Most of the talk about the Southeastern Conference‘s Western Division this season has focused on the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers, and rightfully so. After all, Alabama is the top-ranked team in the country and appears to be on the road to a third straight BCS National Championship. And Auburn has made a tremendous turnaround in 2013, from 3-9 last season to 10-1 this year. And if the Tigers beat the Tide in the Iron Bowl, they would play in the SEC Championship Game.
While the Tide and the Tigers are the talk of the west, one should not overlook what is happening in Oxford in 2013. The Ole Miss Rebels are at 7-3, and are now ranked 24th in the country by the Associated Press. That’s quite an accomplishment, considering what could have happened in this season.
Ole Miss started the year by winning its first three games, including a 44-23 win, on the road, against the Texas Longhorns. At 3-0, Ole Miss appeared to be ready to take another step in coach Hugh Freeze‘s rebuilding project.
However, Ole Miss faced a tough stretch of opponents next, and lost to Alabama, Auburn and the Texas A&M Aggies. At that point, the season could have easily gone in the tank, and Ole Miss could have folded. But they didn’t.
Ole Miss rallied to beat the LSU Tigers the following week, and they’ve added three more wins since then, setting up a big matchup on Saturday against the eighth-ranked Missouri Tigers in Oxford. If Ole Miss can get past Missouri, and then beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Egg Bowl, the Rebels would have nine wins for the first time since 2009. And if they did win those two games, and added a bowl win, it would be the first 10-win season for the Rebels since 2003.
Freeze deserves a ton of credit for keeping his team motivated through the losing streak mid-season. The ability of this team to bounce back says a lot about the Ole Miss staff.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.