Prove It: Ole Miss could be the ultimate SEC West spoiler

OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 8: A.J. Brown #1 of the Mississippi Rebels points to the sky after scoring a touchdown against the Southern Illinois Salukis during the first half at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 8: A.J. Brown #1 of the Mississippi Rebels points to the sky after scoring a touchdown against the Southern Illinois Salukis during the first half at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Ole Miss Rebels have proven to be exciting, but now they have a chance to prove that they can compete in the SEC West as they face Alabama.

As is tradition, the SEC West is loaded in the 2018 college football season. Four of the seven teams in the division are ranked inside the AP Top 25 poll after the first two weeks of the season — all four coming inside the top 20, to be more specific. Meanwhile, Texas A&M is also apparently a feisty team in this mix after their spirited showing against Clemson last week. The Ole Miss Rebels, however, appear overlooked to some degree.

Perhaps they shouldn’t be.

In one of the most intriguing matchups of the third week in college football, Ole Miss will welcome the highest-ranked team in the SEC West and in the country, the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, to Oxford. In truth, Alabama has a distinct talent advantage over the Rebels and, by all accounts, should be able to go on the road and pick up their first conference win of the season.

What’s being overlooked, however, is that it might not be that easy for the Crimson Tide to do so. First, Alabama hasn’t been tested yet this season, trouncing a down Louisville Cardinals team and then repeating the process against Arkansas State. Thus, going on the road for the first time and facing the best team yet on their schedule offers a bit of a test. More than that, however, Ole Miss might be better than they’re getting credit for.

The Rebels also enter this game with a 2-0 record, having beat Texas Tech in their opener and then Southern Illinois last week. And in the process, Ole Miss has shown that they might have one of the most explosive offenses in the country, having put up 47 points in the win over the Red Raiders and exploding for 76 points against Southern Illinois.

It’s obviously a bit far-fetched to think that the Rebels are going to go up against Alabama and drop a 50-piece on them. Put simply, no one does that to the Crimson Tide. They consistently have too much talent on their roster and are too well-coached by Nick Saban for that to be in the cards. Having said that, Ole Miss has the balanced offensive attack that’s overflowing with talent that could test Bama this week.

Starting with quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, the senior signal-caller has been near unstoppable through the first two games of the season. He’s completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 784 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Ta’amu has been proficient at every level of the field, succeeding with the short and intermediate throws in addition to possessing one of the best deep balls in the country.

What certainly helps Ta’amu’s cause is the fact that Ole Miss might have the best receiving corps in college football. A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and Braylon Sanders all have at least 174 yards receiving on the season to this point (251, 193 and 174, respectively) and have combined to haul in six of Ta’amu’s seven touchdowns. More than just their obvious talent as well, they provide a diversified attack as they can attack defenses at each level.

If that weren’t enough for the Rebels offense, they also have a highly underrated rushing attack with Scottie Phillips leading the way. Through two games, Phillips already has 311 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. His ability to keep defenses from cheating against the pass is perhaps the secret sauce that makes this Ole Miss offense so tasty.

Again though, the Rebels have not yet faced a defense the caliber of Alabama’s. Thus, this is their chance to prove themselves and show just how potent the offense can be this season. And if they’re able to do that, they have the chance to prove something larger.

It would be the hottest of takes to say that Ole Miss is going to make a massive dark horse run and win the SEC West this season. Given that their defense leaves a lot to be desired, it seems a bit pie-in-the-sky to think that this team is going to be able to run the gauntlet in their division without having an off day, losing a shootout or something of the sort.

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What this team can potentially do, however, is cause absolute calamity in the SEC West. If they are able to push teams like Alabama, like LSU, like rival Mississippi State each time out, they could be the monkey wrench that gets thrown into this division. Not only could they be a team that adds a notable conference loss for these opponents, but they could also be a team that simply wears down the heavy-hitters throughout their own respective gauntlets, potentially setting them up for other upset losses.

This is all possible given what we’ve seen from Ole Miss to this point. Their offense appears to be no joke and, if that’s the case, they’ll push SEC West foes to the edge each time they take the field. But for that to truly be the reality of the situation, they have to prove they can make some noise against the best. Playing the top-ranked team in the country this week affords them the opportunity to showcase just that.