Ole Miss may be all but out of the playoff picture, but, much to the chagrin of the rest of the SEC, they’re still very much in control of their divisional fate.
After taking a 16-3 lead into the halftime locker room, No. 24 Ole Miss came out and managed No. 15 Texas A&M for the final 30 minutes of play to secure a 23-3 win in Oxford. The win came one week after a 13-point “upset” loss to unbeaten Memphis on the road. For A&M, it was their second consecutive loss after starting the season 5-0 and rising to as high as No. 9 in the rankings.
The Rebels opened the second-half scoring on a 58-yard bomb from Chad Kelly to Laquan Treadwell that pushed the lead to 23-3. That would prove to be more than enough for a Rebels defense that absolutely shut down the the potent Aggies offense for not only the second half but the entire game.
A&M managed just 192 yards of offense in the loss, over 250 under its seasonal average of 453 yards per game. The three points were the fewest since the 59-0 shellacking at the hands of Alabama last October. This game, though, was all about the home team — and the potential havoc it could wreak moving forward.
For Ole Miss, 3-1 in conference play, the divisional math is simple: win their last four games — at Auburn Oct. 31; vs. Arkansas Nov. 7; vs. LSU Nov. 21; at Mississippi State Nov. 28 — and they will claim the SEC West and punch their ticket to the conference championship game in Atlanta the first week of December. In such a scenario, Ole Miss would win the head-to-head tiebreaker with the winner of the LSU-Alabama game as they would’ve beaten both.
If Ole Miss goes on to win the division and then the conference, it’s plausible, or even likely, that the SEC would be left out of the College Football Playoff picture. How would a two-loss SEC champion stack up against unbeaten or one-loss champions from the other four Power Five conference? Not very well, one would think, unless it’s a one-loss ACC champ.
In other words, the whole of the conference outside of Oxford will be secretly rooting for Ole Miss to stumble at some point between now and the end of November, turning the Nov. 7 ‘Bama-LSU game into a de facto play-in game for a spot in the conference title game. In fact, that’s the only scenario in which the SEC, provided the winner of that game doesn’t lose again, can all but guarantee themselves a spot at the four-seat playoff table.