Can the Ole Miss Rebels make a playoff push?

The matchup this weekend with Alabama will tell us a lot about the Rebels' playoff potential.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Thomas Graning)

(AP Photo/Thomas Graning)

Can the Ole Miss Rebels make a playoff push?

How much can we learn from Ole Miss’ early season dismantling of UT-Martin and Fresno State? Maybe not a lot, but one of their biggest questions heading into the season — whether or not they have a quarterback — is starting to get a clearer answer.

It was the biggest concern for the Rebels: Would Chad Kelly become the guy in Oxford to lead a talented group into SEC West contention? Early returns look good as Kelly posted a +2.8 grade against UT-Martin in the opener and followed up to complete 20-of-25 for 346 yards and four touchdowns this weekend against Fresno State, earning a +8.5 grade.

Compare that to last season when QB Bo Wallace posted a handful of impressive games himself, but finished with positive grades in only five of his 13 games as Ole Miss signal caller. It was that kind of inconsistency that made last year’s Rebels team fall short after winning their first seven games.

Last year’s run was nice, but this is the year things are supposed to click for Ole Miss, particularly after their legendary recruiting class of 2013 that netted WR Laquon Treadwell, OT Laremy Tunsil, DE Robert Nkemdiche, SS Tony Conner, TE Evan Engram and many other contributors. With that class now three years removed from high school, the Rebels have the horses to compete with the Alabamas of the world, just as they did last season in their 23-17 win.

Whether or not the Rebels can make it two years in a row will likely come down to Kelly and how he handles his first SEC challenge. Throw in the fact that they’re headed to Tuscaloosa this weekend, and we’ll have a really good feel if Ole Miss is a true College Football Playoff contender.

But with talent all across the roster — and perhaps the quarterback advantage with Kelly over Alabama’s Jake Coker — this should be one of the weekend’s best games and one of the most important in recent years at Ole Miss.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

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