Kilcrease sounds like the name of a Scandinavian metal band that someone on your freshman dorm floor was a little too into.
Unrelated, Central Arkansas only has three quarterbacks listed on its roster. I’m sure that fact in no way causes head coach Nathan Brown to randomly break out in a cold sweat.
Most Lacrosse Bro Name Power Rankings
- Central Arkansas (Cheylin Peine)
- Tulsa (Kyser Cannon)
- Troy (Jameson Holcomb)
- Georgia Tech (Brody Rhodes)
Cheylin Peine definitely scored four goals for Johns Hopkins in a 17-15 win over North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament semi-final.
There’s also no way to know if Brody Rhodes is related to the American Dream Dusty Rhodes (mostly because I didn’t look), but it is an excuse to spend a few moments talking about HARD TIMES, DADDY.
Bonus points for the three-piece suit with one of the pieces replaced with jeans. TREND SETTER, DADDY.
Notable Alum Power Rankings
- Troy (MULTIPLE reality TV participants/winners)
- Georgia Tech (Jeff Foxworthy)
- Tulsa (Suhali Al Mazroui)
- Central Arkansas (John Thompson)
Troy had two (2) contestants on CBS’ Big Brother 5 AND two (2) winners of CBS’ Survivor. That tracks!
The obvious choice for Georgia Tech would be Jimmy Carter, he of former President of the United States fame, but when I nearly started choking reading that Jeff Foxworthy went to Georgia Tech, he’s the representative. By the way, if you missed Foxworthy’s appearance on College GameDay last season, the routine is “1996 copy and paste.”
As for Tulsa, I just wanted to note that the Energy Minister for the United Arab Emirates most certainly has a hurricane warning flag on his desk. The University of Tulsa: Pulling the Levers of Power in Foreign Governments!
Finally, we turn to Central Arkansas. The obvious choice should be Scottie Pippen*, but we are not about the obvious here. Instead, John Thompson gets the nod.
*If you’ve never read David Halberstam’s ‘Playing for Keeps’ about Michael Jordan and the Bulls, I highly encourage reading it, whatever the Gray Stamp of Approval™ is worth. The chapter about Pippen and how he got to Central Arkansas is fantastic.
Thompson was Ed Orgeron’s last defensive coordinator at Ole Miss in 2007, as documented in this series. During that 0-8 SEC season, his defense gave up 31.5 points per conference game, which was not a real good time.
My point of bringing up someone most everyone has forgotten is that I, for one, cannot believe I didn’t walk into a national forest during the 2007 season and vanish.