Coach Lane Kiffin said it best during his postgame press conference that being 4-0 is the best a team can accomplish at this point, regardless of how it got there.
Now, the Rebels launch into an eight game onslaught of SEC play from now until Thanksgiving. There’s plenty of “hay in the barn” as it were though every win in October and November improves the bowl game destination for Ole Miss - four wins or more and things get a lot more interesting for fans.
Here’s a quick reminder of what is ahead for the Rebels with Kiffin’s record at Ole Miss in parentheses.
- Oct. 1 vs. Kentucky (1-0)
- Oct. 8 @ Vanderbilt (2-0)
- Oct. 15 vs. Auburn (0-2)
- Oct. 22 @ LSU (1-1)
- Oct. 29 @ TAMU (1-1)
- Nov. 12 vs. Alabama (0-2)
- Nov. 19 @ Arkansas (1-1)
- Nov. 24 vs. Mississippi St. (2-0)
The good news is the break the Rebels will get after back to back road trips against LSU and Texas A&M - you have to hope to at least split those games. It’s likely right now fans are feeling at least good about Vanderbilt and Auburn as those squads seem to be on the struggle bus thus far.
Tossing those two aside, the season really will be defined by six games starting with top 10 Kentucky on Saturday. The question will be how the Rebels will perform offensively in its run game which has been its strongest point of the season - RB Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans are second and fourth in rushing yards in the SEC, and the Rebels lead all SEC teams by nearly 150 total rushing yards through four games.
It will definitely be tough sledding moving the ball on the ground for an eight game stretch, though it does seem like run-centered offenses tend to gain steam as the season progresses and temperatures drop. As far as the passing attack is concerned, the Rebels only top Auburn and Texas A&M in total passing yards with QB Jaxson Dart slowly starting to come into his own (62.2 completion %, 5 TDs, 2 INT). The X-factor Dart gives in his ability to run the ball (201 yards, T-19th in SEC) makes him a dangerous threat teams will have to prepare for since he averages nearly seven yards per carry.
Defensively, the Rebels have shown some really good consistency over the first four games, though it seems pressure on the opposing quarterback is really what failed in the Tulsa game. When it worked and chaos outside the pocket ensued, AJ Finley notched an interception. When the quarterback had pressure but time in the pocket, it led to a defensive secondary breakdown.
Additionally, there is always the possibility of injuries for every team. The downside to a back loaded schedule for the Rebels is how injuries could dramatically shift the outcome of games. There’s no real cupcake off-week to give starters a break outside of the bye week. It’s time to be focused and be on the A-game for the next two months, and mentally/emotionally it will be the tallest task for this coaching staff keeping players locked in for such a long stretch.