By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
With so much accomplished, relative to expectations, yet so much left to accomplish, the epicenter of Ole Miss football has been its quarterback.
The Rebels began with Bo Wallace as the starter, though lacking the complete confidence of his coach to say the job was his.
Barry Brunetti also played, and it was made clear that the hot hand would play the most.
There have been bumps in the road, and only twice has Wallace played a turnover-free game, most recently last week against Vanderbilt when he passed for 403 yards, the fifth-most in a single game in school history. So for the second time this season Wallace has the chance to use a turnover-free game as a launching point.
If he can, perhaps Wallace, a long shot to become an accomplished SEC quarterback when he signed with Arkansas State out of Giles County High School in Pulaski, Tenn., can carve his own niche in this colorful SEC rivalry.
It’s hard to think of the Ole Miss-LSU series in terms of a rivalry after LSU won 52-3 in Oxford last year.
This remains a series that stirs passion among Ole Miss people, as noted in the tone of a question posed to coach on Hugh Freeze Monday by Harry Harrison, an All-American defensive back and now a member of the radio team.
Ole Miss has gone into this game when LSU has been highly ranked and heavily favored, and the Rebels have found ways to compete sometimes win.
There’s precedent for the unexpected.
Wallace believes previous visits to top-10 SEC teams Alabama and Georgia have him prepared. He’s not backing down.
“That’s why you play. Everyday there’s an upset in college football. Every time you step on the field you have a chance to in, and you have to believe that,” he said. “We can win this game, and we can win the next one.”
On Monday, Ole Miss basically called Wallace its best player when he was announced as its Conerly Trophy candidate.
His decisions under fire have been a season-long topic, and Wallace has not yet solidified my August prediction that he would finish the season with more touchdown passes than interceptions.
Currently, he’s plus-2 in that category.
But there’s been growth. There’s been effort to accept coaching, stay on the field, compete and win.
Now there’s increased chemistry with his receivers, a better feel for pressure in the pocket and how to avoid it.
If those components continue to blossom, and there’s real improvement against the top-10 caliber foe – for both Wallace and his teammates – Wallace could write his own chapter in a storied Deep South rivalry.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.