Can the Ole Miss Rebels Compete in the SEC West?

Daniel Shirey, USA TODAY SPORTS

The Ole Miss Rebels made a splash on National Signing Day, reeling in one of the nation’s Top 10 recruiting classes. The Rebels’ class was ranked seventh nationally by the Rivals.com recruiting service.

Included in that class was the nation’s number one recruit, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who chose Ole Miss over just about every other major program in the country. Nkemdiche’s commitment to Ole Miss was somewhat of a surprise to recruiting analysts.

Ole Miss was also able to snag Top 10 wide receiver Laquon Treadwell from Crete, Ill., and lure him to Oxford.

The challenge now for head coach Hugh Freeze and the Rebels is to translate recruiting momentum into wins on the field. Ole Miss needed a win in the Egg Bowl game over the Mississippi State Bulldogs to become bowl eligible last season. The Rebels then beat the Pittsburgh Panthers 38-17 in the BBVA Compass Bowl to finish 7-6 on the season.

The question for the Ole Miss program is, can they compete, especially in the incredibly tough Southeastern Conference Western Division. Each season, the Rebels will be forced to face the Alabama Crimson Tide, the LSU Tigers and the Texas A&M Aggies. That means at least three games against, what are likely to be, Top 10 teams. Ole Miss will also have to face arch rival Mississippi State, the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Auburn Tigers. Can Freeze assemble enough talent to compete with the powerhouse programs in his own division?

Ole Miss does not have the history that programs like Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M have standing behind them. In fact, the Rebels have won only six SEC titles since the program was formed in 1890.

To be in contention for that elusive seventh SEC title (the last came in 1963), Freeze will have to continue to generate top-level recruiting classes, and he will need to develop the talent once it’s on campus in Oxford. If he and his staff are able to get that done, they will at least give themselves a chance to compete against college football’s big boys.

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