Who ya got?
While the 2003 Ole Miss football team was led by arguably the best quarterback in school history, won 10 games and finished No. 13 in the rankings, I’ll take 2008 as the better team.
The 2008 defense was clearly better and improved throughout the season, even until the bowl game when the cornerbacks — with help from a standout line and pass rush — made some plays in man coverage against an outstanding passing offense.
The 2003 team led the SEC in total offense with 433.2 yards a game, compared to the 2008 team’s 407.6 yards a game that ranked third in the SEC.
The 2008 team was a much better rushing team, about 40 yards a game better statistically. That balance, that the 2003 team didn’t have, subtracts a little bit from your passing numbers, though the Rebels finished fourth in the league there at 221.1 yards a game.
Eli’s senior team led the SEC in passing at 286.0 yards a game.
The 2003 team had good receivers but collectively not the talent this year’s team had, nor did it spread the ball around as effectively. The 2003 team also did not have a multi-purpose threat like Dexter McCluster.
I did not arrive in Mississippi until 1989, so I fall short of being a football historian for the state.
I have covered some really good teams, and I’ve covered some flops.
The 2000 Mississippi State team, that finished 8-4 after the Snow Bowl win in Shreveport, was the best team I’d covered for a long time. That changed this season.
That 2000 MSU team, when healthy, had a nice collection of talent and rebounded from a slow start to post very impressive back-to-back wins over Florida and Auburn, both in Starkville and both televised by CBS.
No Mississippi team I’ve covered, however, clicked in all three phases for such a sustained period of time as Ole Miss did this season.
I try not to get too involved in the “if they’d have just made this play or not turned the ball over against (insert Wake Forest, South Carolina, Vanderbilt or all three) then they’d have had this many wins.”
When you do that it’s only fair to say “If TIm Tebow had made this throw or that throw, then it’s doubtful Ole Miss would have won at Florida.”
Yes, the Rebels were very close to 11 or 12 wins and being in the BCS bowl discussion.
Just taking the season for what it was, however, is still mighty impressive.