SEC: Mississippi Rebels

Best of the visits: SEC

January, 25, 2015
Jan 25
This is the second to last weekend before signing day and there was a ton of big visitors around the Southeastern Conference. Here is a closer look at some of the top social media posts by prospects who visited SEC schools over the weekend.

Three-star defensive tackle Tyrell Jacobs gave his verbal commitment to Missouri over the weekend. He tweeted out a few photos of himself posing in a Missouri game jersey.

Georgia safety Rashad Roundtree posted a photo of himself and Georgia head coach Mark Richt during his visit to Athens over the weekend.

Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson and ESPN 300 outside linebacker Jeffery Holland took a visit to Ole Miss over the weekend and tweeted out a photo.

ESPN 300 wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge tweeted out a photo of one of the most impressive cakes you will ever see. Lodge took a visit to Ole Miss and had this impressive culinary masterpiece waiting for him upon his arrival.

Auburn linebacker commit Richard McBryde posted a photo of himself with head coach Gus Malzhan and another two photos of himself with new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.

Georgia athlete commit Terry Godwin posed a for a picture with his family during his Alabama visit.

Miami running back commit Jordan Scarlett and uncommitted running back Jordan Cronkite both visited Florida this weekend and posed together for a photo in Florida's locker room.

Five-star defensive back Iman Marshall tweeted a photo of himself and LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron during his visit to LSU over the weekend.

South Carolina commit Jalen Christian tweeted a photo of himself and head coach Steve Spurrier during his visit to Columbia.

ESPN 300 wide receiver Brandon Martin confused some people on Saturday when he tweeted that he was not committed to Missouri despite several reports. He quickly corrected the tweet and meant to say "I am now committed to Missouri." The error gave Missouri fans a scare for a few minutes.

Miami running back commit Mark Walton had maybe the most interesting wardrobe on his weekend visit to Georgia.

Top SEC players: Next five in

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
Picking the best 25 players in the SEC wasn’t easy.

Once you get past the top 5 and the top 10, things become muddied. You start comparing first halves of seasons versus second halves and the value of play during conference games against overall numbers.

Inevitably, someone deserving is going to be left out.

To help remedy the inherent shortcomings of such lists, here’s a look at who might have been worthy of the next five in:

Cody Prewitt, S, Ole Miss
A first-team coaches All-SEC selection, Prewitt was the heartbeat of the Ole Miss defense. Though he didn’t come up with nearly as many interceptions as last season, his three picks and 59 total tackles were impressive for a safety.

Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State
Though his numbers dipped late in the season, it’s hard to deny the way Robinson produced. The self-described “bowling ball” was the perfect compliment to quarterback Dak Prescott, bouncing between the tackles and catching passes on the outside on his way to 1,500 total yards and 12 touchdowns.

JK Scott, P, Alabama
Punters generally don’t make top-25 lists. But they don’t generally have as big of an impact on games as Scott, who led the country in yards per punt (48.0) and tied for first in the SEC in punts downed inside the red zone (30) -- albeit on 25 fewer attempts than the man he was tied with.

Dylan Thompson, QB, South Carolina
Prescott didn’t lead the league in yards passing. Neither did Blake Sims, Bo Wallace or Nick Marshall. No, it was Dylan Thompson, whose 3,564 yards passing and 30 total touchdowns were overshadowed by his team’s poor win-loss record.

Duke Williams, WR, Auburn
He missed three games, but Williams still managed to amass 730 yards and five touchdowns. But the most impressive trait that defined the former juco transfer was his ability to show up in big games, whether it was 154 yards in his debut against Arkansas, 110 yards on the road at Kansas State, or 121 yards in the Iron Bowl against Alabama.

Five-star CeCe Jefferson narrows list 

January, 21, 2015
Jan 21
GLEN ST. MARY, Fla. -- Five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson is nearing the time to make his college decision and the No. 9-ranked player in the ESPN 300 is starting to narrow his choices.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
National signing day is less than three weeks away and it’s coming down to crunch time. This past weekend was one of three remaining weekends for recruits to take official visits before signing day and some of the top prospects took full advantage of the available weekend. Auburn had a monster recruiting weekend and, though not to the same extent, so did Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and others. Here’s a closer look at the top news from this past weekend.

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SEC's top recruiting visits 

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
With national signing day less than three weeks away, it is officially crunch time. There are only three recruiting weekends left for visits, and most schools plan to take full advantage of those available weekends. Here are a closer look at some of the top visits around the SEC this weekend.


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It’s maddening, but not all schedules are created equal.

Some SEC teams have an easier path through the regular season, snacking on nonconference cupcakes while enjoying easy divisional draws, while others must slog through ranked opponent after ranked opponent.

With that said, here’s an early look at three teams with easy paths to the conference championship game in Atlanta and three with hard journeys ahead.

Three easiest
  • Mississippi State: Just like it was this past year, one loss could mean the difference for the Bulldogs. Why? Because the nonconference schedule is that bad: Southern Miss, Northwestern State, Troy and Louisiana Tech. With Kentucky and Missouri from the East, the non-West portion of the schedule isn’t exactly daunting either.
  • Missouri: OK, so their nonconference portion of the schedule is better than last year. But while we give credit for scheduling BYU, who thinks the Tigers are going to struggle with Southeast Missouri State, Arkansas State or Connecticut? Throw into the equation that Missouri doesn’t have to face Alabama, Auburn, LSU or Ole Miss from the West, and you’re looking at a manageable lineup.
  • Texas A&M: The opener against Arizona State will be difficult, but even so the Aggies don’t leave the state of Texas until late October. With that, their East draws are manageable (South Carolina, Vanderbilt), the rest of the nonconference is a breeze (Ball State, Nevada, Western Carolina) and the week before playing Alabama they get a bye.
Three hardest
  • Florida: Rebuilding could have its growing pains for Jim McElwain and his staff. Week 1 against New Mexico State shouldn’t be an issue, but East Carolina and Kentucky won’t be gimmes. Throw in Ole Miss and LSU from the West and Florida State at the end of the regular season, and you’re looking at a schedule most any coach would run away from.
  • LSU: Opening with McNeese State will be a welcome reprieve from last season, but it doesn’t get much easier from there. Week 2 LSU has to go to Mississippi State, Week 3 it hosts Auburn and two weeks later it travels to Syracuse. Then, to end the regular season, it plays Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M in consecutive weeks.
  • Ole Miss: Rest up, ye Rebels. You’re going to need your strength because you don’t get your bye until mid-November. Before that, you’ll face Fresno State and Memphis from out of the conference, along with West rivals Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn and Arkansas.
When the good folks at the ESPN Stats & Information department came up with their annual Conference Power Rankings, they took a number of factors into account.

But there is one measure that never shows up on a spreadsheet and trumps all those that do: perception.

The SEC might be the No. 2 conference in America on paper, but after a bowl season in which nearly all of its supposed powers lost, the impression on the hearts and minds of football fans is much more grim.

Today is a new day for the conference that berthed seven straight national championship contenders.

Today is the day the conference must swallow its considerable pride and admit it's no longer king of the hill.

That title belongs to the Pac-12, according to ESPN's latest rankings. But the Big 12, which boasts powerhouse TCU, has every reason to gloat over the SEC as well, as does the Big Ten, which is home to the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes.

And how ironic it is that Urban Meyer helped create this overly decorated SEC we know today with two championships at Florida, only to be the one to lay the conference bare by beating Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal before moving on to win the first national championship of the playoff era.

Now, instead of everyone chasing Nick Saban at Alabama, it's the SEC playing catch-up with Meyer and a resurgent Ohio State poised to make another run at the national championship next season.

If it's not the Buckeyes hoisting the trophy in 2016, it could be favorites TCU, Baylor or USC. If you're following along with Mark Schlabach's Way-too-early Top 25, you have to then pass Oregon, Michigan State and UCLA before landing on a team from the SEC. And even then, it's the perennially underwhelming Georgia Bulldogs at No. 8, which are without a returning starter at quarterback and haven't won a national championship since 1980.

That's looking ahead to next season, of course, but it speaks to the status of the conference as a whole after what we saw during its zombie walk through the bowl season. It speaks to perception, whose momentum drives through the offseason and carries well into the fall.

The SEC is a dying conference by no means, but after so long at the top, ranking second should come as a major disappointment. A slap in the face. A wake-up call.

Because in the coming months, it won't just be the Pac-12 that taunts the conference with feelings of superiority. Outside of perhaps the ACC, the rest of the Power 5 should feel as if its turned the tables on the SEC.

Now, mind you, Alabama isn't going anywhere. Neither is Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss or Mississippi State. Outside of Georgia in the East, we've learned that you shouldn't sleep on Missouri, Tennessee or even Florida with its new coaching staff.

But depth is only one part of the equation. Potential is meaningless without results either.

Until the SEC breaks its two-year streak without a national championship, perception will continue to go against the conference that has long relished its status as No. 1.
» More 2015 Too-Early Rankings: Top 25 | ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

The 2014 season may have just ended, but it's never to early to look ahead to next season. With all the obligatory caveats, here's our first look at SEC power rankings for 2015.

SEC entering a new era

January, 12, 2015
Jan 12

It is going to be a strange and difficult day for fans of the SEC.

There will be college football on most every working television in the United States tonight, and Birmingham, Alabama, will likely remain among the country’s largest consumers. But in the where the SEC is headquartered, people won’t be watching Alabama or Auburn or any of the conference’s other programs that strung together seven consecutive national championship appearances.

No, Groundhog Day has passed. The SEC is finally shut out of college football’s most important game, and what an odd sensation it is to find out that there is a tomorrow.

It’s a brave new world for the conference that has long relished its spot atop the sport. Respect, even if it’s comes begrudgingly, must now be given to Oregon of the once too-soft Pac-12 and Ohio State of the once too-thin Big Ten. Respect and concern, because Urban Meyer has brought Ohio State back to life, Mark Helfrich has made Oregon into more than a fast offense and pretty uniforms, and elsewhere it feels as if college football is catching up.

TCU’s dismantling of Ole Miss was the initial slap in the face. When Wisconsin beat Auburn and Georgia Tech beat Mississippi State, alarm bells went off. Then, when Alabama lost to Ohio State, parity kicked the SEC out of bed.

But what will this new day hold? The neighbors have never felt so close.

Has Mississippi State’s moment come and gone that quickly? Can Florida rebuild under Jim McElwain? Is Alabama’s dynasty really sinking? Are the young Vols of Tennessee ready so soon? Who wants to play quarterback for Ole Miss? Or Georgia or LSU or South Carolina? Auburn has its quarterback, but can the Tigers learn to play defense? Does anyone in the SEC want to play defense again?

Other than uncertainty on the field, tomorrow will soon bring a new commissioner off it. With Mike Slive set to step down this summer, a 13-year era of stability and growth is over for the SEC. Will a new one begin? If so, who will be the man or woman to continue down Slive’s path?

Slive was instrumental in building the playoff we’ll watch tonight, but his conference won’t be a part of its grand reveal. It has to be bitter for both he and fans of the SEC to know that the league’s turn in the sun couldn’t last another game.

But all runs must end somewhere. The question is how quickly you get back in the race.

Today will be difficult for the SEC, but tomorrow offers a fresh start.

The rest of college football had to wait eight years for a national title. The SEC should be able to survive one night without being the center of attention.

SEC morning links

January, 6, 2015
Jan 6
1. Hey Starkville: Manny Diaz is back. The former Mississippi State defensive coordinator returned to the Bulldogs in the same position, Dan Mullen announced on Tuesday. He'll work with linebackers as well as being the defensive coordinator, which is what he did in 2010 at Mississippi State. Diaz stopped at Texas and Louisiana Tech before returning to Starkville, where he'll be paid $1.8 million over three seasons.

2. Want to have a quality defense in the SEC? It'll cost you. While Diaz signed his new deal, Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith got a new contract as well, one that pays him $750,000 per season and increases $50,000 each year, Bret Bielema sounds committed to keeping Smith there after the Razorbacks thrived defensively under his watch. In the Razorbacks' final five games, they allowed only 31 total points and recorded two shutouts. Their Advocare V100 Texas Bowl win over Texas was particularly impressive, as the Razorbacks held Texas to only 59 yards, the fewest an FBS team produced all season. But there's plenty of money being thrown around to SEC defensive coordinators, with $1.6 million going to Auburn's Will Muschamp and a similar figure rumored for John Chavis, who went to Texas A&M.

3. Not surprising, but Missouri defensive end Shane Ray has decided to enter the NFL draft, according to a report. Missouri called a press conference for Tuesday afternoon for Ray to make an announcement. Ray is one of the latest in a long line of productive Missouri defensive linemen and turned in a 14.5-sack season, setting a school record. He and Markus Golden made quite a pass-rush tandem for the Tigers, who won the SEC East for a second consecutive season.

Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

Dak Prescott, Robert NkemdicheIcon Sportswire, AP PhotoDak Prescott and Robert Nkemdiche give the Mississippi schools plenty of hope for 2015.

Now is not the time for excuses.

Don’t tell me about a lack of motivation. Don’t tell me about key injuries. Whatever you do, don’t try to tell me about luck.

Last week, the SEC was exposed. The West, in particular, failed. Miserably. Undeniably. Disappointingly.

If we’re being honest about what we saw, it was destruction. Ole Miss fell flat on its face. Mississippi State continued its downward slide. Auburn’s defense, once again, had the resistance of a wet napkin. And Alabama, supposedly the best of the them all, couldn’t function on third down -- the money down -- if it’s life depended on it.

And before you start saying that it was about the SEC beating itself, stop. TCU, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin and Ohio State weren’t lucky beneficiaries; they were the better teams. Period. The Big Ten and Big 12 were superior conferences this bowl season.

Try that on for size: The SEC was a second-tier league when it mattered. Before any talk of next season, that must be accepted as fact.

But for how long can we expect that to continue? A week after the league’s meltdown on the national stage, that feels like the logical question.

Here’s a guess at the answer: Right up until the preseason polls come out.

[+] EnlargeLeonard Fournette
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesLeonard Fournette posted 100 rushing yards in five of LSU's final nine games.
It’s going to whip the #SECBias posse into a frenzy, but the league isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Because when you start projecting who will be among the top teams in college football next season, it’s going to look oddly familiar: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State. Nick Chubb will carry Georgia into the mix, and with enough good feelings toward Jim McElwain, the East might even gain more representation in the top 25.

A decade’s worth of dominance can’t be wiped away in a single bowl season. But more importantly, neither can a decade’s worth of recruiting.

Though the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 all will surge forward in 2015, none will have the cache of talent the SEC still enjoys. None will lay claim to the same number of NFL-ready prospects.

When ESPN’s Scouts Inc. compiled its top 25 non-draft-eligible players last month, 13 hailed from the SEC. The next-closest conference: the ACC with five. Ole Miss alone had that many underclassmen on the list.

Before we start declaring Alabama’s dynasty dead, consider that the Crimson Tide are running out the clock on their fourth straight No. 1 recruiting class. If Jake Coker doesn’t work out replacing Blake Sims at quarterback, Nick Saban can turn to a pair of blue-chip prospects in David Cornwell and Blake Barnett. If they need help, there’s always Derrick Henry to hand the ball off to.

The other side to the Iron Bowl should be fine as well. Nick Marshall may be gone, but Jeremy Johnson has been preparing for his chance to lead Auburn for two years now. Thanks to Duke Williams’ return at receiver and the running back tandem of Roc Thomas and junior college transfer Jovon Robinson, Gus Malzahn’s offense should keep on humming. Coupled with the addition of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator, the Tigers might find that scoring 30 points is enough.

LSU, meanwhile, has nowhere to go but up. With Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre to build around, the offense is in good shape. And the defense, in spite of the loss of coordinator John Chavis, is still stacked with talent across the board.

The state of Mississippi may be hurting now, but that pain will soon give way to hope as both Ole Miss and Mississippi State have reasons to believe that next year could yield a breakthrough. The Rebs reload thanks to back-to-back stellar recruiting classes and could find better consistency at QB with Bo Wallace gone. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs already have their playmaker under center in Dak Prescott and a solid defensive line thanks to future pro Chris Jones.

And that’s just the teams that lost their bowl games from the SEC West.

In the division, there’s still Arkansas and Texas A&M to consider. No one will be caught sleeping on the Hogs in 2015, and with a change at coordinator, the Aggies might develop a defense to match the production on the other side of the ball.

In the East, Florida is a sleeping giant, and Georgia is a QB away from breaking through. Missouri is a program that in spite of appearances always finds a way, and keep an eye on Tennessee. The Vols blew out Iowa in the Taxslayer Gator Bowl, and Butch Jones has compiled a recruiting class that currently ranks sixth nationally.

If you’re setting the over/under on the number of preseason top 25 teams from the SEC, where does it lie? Say for argument’s sake that it’s eight. Do you dare take the under? If so, who do you leave out?

While preseason polls carry as much weight as skinny-armed Rob Lowe, it illustrates a point about perception. Today the perception is the SEC is an overinflated bubble that’s poised to pop, if it hasn’t already. But soon that will change.

The rest of the Power 5 conferences should enjoy mocking the SEC’s failures this bowl season. After the runaway hype of the regular season and how things ultimately played out, they have every right to call the West a joke and question the conference's strength as a whole.

When the playoff runs its course on Monday, it will have been two years without a national champion from the SEC.

Let's repeat that number: two. After seven titles in seven years.

Since when is a two-year drought the End of Days? The league isn't exactly wandering Egypt right now.

Downgrade the SEC if you must, but be careful because the league isn’t dead. The divide between conferences is just becoming thinner.
ATLANTA -- One team played as if it had something to prove. The other played as if it had something better to do.

And, in the end, motivation seemed to be the difference as the playoff-snubbed TCU Horned Frogs demolished the Ole Miss Rebels 42-3 Wednesday in Atlanta to win the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

It was over when: When Bad Bo showed up, there wasn’t much Ole Miss could do about it. Bo Wallace, who became known for his streaky play during his three seasons as Ole Miss’ starting quarterback, finished his career on a sour note. The senior was sacked three times and threw three interceptions in the first half alone, one of which resulted in a touchdown. TCU jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead and never looked back.

Game ball goes to: If you’re looking for an early 2015 Heisman Trophy favorite, look no further than Trevone Boykin. TCU’s star quarterback was in peak form against Ole Miss, throwing for three touchdowns and 188 yards against a defense that ranked 12th in the country entering the day. From this pass to this fake toss, Boykin showed there wasn’t much he couldn’t do. The junior ranked fourth in the Heisman balloting this season. But if he continues his upward trajectory into his senior season, it’s difficult to imagine he won’t be in New York next year.

How the game was won: Wallace couldn’t keep the football. The Rebels' defense was out of sorts. And just before the mercy of halftime, Ole Miss lost arguably its best player, offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, to a fractured fibula. For TCU, the game was won by halftime. Thanks to a stingy defense and an explosive offense, the Horned Frogs turned around the Big 12’s bowl season blues in a major way.

Stat of the game: The turnovers were enough of a statement, but TCU’s defense was much more than a happy beneficiary of Wallace’s many errors in judgment. No, the Horned Frogs were sound throughout, stuffing Ole Miss at the point of attack. Though five first-half sacks spoke volumes about the pressure TCU generated, it was its total defense that was most impressive, limiting the Rebs to 59 total yards of offense in the first half and 129 in the entire game.

Best play: How in the world? ... Yeah, Kolby Listenbee did catch that pass. Somehow, TCU's junior wideout went up for the jump ball from Boykin and snatched it away from both Ole Miss defensive backs, Mike Hilton and Trae Elston. Listenbee hauled in the pass and fell on his back, staying inbounds for the spectacular 35-yard touchdown reception.
Here’s what you need to know when TCU and Ole Miss go head-to-head Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) in Atlanta:

1. Playoff motivation: TCU should feel snubbed by the College Football Playoff selection committee. Being dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 a day after demolishing Iowa State was almost unexplainable. Seeing Florida State and Ohio State in the final four instead should burn up the Horned Frogs. It should make them angry and motivated to beat Ole Miss. Winning against a top SEC program in a New Year’s Six bowl would provide the message they surely want to send: We should have been in. It’s a cliché sentiment, “Us against the world,” but don’t discount its value. When you have roughly a month off between games, something has to fuel you.

2. Bo’s final ride: Forget Good Bo vs. Bad Bo. What Bo Wallace has done as Ole Miss’ quarterback the past three seasons might not be beyond reproach, but it’s certainly close. That’s at least what the stats tell us. The long-haired gunslinger transferred from a junior college in 2012 and immediately threw for 2,994 yards. In the two seasons since, he has averaged 3,216 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has won a total of 24 games, and with No. 25 he would pass former Ole Miss great Eli Manning for the most in school history. You can bicker with the interceptions and other mistakes, but in his final game as a Rebel it might be time to set aside hurt feelings and appreciate all Wallace has accomplished.

3. A clash of qualities: Lest we forget there’s an actual game to be played, there’s the not-so-small matter of TCU’s high-powered offense going up against a more than worthy opponent in the Ole Miss D. The Horned Frogs, under the direction of quarterback Trevone Boykin, have flourished, ranking fourth in the country in total offense. With its version of the spread/hurry-up, no-huddle, it has scored more than 40 points in a game eight times this season. Meanwhile, Ole Miss’ Landshark defense ranks 13th nationally and has surrendered 20 points or less 10 times this season. As they say, something’s got to give. If Ole Miss holds down the Horned Frogs, it will be an indictment of Big 12 defenses. If TCU lights up the Rebs, it will be an indictment on the long-standing narrative that the SEC is the home to the best defenses in college football.

Peach Bowl a battle of tempo

December, 30, 2014
ATLANTA -- He was only kidding, of course, but what Hugh Freeze said was nonetheless insightful.

“I don’t know why I voted for tempo,” Ole Miss’ head coach joked on Tuesday. “I should’ve cried out against that stuff, man.”

He might regret college football’s lax rules regarding pace of play, because in the Wild West of uptempo offenses, his is not the fastest. That title more closely belongs to his opponent in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeTrevone Boykin
Ed Zurga/Getty ImagesThe pace of the Horned Frogs offense, which averages just 22.7 seconds of possession per play, should challenge Ole Miss' Landshark defense.
The TCU Horned Frogs, led by their star QB Trevone Boykin, operate at a blistering pace, clocking in at an average of 22.7 seconds of possession per play -- nearly a full two seconds faster than the Rebs.

“I don't know that we've played a team that has the tempo and the athleticism at the skill positions, that combination that TCU does,” Freeze said.

But what’s nerve-racking for Freeze will be great for fans of college football as the Peach Bowl matches up one of the country’s best offenses against one of its best defenses.

When Freeze called his defense “solid,” TCU coach Gary Patterson felt compelled to correct him.

“Let me answer for him: They’re really good,” he said. “He's just being nice to me ... but they're really good. I'm just telling this, it's a positive for Ole Miss. They've got some great front people.

“It's an unbelievable measuring stick to play against somebody the way Ole Miss plays defense going into next year because we get an opportunity, when we get done on New Year's Eve, of finding out where we sit and how good we have to become so we can get back here.”

Ranked No. 12 nationally in yards per game allowed, Ole Miss should already know how good its Landshark defense is. The secondary, led by Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson, is as stingy as they come with 19 interceptions.

But in venturing outside the SEC, the Rebs should be cautious. Offenses like TCU’s are used to playing in the dangerously thin air of the Big 12.

Because the Horned Frogs don’t just go fast, they go deep. Boykin, who finished the regular season with 3,714 passing yards, had the ninth-most completions of 20 or more yards in the FBS (56).

“You can have a great call and look like you have everyone covered and all of a sudden it's an extended play by the quarterback and turns into an explosive play either with his legs or you can't match the coverage that long,” Freeze said.

Said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack: “I think the guy finished fourth in the Heisman. There is no question he is a key to their offense and what they do.”

By giving some different looks on defense, Ole Miss hopes to frustrate Boykin into some mistakes. If not, the hope is to at least slow down his routine getting to the line of scrimmage and getting off the next snap.

The Rebs have seen tempo every day in practice, but the Horned Frogs are a different animal.

If Ole Miss doesn't have an answer for their speed, Freeze might not be joking about pace of play when the game is over.
Bo WallaceScott Halleran/Getty ImagesWith one more win Bo Wallace can supplant Eli Manning atop Ole Miss' career list.

ATLANTA -- It was here where Bo Wallace wanted to end his season. After Ole Miss beat Boise State in the Georgia Dome that Thursday night in late August, he told reporters, “We want to start in Atlanta and finish in Atlanta.”

A lot went right to make that happen. But ultimately more went wrong.

Laquon Treadwell fractured his tibia, dislocated his ankle and fumbled against Auburn in Week 10. Then- No. 4 Ole Miss lost, its playoff momentum evaporated, and all of Oxford has played the what-if game since -- even the Rebs’ offensive coordinator, Dan Werner. Questioning what might have been, he said, “That’s just human nature. Believe me, I asked myself that a thousand times the night after the game.”

Atlanta was supposed to be the first stop on the way to the College Football Playoff. Now it’s the end of the line for Ole Miss and its senior quarterback, as they will play TCU on Wednesday in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

“Obviously I meant the SEC Championship,” Wallace said, harkening back what he said after the season opener. “But this is a great opportunity for us. We’re playing in our first ever New Year’s Six bowl game and we’re excited.”

For the program, it’s a chance to make it to double-digit wins for the first time since 2003.

For Wallace, who has fought the “Bad Bo, Good Bo” stigma for three years, it’s a chance to surpass the QB of that year: Eli Manning.

With win No. 26 of his career, Wallace would break Manning’s school record. He also would become the first QB in school history to lead his team to three bowl wins.

Not bad for a kid whose head coach called him a "knucklehead" and whose offensive coordinator labeled him a backup.

The Ole Miss staff didn’t have particularly high expectations for Wallace in the spring of 2012.

The mid-tier prospect had flamed out at Arkansas State and was forced either to enroll at East Mississippi Community College or sit out a year elsewhere. Rather than wasting time, he chose the barren campus of Scooba where he threw for a NJCAA single-season record 4,604 yards, daring Ole Miss to pass on him.

The Rebs didn’t and then wondered what they’d gotten themselves into.

Werner watched Wallace throughout spring practice and thought to himself, “Well, this guy would be a really solid backup.”

“If you watch him in warmups or in practice, there’s nothing there that makes you say, ‘Wow, look at this!’” he said. “But when he gets into the games he’s such a super-tough competitor. He’s tough.”

During the spring game, Werner saw that first hand.

Wallace threw for a game-high 240 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-21 passing. With another 40 yards and a touchdown on the ground, he outplayed Barry Brunetti and went on to win the starting job in fall camp.

“It was like a light came on,” he said. “You could see that he was a gamer.”

For three years, Wallace has stayed in the game.

Questioned for his long hair and recklessness with the football, his toughness was beyond question.

[+] EnlargeBo Wallace
AP Photo/Jonathan BachmanWhether he was 'Good Bo' or 'Bad Bo' he always could be counted on to be 'Tough Bo.'
During his sophomore year, he was injured in the third game of the season. Werner said anyone could tell he was hurting, but Wallace just kept on playing. He finished with just shy of 3,000 yards passing. After going 2-10 the previous year, Wallace had helped his team to a 7-6 record.

“We had our bowl game on Saturday and the next Tuesday the doctor said, ‘I can’t believe this guy threw a ball, let alone played 10 more games like this,’” Werner recalled.

Wallace’s entire junior year was a battle with soreness and fatigue. After having surgery on his throwing shoulder, he didn’t get to enjoy a normal offseason of recovery. Werner watched him around Week 7 and 8 and saw that his QB wasn’t as strong as he needed to be.

But Wallace never checked himself out. He started every game and set a school record for total offense (3,701 yards) and completions (283).

Staying true to tradition, this year he played through a bum ankle he suffered against Arkansas.

The Wednesday before the Egg Bowl, coach Hugh Freeze was asked whether Wallace would play against then-No. 4 Mississippi State. He said, “You would have to chain him down to keep him from going.”

Wallace didn’t miss a snap, of course, throwing for just shy of 300 yards to lead Ole Miss to a 14-point win over its rival.

With that, he tied Manning for the most wins in school history.

Nobody ever coined the term “Good Eli, Bad Eli,” but Manning was an interception machine just like Wallace. In his final two years at Ole Miss, he threw 25 picks. Wallace, over his junior and senior seasons, has four fewer.

"The issue that Bo has is that he’s a gambler, he’ll take some shots," Werner said. "The thing is, if you’re going to take some shots, sometimes they’re going to work out and make big plays and everybody gets excited, and sometimes it’s not going to work out and it’s going to get intercepted. He’ll make ... two of the exact same decisions in a game, one is for a touchdown and the other is for an interception."

"Some coaches have a hard line. I don't," he added. "The way Bo plays has helped us. He’s thrown some interceptions, but he’s done a lot more better than he has bad."

Said Wallace of the Good Bo, Bad Bo narrative: “It’s just what the media kind of wants to put out there is what people are going to run with.”

Ten years from now, he said, “I don’t think I’ll think about it too much.”

Bad Bo will go away with time. What will remain is a career that’s chock full of records any QB would envy.

What he’d like to be remembered for, however, is how he finished.

It’s cliche, he said, but when he fell down he always got back up.

“Through it all, you have to be determined that next time you go out to play better, prepare better. I think any bad game I had or anything like that, the next one I felt like I came out and performed better.”

When Wallace arrived at Ole Miss, he was "a pretty immature kid.” It took growing up to help his relationship with Freeze, and today they’ve become close.

“This year was the culmination of all of that,” he said.

“After junior college I didn’t want to go anywhere else and sit a year or two or whatever. This was my best chance to play, so I came here. To think about us being 2-10 and then right here, I don’t think anyone could honestly say that they believed that would happen.”

In his three seasons at quarterback, Wallace has changed expectations at Ole Miss.

“If they come out next year," he said, "people will expect them to win nine, 10, maybe 11 games."

It’s no longer about making it to Atlanta.

The road Wallace has helped pave is now capable of extending much further.