Monday, October 21, 2013

Ole Miss Rebels almost certainly bowl bound, but will we get a chance to pick cotton?

Fans rush the field after Ole Miss' 27-24 win over LSU

    Saturday's 27-24 win against LSU is now history, one of those games that Rebel fans will tell their children and grandchildren about.
    It doesn't match the 1983 Egg Bowl win when State, with a few seconds on the clock, was kicking a chip-shot field goal. It seemed to me at the time that the ball actually went through the goalposts. Then a 40-mile-per-hour wind blew through the open end of the stadium and literally ejected the ball.
    From my vantage point it looked like the ball barely went through the goal posts, then went straight up for about half a second, and then went into reverse; sort of a loop-de-loop. This rather lousy Youtube video shows the ball going up and then changing direction, although it doesn't look like the ball made it all the way to the goal post, as it appeared to me at the time.
    The funny thing about human nature is that it is far more exciting and memorable to squeak out a win against an opponent than to win resoundingly. Ole Miss was leading LSU by an impressive 17-0 margin in the third quarter. A big win would certainly have been exciting and satisfying. But not nearly as memorable as the squeaker-win with six seconds left.
    At the time-out just before Ole Miss kicked its winning field goal the clock showed only three seconds left. But three seconds were added just before Ole Miss kicked its field goal for some reason. I was reminded of the legendary game in Baton Rouge where sluggish clock operations allowed the Tigers to complete three plays in 10 seconds for a win. I never saw it, but for years there was a billboard on I-55 which said, "Now Entering Louisiana. Please set your clocks back four seconds," or something to that effect.

Now for talk of bowl games

    Predicting the future for Ole Miss is always a gamble. But right now the 4-3 Rebels have seen the worst of a very tough schedule. Our remaining match-ups are Idaho, Arkansas, Troy, Missouri, and Mississippi State. All save the Egg Bowl give the Rebels a home-field advantage.
    So let's handicap it. I'm not willing to give the Rebels more than an 85 percent chance of winning any game, even though my gut feeling is that Ole Miss is certain to defeat Idaho and Troy. Arkansas is weak this year, although it would be foolish to sell them short. I think the Rebs have an advantage over Mississippi State, although the Egg Bowl is always Anything Can Happen day. And then there is currently undefeated Missouri....
    So let's give Ole Miss an 85 percent chance of defeating Idaho and Troy, a 70 percent chance over Arkansas, a 65 percent chance over State and a 15 percent chance against Missouri. Using my figures I predict a 7.2 to 4.8 season. 
    Of course, we can't win two-tenths of a game. So my real prediction is that we are very likely to finish 7-5 and have a very good chance of being 8-4. I find it very unlikely that Ole Miss will win all five remaining games. Another way to analyze it is that I give Ole Miss about a 50 percent chance of going 7-5, a 45 percent chance of 8-4, and a five percent chance of the miraculous 9-3.
    So Ole Miss is almost certainly headed to a bowl game, and probably a better bowl than last year's Compass. At 7-5 look for Liberty or Music City; at 8-4 look for Gator or Peach; and in the unlikely event the Rebels finish 9-3, get ready to pick Cotton.
    Just my view, for what it's worth. Those of you who are more avid football fans than I am are more than welcome to critique my analysis.

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