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Midseason Report: Ole Miss Hopes Houston Nutt Can Strike Again

We all know there's an upset brewing somewhere in that pinball machine of a mind.
We all know there's an upset brewing somewhere in that pinball machine of a mind.

Hard as it might be to believe, we have reached the midpoint of the college football season for all of the SEC teams. We look at what's happened to each of them and where they might go from here.

It could be worse for Ole Miss. After all, there was supposed to be little hope for anything other than maybe two wins after losses to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt in the first three games of the season. Now, the Rebels already have three and a fourth is almost certain with a game against Louisiana-Lafayette still on the docket.

But what then? Including this weekend's showdown with Arkansas, there are four ranked teams remaining on Ole Miss' schedule -- meaning the RebelMr-olemiss2010_medium Black Bears have to defeat at least one of them to get into a bowl game. (We're hoping guessing that it will still require a .500 record to make the postseason this year.)

Enter Houston Nutt. After all, this is what you pay him to do. It's time to once again confound the experts, winning a game against a ranked team in an upset no one sees coming. Of course, avoiding the inevitable astounding loss to Tennessee would also be preferrable. But beggars can't really be choosers at this point.

If you're really looking for one, the best opportunity to defeat a Top 10 team could come a week from now, when Ole Miss journeys to Auburn to take on the Tigers. It would almost be the perfect set-up -- almost. Auburn does have to follow up last weekend's game against Arkansas with this week's trip to Baton Rouge before the game against the Bruins-ish. But the first game of November is a showdown with the might Mocs of Chattanooga. Unless there's a letdown effect from the game against LSU, Auburn won't be looking ahead of Ole Miss in anticipation of a thrilling showdown with a team not even in the same subdivision.

The next-best chance could be LSU itself, now ranked in the Top 10 but seemingly destined to not even make the Top 15 if the Bengals lose. (This is largely because no one outside of LSU fans really believes the Tigers are a Top 10 team, but they can't support this case as long as the Bengals sport a "0" in the loss column.) Those Tigers might look ahead to the following week's showdown with Arkansas, but they also have a game against Louisiana-Monroe the week before playing Ole Miss, so there's little chance for an upset there.

And then there's the Egg Bowl. It seems unlikely that Mississippi State could make the Top 10, but Top 15 isn't out of the realm of possibility. That could be enough for the Nutt Factor to kick in, but betting on the last game of the season seems risky even for Houston.

Speaking of: If the Rebels don't make the postseason, what do we make of Nutt's recruitment of Jeremiah Masoli. Sure, you can always say it could have been worse if Ole Miss was without a starting quarterback. But a program like Ole Miss should have loftier goals than just making things better than they could have been -- not that doing so wasn't pretty much a necessity in a year when the bottom fell out before the season had really begun.