Mississippi is the hot team on everyone’s lips coming in to 2009. The main reason for this is that they were the only team to defeat national champion Florida last season. Because of that one win, which occurred on the Gators’ home field, everyone views the Rebels as a serious threat to win the SEC. Mississippi had more than just that one win last season to show they were a serious team. They also had a very impressive win at LSU by 18 points and they played Alabama close. A New Year’s Day Bowl win over Texas Tech was equally impressive, but losses to Vanderbilt and South Carolina were not.
This was an up and down team last season that finished on a major up note. The Rebels carry a six game winning streak into 2009. Even though three of their first four games are on the road the Rebels will be favored in all of them. Alabama and LSU all must come to Oxford, meaning that Mississippi’s two most difficult games are at home. Their improving talent is another solid reason that they could challenge for the national title this year.
Quarterback Jevan Snead returns to lead the Rebels this year, and much more is expected of him now that he is more familiar with the offense. He threw for over 2,700 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. It was his first year where he was eligible to play at Mississippi after transferring from Texas, and he may challenge for the Heisman trophy much like Longhorn Colt McCoy. Snead was very efficient for most of last season. He spreads the ball around to his receivers and works to get everyone involved in the offense. In the last two games of the season he combined to throw for over 500 yards and five touchdowns.
Running backs Dexter McCluster and Condera Eason are both seniors, forming an experienced and talented backfield that will give Snead plenty of time to runt he offense. Each player ran for over 600 yards last year, while McCluster also had more than 600 yards receiving. They will helped by senior wide receiver Shay Hodge, who is the best of a very deep receiving corps.
Possibly the only thing that will stand in the way of Mississippi’s success are the Rebels themselves. They are used to having talented quarterbacks under center. Archie Manning and Eli Manning each quarterbacked the Rebels at one time, but they have never been able to achieve sustained success. They won’t be able to sneak up on teams like they did last season, either. Much of the media might be reading a little too much into the wins over Florida and Texas Tech. The SEC is also an incredibly difficult conference. Not only can teams like Alabama and LSU win on the road, the lesser teams in the conference are still strong enough to pull off an upset in almost any given week. It could be an SEC championship season for Mississippi, but anything more might be a stretch.
Jim Lowrey is a sports writer for www.sportsfantreasures.com.
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