Master motivator Nutt at work for Cotton Bowl

DALLAS

T his is Houston Nutt’s cup of tea. It’s what he does best. America has made the call. More than 90 percent of those responding to an ESPN on-line poll say Texas Tech will defeat Nutt’s Ole Miss Rebels in today’s Cotton Bowl.

The master motivator wouldn’t have it any other way.

“They said Florida was going to beat us by 30-something points,” he says.

He doesn’t define “they” of course, but it’s probably some of the same people who vote in on-line polls.

The Cotton Bowl line in Vegas favors Tech but only by four points. At some level someone is paying attention to what the Rebels have done in their last five games.

It’s been a truly amazing run for a team that showed promise in the beginning but was so snakebitten it looked like it had been walking West Texas trails barefooted.

While Nutt preached “Remember November” to his team, Ole Miss won its last five games. The streak started with a shaky 23-21 win at Arkansas, but the four in November were truly dominant.

Ole Miss pitched two shutouts and outscored Auburn, Louisiana-Monroe, LSU and Mississippi State by a combined 152-20.

The Rebels put a 31-13 beatdown on rival LSU in Baton Rouge that ended with quarterback Jevan Snead taking a knee at the LSU 2.

Perhaps America has made the right call.

Maybe that Tech offensive line, which has allowed only 11 sacks in 604 pass attempts, will keep Peria Jerry and Greg Hardy away from Graham Harrell.

Maybe Harrell, with his pinpoint accuracy, will place the ball better than Florida’s Tim Tebow did on the Gators’ final drive in Gainesville.

Maybe Biletnikoff-winning receiver Michael Crabtree will stay a step ahead of the Ole Miss defensive backs.

If it happens it will put a damper on the end of the season. Everyone wants to win the final game.

It will not, however, take away from what Nutt, his staff and these players have accomplished in the last five games with a level of play that could barely be imagined by Ole Miss fans through the wasteland of the previous three seasons.

Nutt, reviled by many in his native Arkansas a year ago, has quickly put distance between Ole Miss and its recent past and has laid a strong foundation for future success.

Maybe America is wrong today.

Maybe Snead is on the mark, and Dexter McCluster and the Wild Rebel move the ball up and down the field and score points.

Maybe Harrell and Crabtree don’t have the ball enough and get banged around by the front line when they do.

Maybe Nutt begins the new year with another win he’s not supposed to get.

There’s certainly a precedent for such.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@djournal.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at http://djrebel.wordpress.com.