As the Ole Miss faithful looks forward to the 2009 college football season, the Rebels football team may discover that more difficulty lies in tackling the team’s hefty expectations than opposing offenses. It’s been decades since Ole Miss entered a season with such lofty preseason rankings. After winning their last six games on the way to a 9-4 season, Ole Miss is ranked as a preseason top 10 team by numerous preseason publications.
“We’re excited to be in this position. We knew this would happen, said second year Rebels Head Coach Houston Nutt at the SEC Media Days 2009 preseason event. “If you go towards the end of the year, you win six straight, you go to the AT&T Cotton Bowl, you beat a good team like Texas Tech, there’s going to be some attention.” Nutt added, “Now you got to embrace it, handle it. The way you handle it is going to work.”
Spiriting much of the hype is the return of junior Ole Miss Quarterback Jevan Snead who torched opposing defenses in the 2nd half of 2008. During that stretch, Snead threw 17 TD passes vs. only three interceptions as the Rebels snapped out of a disappointing 3-4 start. Hoping to maintain that late-season momentum, Ole Miss fans now have their sights on making their first trip to Atlanta to represent the SEC Western Division in the league’s championship game.
“We really don’t talk about being the first team to do it,” said Snead at the SEC Media Days. “We’re thinking about our team now. We had a great year last year and we having a lot of people returning. I feel like we have a great opportunity this year to do some big things.”
Considering the condition Ole Miss football was in just two years ago, today’s talk of the Rebels seeking a conference championship and BCS bowl bid seems quite unusual. More often than not over the last four decades, Ole Miss has been resigned to SEC doormat status. When Houston Nutt took the Rebel coaching reins after the 2007 season, Ole Miss had just stumbled through a winless season in conference play.
However as the expression says, that was then and this is now. Ole Miss is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and returns the nucleus of the team that gave 2008 National Champion Florida their only loss. Ole Miss was able to sneak up on opponents last year, but the Rebels may have their names circled on the calendar this fall by teams looking for revenge.
“Last year we had an attitude we’re fixing to go hunt, we’re going to go compete, try to win this game when nobody gives us a chance,” said Nutt at the SEC press conference. The Rebels coach then added, “So that is a little bit of a factor. You know, right now we’re the hunted a little bit. We’re getting a little bit more attention.”
With the Rebels September 6th season opener against Memphis fast approaching, there is a lot for the team to get in order if they are to achieve the school’s first SEC football championship since 1963. The team diverted complete disaster when two of its biggest stars somehow emerged relatively unscathed from summer car crash. The Rebels also have the weighty task of replacing two players who were selected the 2009 NFL Draft’s first round.
2009 SEC Media Days