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The goal from day one for head coach Steven McRoberts was to lead Ole Miss to its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and its first since 2010. 

Entering the team's final two matches, McRoberts said he felt as though they were on the outside looking in to the NCAA Tournament. With a 3-0 win Wednesday over Georgia, the Rebels kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

"We know that potentially these are the last few days we have of the season, and the girls have been doing a great job," McRoberts said. "The only thing we can do is win, and then we put it in the hands of the committee. We don't really have any control of whether we get an NCAA bid. If we win Friday, we put ourselves at least in the conversation. 

"It's been hard not to hang our hat on that, because if we didn't win tonight, then Friday doesn't matter. I was really proud of the team that we didn't look ahead. It was one of our cleanest and best matches tonight as we're going into Friday, and that will give us a lot of confidence."

Ole Miss improved to 22-9 overall and 8-9 in Southeastern Conference play, ahead of its regular-season finale against Texas A&M, which enters the match 20-8 overall and 12-5 in SEC play. 

The match presents a top-25 RPI opportunity for Ole Miss, ranked No. 63 in the NCAA's official RPI rankings, as they welcome a Texas A&M team ranked No. 19 in the NCAA RPI. In their earlier meeting this season in College Station, the Rebels took the first set before the Aggies rallied to win the match 3-1.

"We need Friday," said McRoberts, when asked about his team's resume. "There are two or three matches that are kind of haunting us right now, that if we had those and if we were sitting at 25 wins, instead of 22, I would feel really good that we're going to get in. 

"I feel like we have put ourselves in a situation. It's not a high-pressure situation. We have told the team, 'Let's come out, play well and give ourselves an opportunity.' Hopefully, that translates into playing another week."

Playing in a match on the last day of the regular season with possible NCAA Tournament implications, McRoberts said, makes good on his original goal, at least in part.

"I'm really pleased with where we are at as a program," McRoberts said. "I'm pleased that we're going into our last match, and we're still talking about the NCAA Tournament. Going to the NCAA Tournament was the goal from the beginning. 

"From where they came last year, a realistic statement would be, if we were talking about the NCAA Tournament, it's a success. I like the fact that we have two days left in the regular season, and we're still saying what if. That's a nice thing."

Here's a brief look at the NCAA Tournament resume for Ole Miss:

22-9 Overall | 8-9 SEC (7th)

RPI: 63

Record against RPI top 25: 0-4

Record against RPI top 50: 2-5 (wins over Alabama 2x)

Record against RPI top 100: 4-6 (wins over Memphis, Arkansas State, Alabama 2x)

Road Record: 5-6

Rebels Slow Offensive Tempo

With a dominant defense that ranks among the nation's leaders in most statistical categories, head coach Hugh Freeze acknowledged he has changed his offensive philosophy and play-calling to limit negative plays and quick possessions.

Ole Miss averaged the second-most offensive plays (74.0) in the SEC in 2012 and averaged the most offensive plays (78.3) in the SEC in 2013. Through six games this season, the Rebels average a more modest 70.8 plays per game, which ranks ninth in the SEC. 

"You're more concerned now with not putting yourself in the hole because of negative plays, whether they are turnovers or plays of minus-two yards or minus-three yards," Freeze said. "When you go fast, the possibilities increase as defenses catch up to it."

The more deliberate tempo has also helped quarterback Bo Wallace manage the game more and allowed the team to play to its strength on defense.

"When the defense has played like it's playing, you just want to make sure you manage the game from an offensive perspective, where it gives you the best advantage to win," Freeze said.

O-Line Continues to Progress

Fahn Cooper has started every game at right tackle, but he's made great strides of late, as he graded out well and helped Ole Miss play a clean game with only two penalties, two sacks allowed and zero turnovers against Texas A&M.

"He played more, and then we tried to work (Robert) Conyers in at center," said offensive line coach Matt Luke of Cooper. "That plays a factor, too. I have a lot of confidence in Robert, but Fahn has obviously been getting better each and every week."

Another offensive lineman who has made great strides is freshman offensive guard Rod Taylor, who continues to play more snaps as the season progresses, and Luke will look to play him more this week against Tennessee.

"Rod had probably his best week of practice last week and this week," Luke said. "He's just a very, very talented young man. He has got a bright, bright future ahead, and you're going to see him play a little bit more this week. I wrote that down in my notes when he got in there. He was very productive. He needs to be playing more, and he will."

Webster Impresses in First Career Start

With the suspension of Rover safety Trae Elston for the first half against Texas A&M, Mike Hilton slid over from cornerback to Elston's spot, and Kendarius Webster made his first career start at cornerback.

Cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said Webster did well, noting his maturity for his age, as helped Ole Miss pitch a first-half shutout against Texas A&M.

"In fall camp and practice, we put him up against Laquon to see how he would hold up, and at times, he held his own," Jones said. "If he continues to work, like I think he will, he's going to end up being a really good player."

Coaches continue to rave about Hilton, who's now started at four positions in the Ole Miss secondary in three seasons. The do-it-all player ranks second on the team with 34 tackles and leads the teams and ranks second in the SEC with six pass breakups.

"Mike is a sharp football player," Jones said. "He understands it. He's played every position in the secondary, almost every position on the dense except for defensive line. He's a coachable young man. 

"Whatever you ask him to do, it's always, 'Yes, sir.' We came in and had to move him to Rover, and he said, 'OK, coach, whatever I need to do to help the team.' That's the attitude he has. He's smart and he can get out there and execute and play fast."


VIDEO: 'Can't Be Denied' Hype Video

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In this week's edition of Observations from the Best Seat in the House, Metz Camfield and I teamed up to give you our thoughts and opinions of the week that was in Ole Miss athletics. I was able to travel with the football team to College Station, Texas, and it was a great experience. Here's what we have looking back on the previous week:

Austin Miller - The best seat in the house Saturday was among the 110,633 at Texas A&M's Kyle Field, a football record crowd in the state of Texas, an SEC record, and the largest crowd that Ole Miss has ever played in front of. The Rebels silenced the record crowd in a wire-to-wire 35-20 win that never felt as close as the final score indicated. 

AM - Attending Midnight Yell was another big item to check off my bucket list. Seeing and experiencing other schools' traditions is one of the best parts of covering a team, and this was my first time to visit Texas A&M. I watched, more than I participated, but between the clapping, swaying, singing and yelling, it's something else. Here's a quick video.

AM - Texas A&M is in the middle of a $450 million renovation of Kyle Field. Half of the stadium was demolished and rebuilt before the 2014 season, and the other half will be demolished and rebuilt before the 2015 season, bringing an expanded seating capacity of 102,500, making it one of the five largest stadiums in college football.

AM - The press box at Kyle Field is located on the 9th level of 10, and it literally sways during the Aggie War Hymn before the game and before the fourth quarter. It makes for a surreal experience, but it's not a recommended one for those who suffer from a fear of heights.

AM - When you travel with the team, you travel first-class, from the chartered planes and buses, to the hotel accommodations. The game ended before 11:30 p.m., and we arrived back in Oxford shortly before 3:30 a.m. That's traveling in style.

Metz Camfield - Ole Miss' impressive showing in the Lone Star State started from the very beginning. After holding Texas A&M to a three-and-out on the Aggies' opening possession, Ole Miss got its offense in gear by going 69 yards on five plays to take a 7-0 lead and temporarily silence 110,633. I took this as a major sign of maturity with this team coming off a major victory over then-top ranked Alabama to come out strong on the road in a hostile environment. If the Rebels had gotten off to a slow start and allowed Texas A&M to take an early lead - no matter the margin - the entire game could have been different.

MC - It seems senior quarterback Bo Wallace is realizing he doesn't need to be the one to win games for this football team. When you have a defense as talented, as impressive and as overwhelming as the Rebels' is, the quarterback doesn't need to force the issue. Over the last two weeks, Wallace has not committed a single turnover, and while his numbers haven't been as over the top as they have in the past (to be fair, Ole Miss' past two opponents have been two top-15 teams in Alabama and Texas A&M), his performances have been quite possibly his best two of the season.

AM - Wallace may have laid the "Good Bo, Bad Bo" narrative to rest with his performance against Alabama. And against Texas A&M, he may have emerged as a serious Heisman Trophy candidate. There might be more talented players on the team, there might be players with a brighter NFL future on the team, but it's hard to argue there's a more valuable player on the team. And that's sometimes enough, especially if you're the quarterback of a national championship contender.

MC - With this defense, if the Ole Miss offense does not commit a turnover, the Rebels are as difficult a team to beat as there is in the country. Period.

AM - The Ole Miss defense allowed 455 total yards but allowed just 5.2 yards per play against a Texas A&M offense that ranked third nationally in total offense (583.2 ypg) and fifth nationally in yards per play (7.5). The Rebels allowed just 54 rushing yards on 35 carries, a 1.5 yards per carry average.

AM - The Ole Miss defense was not only stingy, but it was also opportunistic, forcing three turnovers and returning two of them for touchdowns. The Rebels have forced at least one turnover for 29 straight games, the second-longest active streak among FBS schools.

AM - You might have missed it among the other big-time players and big-time plays on defense, but sophomore Tony Conner led the Rebels with a career-high 11 tackles, his second straight game with a career high in tackles.

AM - With the first-half suspension of Trae Elston, Mike Hilton slid over from cornerback to Rover safety and Kendarius Webster made his first career start at cornerback, as they helped the Rebels pitch a first-half shutout. Hilton has now started at every position in the secondary, having started at Huskie, cornerback, free safety and now Rover safety.

"Mike is so smart," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of Hilton. "I brought him in Sunday last weekend started going through the film and he kept shaking his head. I said, 'How do you know this?' He said, 'Coach I played Huskie so I understand rover too.' He has a great football IQ and he is one of the most valuable players on our defense."

MC - To anybody getting caught up in the polls, worrying about whether Ole Miss is currently projected to be in the College Football Playoffs or what seed it'd be right now, just stop. It doesn't matter right now. First off, there are way too many weeks left in the season. Secondly, if Ole Miss continues winning, everything will take care of itself. Enjoy the ride. It'd be a shame to stress yourself out about those types of things and look back on the year kicking yourself for not enjoying it as much as you could.

AM - Ole Miss is No. 3 in both polls, picking up five first-place votes in the Coaches Poll and three first-place votes in the AP Poll. For fans who are worried about polls and playoff projections, rest assured, if the Rebels keep winning, everything will take care of itself.

"We beat the number one team in the country last week, by some polls, and then we beat a top-15 opponent in their house in front of 110,000 tonight," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I'll tell our team tomorrow, 'No one, no poll and no media gets to decide for us how we define ourselves,' and I'll tell them that again tomorrow. 

"It's good for our fans. They like that stuff. We could lose every game left on our schedule with the league we play in, so we better just focus on us. It would be great to be voted wherever they vote us. We would consider that an honor and we'll try to represent and be worthy of that voting. I'll tell our team, 'We don't give credence to it until the end of the year. That's when it really matters.'

"I do think the SEC West deserves two in the playoffs, though."

AM - As of Sunday, Oct. 12, the road to Atlanta goes through Mississippi. As the last two undefeated teams in the SEC West, two of just six remaining unbeaten FBS teams, Ole Miss and Mississippi State control their own destiny. 

AM - With that said, if you haven't already locked up your Egg Bowl tickets, you might want to get on that. Think about the seating capacity of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. It might not only be the biggest Egg Bowl ever, it might be the hardest ticket for a regular season college football game ever.

AM - In case you missed it, here's the story of the Ole Miss Landsharks from ESPN's Tom Rinaldi and the latest episode of The Season: Ole Miss Football. You want to watch both, if you haven't already.

MC - Also, don't miss out on Josh McCoy's photo gallery of the football game at Texas A&M.

AM - The Ole Miss volleyball team swept arch-rival Mississippi State 3-0 Sunday to improve to 16-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. The Rebels also remained unbeaten at home, improving to 9-0 at the Gillom Center this season.

AM - Former Ole Miss Rebel Lance Lynn gets the start for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. In Game 2 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lynn took a no-decision, as he allowed two runs on seven hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.

What They're Saying: Ole Miss-Texas A&M

Behind an efficient offense and dominant defense, No. 3 Ole Miss defeated No. 14 Texas A&M, 35-20, on the road in front of a record-breaking crowd of 110,633 at Kyle Field. Here are some Ole Miss-Texas A&M related links and Tweets:

AUDIO: Ole Miss-Alabama Highlights from David Kellum of Ole Miss IMG

Where will Ole Miss rank after Texas A&M takedown, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Hostile crowd has no effect on Ole Miss, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Rebels had no hangover, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Bo Wallace's place key to Rebels' recent, and possible future, success, writes Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com

Instant Analysis: No. 3 Ole Miss 35, No. 14 Texas A&M 20, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com

Ole Miss rolls past Texas A&M, stakes claim to No. 1 ranking, writes Craig Stephenson of AL.com

What we learned from Ole Miss 35, Texas A&M 20, writes Mike Herndon of AL.com

There is no doubting Ole Miss' Landshark defense after win over Texas A&M, writes Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report

Ole Miss dominates Texas A&M, moves to top of playoff projection, writes Jerry Palm of CBS Sports

College Football Rewind: When the SEC turns, it turns fasts, writes Jon Solomon of CBS Sports

Either Mississippi State or Ole Miss deserve No. 1 ranking, writes Laken Litman of USA Today

Three and Out: Bo Wallace, Ole Miss continue hot start with win over Texas A&M, writes Martin Rickman of Sports Illustrated

And in case you missed it, "Gigged: Ole Miss Cruises at Texas A&M" and "Landshark Defense Silences Record Crowd" on Ole Miss Blog. Speaking of the Ole Miss defense, here's the story of the Ole Miss Landshark from ESPN's Tom Rinaldi.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- What could Ole Miss do for an encore?

After a thrilling win over No. 1 Alabama, Ole Miss put its No. 3 national ranking on the line on the road at No. 14 Texas A&M. 

Playing in front of a state of Texas and SEC record 110,633 fans, Ole Miss went wire to wire with a 35-20 win that never felt as close as the final score indicated.

"We knew it wasn't a fluke," defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "We knew we were ready for Texas A&M. Both games, we knew we were supposed to win. We don't really care what the media says. We're going to keep playing and keeping getting better as a team."

Outside of a few moments in the third quarter, the Rebels took the crowd out of the game, taking a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and going into halftime with the same 21-0 lead. 

By the end of the game, most of the 110,000-plus had cleared out of Kyle Field, and the small but vocal pockets of Ole Miss fans drowned out their Texas A&M counterparts.

"It was important to come out with a great intensity in a hostile environment," Nkemdiche said. "The defense was great. We came out and didn't let them get anything. We went into halftime 21-0 and that was really big for us."

That intensity started with a defense that's one of, if not the best defenses in the nation.

Ole Miss held Texas A&M to 455 yards of total offense, a 5.2 yards per play average, with a significant amount of the yardage coming in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. 

The Aggies entered the game ranked third nationally in total offense (583.2 ypg) and scoring offense (47.8 ppg) and fifth nationally in yards per play (7.5).

"I couldn't be more proud of the staff and the kids on defense and the way they're playing," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We stressed tonight in the second half because the offense didn't stay on the field enough. Those last couple of drives showed. The offense takes the blame for that. But any time you get defensive scores, it's big for you."

The Ole Miss defense, behind two touchdowns, equaled Texas A&M's scoring output, if not for the Aggies' last touchdown as time expired. 

Safety Cody Prewitt put Ole Miss ahead 21-0 with a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown, and linebacker Keith Lewis, making his second start of the season, pushed the lead out to 35-7 with a 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

"We executed the game plan," Prewitt said. "We play how we're coached. We have great coaches and they have harped on all season to take the ball away and score."

The three touchdowns allowed were just the fifth, sixth and seventh touchdowns allowed this season and only the second and third allowed by the first-string defense.

"We're probably going to get ripped for letting them score 21 (sic) points because that's the level of expectation we set for ourselves," Nkemdiche said. "We have to do a job next week of cleaning things up and come out and play a better game.

"If somebody scores on us, someone wasn't doing their job because of the talent level and the people we have on defense. Nobody should score on us, no matter what."

With No. 3 Mississippi State's win over No. 2 Auburn, poll talk and playoff talk will only intensify going forward, particularly in the Magnolia State that took center stage in the college football world for the second straight week. Freeze was very candid in regard to the subject after the win over Texas A&M.

"We beat the number one team in the country last week, by some polls, and then we beat a top-15 opponents in their house in front of 110,000 tonight," Freeze said. 'I'll tell our team tomorrow, 'No one, no poll and no media gets to decide for us how we define ourselves,' and I'll tell them that again tomorrow. 

"It's good for our fans. They like that stuff. We could lose every game left on our schedule with the league we play in, so we better just focus on us. It would be great to be voted wherever they vote us. We would consider that an honor and we'll try to represent and be worthy of that voting. I'll tell our team, 'We don't give credence to it until the end of the year. That's when it really matters.'

"I do think the SEC West deserves two in the playoffs, though."

Three areas to watch as No. 3 Ole Miss travels to No. 14 Texas A&M on Saturday.

Battles in the Trenches

The Ole Miss D-line against the Texas A&M O-line, headlined by defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche for the Rebels and left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi for the Aggies, will get the most attention, and deservedly so.

"They are a good offensive line," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "No doubt about it. "They have recruited well for a while at that position. It seems like they lose first-round picks and then replace them the next year."

But the other matchup in the trenches, the Ole Miss offensive line against the Texas A&M defensive line, is equally intriguing. The Ole Miss O-line, by all accounts, had their best performance of the season in the win over Alabama, while the Texas A&M D-line leads the SEC and is tied for eighth nationally with 19 sacks.

"Our offensive line has gotten better," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It's very hard to move the ball consistently on (Alabama's) defense. We made plays when we had to. Our offensive line played pretty solid for most of the game."

"They definitely gave me time to throw," quarterback Bo Wallace added. "It's one of the best jobs they've done since I've been here."

Leading the way for the Aggies is defensive end Myles Garrett, who already owns the freshman school record with 6.5 sacks, which ranks second in the SEC and sixth nationally. He is also 1.5 sacks shy of Jadaveon Clowney's SEC freshman record for sacks.

"They're physical and fast," running backs coach Derrick Nix said. "Starting with their D-line up front, those guys are athletic. One of their defensive ends, No. 15 (Myles Garrett), is sort of like our C.J. Johnson and going against him."

Making Special Teams Special

Ole Miss knocked off Alabama due in no small part to some big plays on special teams.

There was the forced fumble by Channing Ward and recovery by Kailo Moore that set up the game-winning touchdown. 

But there was also the brilliant punting of redshirt freshman Will Gleeson and a pair of long kickoff returns by Mark Dodson and Jaylen Walton that helped flip field position in favor of the Rebels.

Gleeson particularly has been a weapon for Ole Miss in that regard, averaging 45.1 yards per punt, which is third-best in the SEC and 14th-best nationally. He has also landed nine of his 16 punts inside the 20, including five inside the 10 and two inside 5.

On the other side of the coin, there was some shakiness on field goals and extra points, with a missed field and a pair of missed extra points. After Freeze re-opened the placekicking competition, freshman Gary Wunderlich beat out senior Andrew Fletcher and redshirt-freshman Andy Pappanastos. 

Wunderlich has been the primary handler of kickoffs and connected on his first and only career field-goal attempt, a 46-yarder, against Alabama.

"He has always been very steady on the long ones," said Freeze of Wunderlich. "It's on the shorter ones that he gets a little quick and has been a little bit inaccurate. But I think he deserves a chance to get into a game and let's see. He hasn't missed one in a game other than an extra point that he got a little quick on. I'm going to give it to him and see what he does."

Preparing for the '12th Man'

The capacity of Kyle Field is 106,000, and Texas A&M is projecting 109,000-plus fans for the game Saturday, which would set a state of Texas football attendance record. 

Ole Miss has been piping in noise to practice this week to prepare for the crowd noise, but it will be the first true road experience for the first-year starters, such as junior center Ben Still and freshman guard Rod Taylor.

"I have a headache right now from the noise," Freeze said. "We have been blaring the speakers about as loud as we can. I can't hear anything that's going on with them, so that's probably pretty accurate with what we will get. We have seemed to handle it fairly well.

"Bo has been in those places before so that helps. We have a few new linemen who haven't, so that's always something that you have to adjust to a little bit, and hopefully we helped them get accustomed to it this week."

Stout Defense Starts with Nkemdiche

Through five games, sophomore Robert Nkemdiche has put up modest statistics, totaling 12 tackles with a tackle for loss, sack and quarterback hurry, but his impact has gone beyond the numbers.

Nkemdiche has been an integral part of an Ole Miss defense that ranks second nationally in scoring (10.2 ppg allowed) and leads the nation in fewest touchdowns allowed (three). The Rebels have also allowed just 4.1 yards per play, best in the SEC and fifth-best nationally.

"He does so many good things in there, but his production's just not up as far as stats and numbers," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "But as far as technique and all that, he's constantly getting better like I've always said about him. 

"He has a desire to get better. He just absolutely loves defensive tackle now where before, he didn't know if he wanted to play that. He's playing very well for us. You don't really notice it until all of a sudden you realize you're in the top five in total defense. Something is happening up front where he is."

Watching the film Wednesday, Kiffin also noted the improvement freshman Marquis Haynes has made through five games this season. Haynes started the season opener against Boise State and recorded his first career sack against Memphis.

"I was telling my guys how good Marquis Haynes is becoming for being a true freshman and really playing with zero game experience," Kiffin said. "He's constantly getting better, and the sky is the limit for him. He's so athletic. I see him getting better and better every week."


Wunderlich Wins Placekicking Job

After some shakiness in the kicking game in the win over Alabama, head coach Hugh Freeze re-opened the placekicking competition, and freshman Gary Wunderlich beat out senior Andrew Fletcher and redshirt Andy Pappanastos.  

"Gary is going to get the start," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We'll go from there, but it's his to win or lose."

Wunderlich, an Under Armour All-American and rated the No. 1 kicker in the nation by Rivals.com, has been the primary handler of kickoffs and connected on his first and only career field-goal attempt, a 46-yarder, against Alabama.

"He has always been very steady on the long ones," said Freeze of Wunderlich. "It's on the shorter ones that he gets a little quick and has been a little bit inaccurate. But I think he deserves a chance to get into a game and let's see. He hasn't missed one in a game other than an extra point that he got a little quick on. I'm going to give it to him and see what he does."

Prepping for Garrett

Texas A&M boasts one of the nation's best pass rushes, recording 19.0 sacks, which leads the SEC and is tied for eighth nationally. And it started with freshman Myles Garrett, who was rated the top defensive end prospect in the nation. 

Garrett has started only two games, but he already owns the freshman school record with 6.5 sacks, which ranks second in the SEC and sixth nationally. He is also 1.5 sacks shy of Jadeveon Clowney's SEC freshman record for sacks.

"He is a phenomenal talent," Freeze said. "He's really quick-twitched. He has some good pass-rush moves that shows he's worked on in his craft. He's a guy who you better know where he is."

Similar to piping in noise to prepare for what is expected to be 106,000-plus fans at Kyle Field, which would be a state of Texas football attendance record, Ole Miss is trying to simulate Garrett in scout team work this week.

"Victor Evans is the best we have," said Freeze of simulating Garrett. "He's a special athlete for sure. It's hard to prepare for him."


Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in College Station.

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:23:16 mark)

Opening statement

"We're looking forward to going to College Station. It's one of the great venues in college football. It's certainly going to be a great challenge because of the atmosphere and the wonderful team that Kevin (Sumlin) has put together. 

"It's going to be a tremendous challenge stopping those guys and playing in that environment. It's going to be very tough, and we're looking forward to it, and I'm sure they are too. They're hungry to get back out and play after the loss they suffered last weekend. It will be a great SEC West game."

On refocusing his team after a big weekend and a big win...

"Every week, either you're going to be on the bitterness of a difficult loss or you're on the the high of an emotional win. Either one, we try to treat the same, and that is we have our normal Sunday meeting where we talk about the recent game and physically put it in the trash and then get back out and get going for the next one.

"It's worked for us on the bitter end. We have had some difficult losses in our two-plus years here and we have bounced back the next week from those and played really well. I don't know if we've had a lot of experience yet on this side of it. We had just the one last year when we beat LSU, which was ranked sixth at the time. I do like what I see right now in our preparation, and they follow the coaches' lead and move on very quickly."

On the difference with this year's Texas A&M team compared to the two previous years...

"They are more athletic on defense. Offensively, they don't have the threat of a guy extending plays quite like (Johnny) Manziel, but they are deeper at receiver and they really stretch you from sideline to sideline, and their quarterback plays extremely well. Their offensive line is one of the better ones I've seen in a long, long time. They're really good and athletic, and they do a good job.

"The only real difference you see is they may be a bit more athletic at every spot, but they don't extend plays quite like we have experienced the past couple of years."

On earlier players laying the ground work for the current success...

"I think of Donte Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan and Gilbert Pena, and I'm sure I will forget somebody that is very key to us. Evan Swindall, Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray are others. They were solid kids that were 100 percent bought-in to our core values and doing things the right way. Mike Marry is another. 

"Those kids that I knew were bought-in really helped us overcome the negativity that may have existed when we got here within the team. They helped hold others accountable to the little things that I think is the reason you can bring a team together and start winning."

On Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett...

"He is a phenomenal talent. He's really quick-twitched. He has some good pass-rush moves that shows he's worked on in his craft. He's a guy who you better know where he is."

On Kevin Sumlin and the progressions of Ole Miss and Texas A&M over the last three years...

"We're old friends and we go way back and we did come in to the league at the same time. We've kind of made sure we knew what was going on in all those meetings and didn't embarrass ourselves too much. He's helped me through that. There are a lot of similarities in our progressions.

"We both believe in tempo offense. He may throw it a little more than we do, even though we can do that. Our defense is playing so well right now that I try not to do anything that causes us to get too far out of whack and stay in the game until late in it."

"There are a lot of similarities as far as how we're going about building it and recruiting. He's recruiting really well, and we have done OK in recruiting. Our philosophies are very similar. He's a player's coach, I know that about him, and hopefully our players would say the same about me."

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin (starts at 1:31:35 mark)

Opening statement...

We're coming off of a disappointing loss last weekend at Mississippi State. We look forward to this week. We have another huge challenge. Ole Miss is a team playing really well. They're one of only 10 undefeated teams left in the country. 

"This will be our first SEC game at home. That will important for us to get back to Kyle Field and play at home. Our guys have approached the week in a good way and ready to get back on the field again."

On Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace...

"He is one of the few veteran quarterbacks in this league. This our third time playing against him. Bo has had his ups and downs over his career, but this year, he has really played like a true veteran. He made plays to win the game last week in a critical moment in a big game. There is no substitute for experience. 

"There's no doubt you see his leadership and his ability to be in the system for the amount of time he's been in the system. You see his confidence level and the confidence the coaching staff has in him with the situations they put him in. He's improved. He understands what they're trying to do, he's operating at a high level right now, and he's a big reason for their success offensively."

On defensive end Myles Garrett...

"He's a very talented young man. He was the number one defensive end in the country as a prospect. He's extremely explosive and naturally gifted. He's working on his technique, which is something all young guys are going to do. He's starting to see different blocking schemes, which is the greatest compliment. He was frustrated, and we explained to him that was the best compliment to pay him. 

"He's gone through that phase of it. Right now, it's a hard time for all talented freshmen that are playing or have been starting midway through the season, particularly in this league. He's still very young, he's raw, and he's getting better. Over the course of time, he's going to pick up weight and get stronger. He will be the first to tell you there's still a lot of room for him to improve."

On what a win over Alabama can do for your program...

"Alabama is such the standard program for college program, particularly when you're in this league because of their success over the course of the last decade of so, particularly when you're in the West. It becomes not only a big deal for your team, but also for your fan base and your university to say you can compete with the top of the league. It helps in recruiting, too.

"You don't me to tell you what it can do for you. All you have to do is look at the postgame at Ole Miss, and that will tell you enough and how big it was for them."

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It's Sunday, so that means it's time for this week's Observations from the Best Seat in the House. There was no shortage of observations this week. Let's get into it:

1. It's the day after, and I still can't believe yesterday happened. Ole Miss became the epicenter of college football, from ESPN's "College GameDay," to Katy Perry, to the game itself, to the celebration and national attention that followed. It could not have been a better day for the football program, athletics department and the university itself.

"Let's utilize the filter, the platform and the marketing power of athletics to then help the entire university," said Athletics Director Ross Bjork earlier this week. "This is one of those examples that because of athletics the university can be put on a pedestal in a great way to showcase all the great things that are happening. That's a responsibility that we take very seriously. 

"We're not the most important thing, but we happen to be the most visible and this will be one of those examples where because of athletics that visibility takes hold and now we can show the world how beautiful our campus is and the hospitality of the Ole Miss family."

2. Let's start with "College GameDay." The crew loved it and the fans loved the show's first visit to the Grove, to the tune of the highest overnight rating this season. The passion and hospitality of Ole Miss fans and the beauty and atmosphere of the Grove were on full display. 

And depending on future results, the show may make a return later this season, either Nov. 1 vs. Auburn or Nov. 29 vs. Mississippi State.

3. Beside the bliss of standing within shouting distance of Katy Perry as she made her way to the GameDay set to make her picks, which was a great moment for me, she was great for Ole Miss. With her fame and popularity, she got people to tune into GameDay and then promptly stole the show. 

She picked the Rebels, which started a full-on embrace of Ole Miss and Oxford, as she hugged the Black Bear mascot, became a regular on the Jumbotron wearing an Ole Miss visor, stormed the field with the masses of fans and then celebrated with them at the bar at Funky's. I can't begin to describe what her ties to Ole Miss, if even for a day, means to the university.

4. There are a lot of places you can start with the game itself, but I'm going to start with Bo Wallace. 

The much-maligned quarterback had his day, much like Andrew Ritter had against LSU last year, becoming the first quarterback since Eli Manning to defeat Alabama.  

He completed 18-of-31 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, completing each of his final three pass attempts for 57 yards and two touchdowns with the game on the line. "Good Bo, Bad Bo" had been the popular narrative entering the game, one that Wallace hoped to have rid of once and for all.

"That thing's the most annoying thing I've ever heard," Wallace said. "I also feel like I'm the only quarterback in the nation who throws interceptions. Hopefully I can be 'Good Bo' the rest of the year."

5. When called upon, to keep Ole Miss in the game in the first half and then win the game on the final drive, the Rebels defense rose to the challenge as they have all season. Sound familiar?

The Ole Miss defense allowed just 10 points, despite facing an Alabama offense that entered the game averaging 42.0 points. The Rebels also created two timely turnovers, one of which led to the game-winning touchdown, and the other effectively ended the game.

6. Including the fumble returned for a touchdown by Alabama, the Ole Miss defense has given up just four touchdowns this season, the fewest in the nation. The Rebels also rank second in scoring defense, giving up just 10.2 points per game, and rank fifth in total defense (277.6 ypg) and yards per play allowed (4.1 yard per play). 

7. To quote the great philosopher Drake, the Ole Miss senior class started from the bottom, and now they're here.

From a forgettable 2-10 season, to a 5-0 start and a top-five national ranking. There are a lot of talented underclassmen on the roster, but these seniors who stayed have showed out themselves and have provided invaluable leadership so far this season.

"After the 2-10 season and we lost our head coach, a lot of players were thinking about getting out," senior Senquez Golson said. "I almost left to go play baseball and we talked to the coaches and we just decided to stay."

8. For the historic 2013 signing class, Saturday was another moment of validation, the first win over a top-ranked team in program history and the Rebels' first win over Alabama since 2003. They all played big roles in the win and creating a "new normal" in Oxford.

"I came here with the 2013 class to change the culture around here," said sophomore Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation from that class. "We came to do something different. I could have gone to Alabama or LSU, but I wanted to come here and make a difference. And that's what we have done. I'm really proud of ourselves."

9. Ole Miss' win over Alabama was just one shockwave as part of Shakeout Saturday that saw five of the top eight teams in the AP poll lose on the same weekend. Florida State, Auburn and Baylor survived, while Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA joined Alabama in defeat.

10. As part of the shakeout, Ole Miss moved into a tie with Mississippi State for No. 3 in the AP poll. And with Auburn at No. 2, three of the top four teams in the AP poll reside in the SEC West. Mississippi State hosts Auburn and ESPN's "College GameDay" this Saturday.

11. The eyes of college football descended on Ole Miss. To see what everyone is saying in local and national news and the best tweets from Saturday and Sunday morning, click here.

12. There are a lot of great photos and videos out there from Saturday. Here is a photo of the mass of fans storming the field, a video of fans tearing down the goal posts and a video of the game-winning touchdown.

13. Speaking of photos and video, Josh McCoy did yeoman's working covering the days leading up to and including "College GameDay" and the win over Alabama. Check out his gallery from the Alabama game here

And a tip of the hat to Michael Thompson, Micah Ginn and the rest of the marketing and productions staff for creating a big-time atmosphere in the stadium to match the big-time atmosphere in the Grove. 

14. I would stay tuned for what might be the best episode of "The Season: Ole Miss Football" yet. 

15. Lost in the euphoria of "College GameDay" and the historic win over Alabama, volleyball head coach Steven McRoberts and his team had a signature moment of their own. Missouri came in as the defending SEC Champion with a 20-match conference win streak, and the Rebels swept the Tigers 3-0 in front of a nationally-televised audience on the SEC Network.

"It's huge," said junior Nakeyta Clair who led the team with 14 kills and a .500 hitting percentage in the match. "It shows not only us, but it shows our fans that we can do it this year. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves this year. It didn't faze us they were SEC champs last year."

16. Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick tied the school shutout record with the Ole Miss soccer team's 1-0 win at Alabama on Sunday. The Rebels grabbed four points on the road this weekend, as they also played Auburn to a 2-2 draw Friday.

17. The Ole Miss men's basketball team opened fall practice Friday, and the team's trip to the Bahamas in August is already paying dividends. Don't forget Square Jam is set for Friday, Oct. 17, the day before the football team's homecoming game against Tennessee, and the men's and women's basketball teams open their respective seasons Friday, Nov. 14.

"We're so far ahead based on what we had the opportunity to experience in the Bahamas," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "We have been with this team for 10 practices in July and August, and then we had two games in the Bahamas, so I feel much further along with this group. 

"We already put in some of our baseline stuff so that we can start to make adjustments based on what we saw this summer. Our foundation is pretty much set. Now, we're building off that based on the skill-set of our players."

18. Two former Ole Miss Rebels in Aaron Barrett (Washington) and Lance Lynn (St. Louis) are still playing in the MLB Playoffs. He took a no-decision, but Lynn worked six strong innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts and two walks in Game 2 of the NLDS against Los Angeles on Saturday.

19. Looking ahead, it doesn't get any easier for the football team as Ole Miss travels to No. 14 Texas A&M this Saturday. With an 8 p.m. kickoff on ESPN, Kyle Field should be rocking. A trademark under head coach Hugh Freeze has been a team that bounces back from the highest highs and the lowest lows, but the spotlight has never shined as bright as it does right now.

Upset Bid Falls Short Against No. 10 A&M

Seeking its first win over a top-10 team since 2009, Ole Miss took a 1-0 lead but fell short to No. 10 Texas A&M, 2-1, Sunday afternoon.

"I'm really happy with the team's performance," head coach Matt Mott said. "I'm certainly disappointed we didn't get a result today but certainly very happy with how hard the team played and battled."

Junior defender Maddie Friedmann gave the Rebels a 1-0 lead with a header goal in the 62nd minute off a corner kick. Freshman Courtney Carroll sent the corner into the box and and junior midfielder Jessica Hiskey got her head to it before Friedmann found the back of the net.

Ole Miss held a 1-0 advantage before Texas A&M found the equalizing goal in the 72nd minute and then the go-ahead goal in the 79th minute. 

Those were the only two blemishes on an otherwise excellence performance from senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick, who made eight saves against an Aggie attack that finished with 23 shots and 10 shots on goal.

"The second one, I was disappointed with myself, because it was a really close angle," McCormick said. "I don't think she should have scored that one. I kind of hold myself accountable for that."

"She's an excellent goalkeeper and has been doing really well all year," Mott said. "I hate it for her because she played really well. All of the guys in the back played great. They all battled like crazy."

Ole Miss had multiple chances to tie the match in the closing seconds after sophomore forward Sara Coleman drew a foul just outside the box. The Rebels fired two shots off the post but couldn't find the back of the net, as Texas A&M escaped with the win.

"It was a great shot by Addie (Forbus) on the free kick," Mott said. "It looked like it was going in. It hit the post and dropped straight down. We had people there and just couldn't get it in the back of the goal. That was definitely a crazy sequence and tough to watch when it doesn't go in.

"It was kind of like a pinball game," Friedmann said. "You're head is whipping around trying to figure out where the ball is going. I could have sworn that it was going in. I felt it hit off me. They had four or five girls on the line and managed to get it out. It was unfortunate, but sooner or later, we're going to catch the right bounce."

Rebels Rebound with Hard-Fought Draw

Playing in their fourth overtime game of the season, the Ole Miss soccer team played Arkansas to a 1-1 double-overtime draw on Thursday night. 

The teams combined for 30 shots, including 13 on goal, but the game was characterized more by the physical play with a combined 22 fouls and two yellow cards for Arkansas in the second half. 

"When you get into the SEC games, the intensity and physical are up," head coach Matt Mott said. "Both teams were really fighting for the three points. When you have days like that, you have to be physically ready, and our guys did a good job of getting ready and up for the game."

"It was a battle," junior Jessica Hiskey said. "We knew coming out they were going to be very physical and very good in the air, so we knew he had to challenge for everything and keep digging out the second balls."

Arkansas went ahead 1-0 with a goal in the 15th minute and held the one-goal advantage for much of the game before sophomore Gretchen Harknett found the equalizer in the 69th minute on a bending ball from the top of the box to beat the keeper.

It was a big goal for the Rebels, not only battling back to draw even in the match, but also coming off a 4-0 loss at Central Florida this past Sunday.

"We needed it for our confidence," said Mott of the goal. "We needed it for our mentality. Gretchen Harknett is a good player for us, and it's big for her to get that goal and help us settle things down. We created plenty of chances. We should have gotten one in the first half and maybe it would have been a different second half."

With the draw, Ole Miss moves to 6-2-3 overall, 1-0-2 in Southeastern Conference play, ahead of a Sunday showdown with No. 10 Texas A&M, the second-highest ranked team in the league behind No. 7 Florida. The Aggies (7-1-1) are led by the top scoring scoring duo in the SEC in seniors Shea Groom and Kelley Monogue who have combined for 15 goals this season.

"They're really good," Mott said. "They're worthy of their rankings, but it's an SEC game, and we're in every SEC game that we play. It will be a big challenge for us on Sunday, but one that the girls are certainly looking forward to. A&M is very good and they are explosive offensively. Hopefully we can create some things against them."

Ole Miss will take its turn at SEC Media Days on Thursday. Here are a few links to stories of interest for Ole Miss fans from Day Two of SEC Media Days, which featured South Carolina, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

The Ole Miss official website, OleMissSports.com, and the SEC official website, SECSports.com, will have continuous coverage of SEC Football Media Days, as will ESPNU, ESPN and Watch ESPN.

Star power lacking at SEC Media Days, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

SEC enters new world: Covering itself on TV channel, writes Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com

The best of Steve Spurrier's media day, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

South Carolina's energetic Spurrier still on top of his game -- and winning, writes Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com

Wild, Wild West: Bulldogs' Mullen trying to chart course for Atlanta, writes Logan Lowery of the Daily Journal

Take Five: Mississippi State, Mullen lay out their bold plans, writes Michael Bonner of the Clarion-Ledger

Dak Prescott, the SEC's newest star, takes the big stage, writes Bob Carskadon of HailState.com

Looking for the next Steve Spurrier? Look right at Kevin Sumlin and smile, writes Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com

Minus Manziel, Aggies escape microscope, writes Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com

Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin treating Manziel like Johnny Forgotten, writes Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com

Vols hoping for more in Jones' second season, writes Wes Rucker of govols247.com

Butch Jones, Vols enter season optimistic, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com


Ole Miss clinched the SEC Western Championship and locked up the second overall seed in the SEC Tournament as the Rebels won two of three games at Texas A&M this past weekend. With the series win, Ole Miss finished the regular season 40-16 overall and 19-11 in SEC play and moved up two spots in week's official RPI rankings, from No. 15 to No. 13.

Fellow SEC national seed contenders Vanderbilt and South Carolina are Nos. 6 and 8, respectively. Other national seed contenders of note are Louisiana-Lafayette (7), Miami (FL) (12) and TCU (14).

As far as the RPI top 25 and top 50, there are a couple of Ole Miss opponents to watch entering conference tournament play this week. Kentucky and Alabama each fell three spots to Nos. 22 and 24, respectively. Arkansas and UCF each moved more solidly into the RPI top 50 to Nos. 41 and 46, respectively, while Georgia fell 10 spots to No. 55. 

The Rebels will open SEC Tournament play with either No. 7 seed Arkansas (No. 41 RPI) or No. 10 seed Texas A&M (No. 33) on Wednesday, followed by No. 3 seed LSU (No. 16), No. 6 seed Vanderbilt (No. 6) or No. 11 seed Tennessee (No. 45) on Thursday.

Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers had Ole Miss among his eight national seeds, while Baseball America's Aaron Fitt had Vanderbilt replacing Ole Miss as a national seed in last week's projections. After Ole Miss' series win over Texas A&M, Rogers still had the Rebels in as the eighth and final national seed with South Carolina and TCU, among other teams also in the mix for a national seed.

Here's a brief look at the NCAA Tournament resume and remaining schedule for Ole Miss, as well as the NCAA Tournament resumes for Florida, LSU and South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Ole Miss Rebels

40-16 Overall | 19-11 SEC (2nd)

RPI: 12

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 22

Record against RPI top 25: 5-7

Record against RPI top 50: 14-11

Record against RPI top 100: 21-14

Road Record: 15-7

Florida Gators

37-19 Overall | 21-9 SEC (1st)

RPI: 2

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 1

Record against RPI top 25: 14-7

Record against RPI top 50: 22-13

Record against RPI top 100: 29-17

Road Record: 12-8

LSU Tigers

40-14-1 Overall | 17-11-1 SEC (3rd)

RPI: 16

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 45

Record against RPI top 25: 4-8

Record against RPI top 50: 12-12

Record against RPI top 100: 18-12-1

Road Record: 10-9

South Carolina Gamecocks

42-14 Overall | 18-12 SEC (t-4th)

RPI: 8

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 34

Record against RPI top 25: 8-7

Record against RPI top 50: 12-9

Record against RPI top 100: 23-12

Road Record: 8-9

Vanderbilt Commodores

40-16 Overall | 17-13 SEC (6th)

RPI: 6

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 4

Record against RPI top 25: 8-6

Record against RPI top 50: 18-14

Record against RPI top 100: 24-15

Road Record: 13-7

With a series win over Georgia, Ole Miss remained in first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division and can clinch the division with at least two wins at Texas A&M this weekend. However, for the second straight week, the Rebels dropped in this week's official RPI rankings, from No. 12 to No. 15.

Arkansas, which Ole Miss won two of three games against earlier this season, moved up four spots to No. 50, while Alabama, which swept the Rebels earlier this season moved more solidly into the RPI top 25 to No. 21.

Ole Miss finishes the regular season with a midweek contest at Arkansas State (No. 60), followed by a three-game series at Texas A&M (No. 35). UCF, which Ole Miss swept earlier this season, is another opponent to watch in the RPI rankings, as the Golden Knights dropped eight spots to No. 48.

Both Baseball America's Aaron Fitt and Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers had Ole Miss among their eight national seeds in last week's projections, and the Rebels remain in both the regional host and national seed discussion with one weekend left in the regular season.

Here are some Ole Miss-related questions and answers from Fitt's weekly chat on Monday:

Q: Is it a given that either Rice or TCU gets a national seed, and are they competing with each other for one? If so, how is that race shaping up? Is any other Lone Star program in the national seed conversation?

A: I'd hesitate to say it's a "given" that one of them will be a national seed, because there's still a lot of competition for those eight spots; there are three very strong ACC contenders and there will probably be three strong SEC contenders (Florida, Ole Miss, and the Vandy/South Carolina series winner), plus Oregon State and Louisiana-Lafayette and Indiana. Frogs and Owls must both continue to play at a high level; and I do believe they are probably both competing for one spot. Right now, I lean toward TCU because it plays in a better league and is 14-8 vs. the top 50, vs. Rice's 8-9. And no, I don't see another team from the state in the national seed mix. Houston has a great RPI, but being in third place in the AAC (three games back, too) really hurts.

Q: Hey Aaron, do you still see Ole Miss being a national seed if they win their series against A&M this week and is Florida still a national seed if they lose this week to Tennessee?

A: Yes on Ole Miss. Feel like Florida is probably safe even if it loses this weekend -- Gators had such a cushion to work with in the standings and in the RPI, and all those top 25 and top 50 wins are loud.

Here are some Ole Miss-related questions and answers from Rogers's weekly chat on Monday:

Q: Hey Kendall, big fan here. I was wondering who you think from the SEC will get a national seed draw. Do you think two could get one? Thanks.

A: I anticipate having Ole Miss and Florida still in as national seeds this week. I could see the SEC getting a third national seed, and right now, I would give that to Vanderbilt. I'd also keep an eye on South Carolina if the Gamecocks take that series from the Commodores this weekend. Right now I'd go with two national seeds, but three absolutely far from out of the question.

Q: Will a series win at Texas A&M secure at national seed spot for Ole Miss?

A: Would be pretty hard to deny at that point. Would mean OM finished the season exactly the way the committee would like to see it finish.

Q: What does Ole Miss have to do to host?

A: OM is hosting barring some 0-3 vs. A&M, and 0-2 in the SEC tournament type of deal ....

Here's a brief look at the NCAA Tournament resume and remaining schedule for Ole Miss, as well as the NCAA Tournament resumes for Alabama, Florida, LSU and South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Ole Miss Rebels

37-15 Overall | 17-10 SEC (2nd)

RPI: 15

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 23

Record against RPI top 25: 5-7

Record against RPI top 50: 14-11

Record against RPI top 100: 18-13

Road Record: 12-6

Remaining Schedule: at Arkansas State (No. 60), 3 at Texas A&M (No. 35)

Alabama Crimson TIde

32-19 Overall | 14-12 SEC (7th)

RPI: 21

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 10

Record against RPI top 25: 8-9

Record against RPI top 50: 13-13

Record against RPI top 100: 19-17

Road Record: 10-10

Remaining Schedule: at Jacksonville State (No. 101), 3 vs. Mississippi State (No. 42)

Florida Gators

34-18 Overall | 19-8 SEC (1st)

RPI: 3

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 1

Record against RPI top 25: 14-7

Record against RPI top 50: 23-12

Record against RPI top 100: 27-16

Road Record: 10-7

Remaining Schedule: South Florida (No. 143), 3 at Tennessee (No. 44)

LSU Tigers

36-14-1 Overall | 14-11-1 SEC (6th)

RPI: 20

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 48

Record against RPI top 25: 4-8

Record against RPI top 50: 14-12-1

Record against RPI top 100: 15-12-1

Road Record: 7-9

Remaining Schedule: Northwestern State (No. 133), 3 at Auburn (No. 68)

South Carolina Gamecocks

39-13 Overall | 16-11 SEC (t-3rd)

RPI: 12

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 34

Record against RPI top 25: 6-6

Record against RPI top 50: 14-10

Record against RPI top 100: 18-11

Road Record: 6-8

Remaining Schedule: The Citadel (No. 202), 3 at Vanderbilt (No. 7)

Vanderbilt Commodores

38-14 Overall | 16-11 SEC (t-3rd)

RPI: 7

Strength of Schedule (Warren Nolan): 11

Record against RPI top 25: 7-4

Record against RPI top 50: 17-12

Record against RPI top 100: 22-14

Road Record: 13-7

Remaining Schedule: Southeast Missouri State (No. 75), 3 vs. South Carolina (No. 12)

SEC MBB Teleconference 2.24

Highlights of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Alabama head coach Anthony Grant and Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy. The Rebels host Alabama on Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN3) and then travel to Texas A&M on Saturday (6 p.m., Fox Sports Net).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

Opening statement:

There are two weeks remaining in the regular season. There is a logjam at 7-7 with a number of different teams. It's an important week for us, as we have one at home and one on the road. We need to try to find a way to stop the bleeding.

On seeing a seven-way tie for anything, anywhere:

I have never seen it. Last year, we were in a situation where we able to win our last two regular season games to tie for second and we got the 3-seed and a double bye in the tournament. It all really was dependent on three or four different teams and playing that last day. Florida has separated itself at the top, but everything else is still up for grabs as it relates to how teams play down the stretch. 

On the importance of the double bye:

We were a beneficiary of that last year. We got the double bye and we were able go and cut down the nets. It's really big if you have aspirations. We go into the tournament needing probably to get to the finals to give ourselves a chance for an at-large. Thankfully, we took it one step further. It plays a huge part of day three, when it was our second game, and it was Vanderbilt's third game. We were playing them in the semifinals. It certainly took a toll on Vandy's legs, and it was an advantage to us. Getting the double bye is a huge advantage. A team that's in that position will be going to be going to Atlanta with aspirations of getting into the field. These last two weeks hold a lot of importance.

On the difficulty of taking each game as it presents itself and not look back:

It's easy to look back and live in the world of would have, could have, should have. You can see the finish line. You have two weeks left in the regular season leading to Atlanta. We know we have five more games. How we play in those five games will determine what happens next. My hope is that we're just anxious to play again because it's been two weeks since we have won a game. It's not a good feeling. I want our guys to share that sentiment and look forward to having the next opportunity.

On Trevor Releford:

He's a first team all-league player. They have their ups and downs, as we have all had. If a few games had gone the other way in Alabama's favor, he would be in the conversation for most valuable player in the league simply because of what he means to their team. He's had a terrific career. He's been very steady and very consistent, and he's really improved, which is a credit to Anthony (Grant) and his staff. He was a guy who's always been very good with the ball, fast in the open floor, but his ability to develop perimeter shooting and his ability to make perimeter shots has really made him a difficult cover.

Alabama head coach Anthony Grant

Opening statement:

We have the second game we have played this year against Ole Miss, this one on the road. They were a very talented team the first time we played them. We're looking forward to the opportunity to try to go to Ole Miss and get a win. And then we come back and play a rivalry game with Auburn here at home. We had a tough loss at their place earlier in the year. It's a big week for us, and I'm looking forward to getting prepare for these two games.

On Levi Randolph:

It was a good win for us against Missouri. Levi was a big part of that. I'm really happy for him that he was able to come out and have that type of performance. I'm happy for our team to be able to get the win. At the end of the day, the most important thing for Levi is for the team to win, and for him to be a big part of that is a very positive thing for him as we move forward in the season.

On Nick Jacobs' status and how Jimmie Taylor has stepped up with the extra minutes:

There is no update with Nick's status. Jimmie, the two games this past week, played 35 minutes at A&M and played 25-26 the other night against Missouri. He's a guy who's developing as a freshman with the experience that he is getting going against some of the elite guy in our league, in terms of frontcourt guys. He's done a really job for us on the defensive end, learning how to rebound the ball in traffic against the size and physicality in the SEC. He's still developing and still continues to need to develop from an offensive standpoint. The more experience he gets, the more comfortable he gets in terms of what he's able to do and understand where he needs to grow. As an 18-year-old freshman in this league he has a very bright future.

On the "character" victory over Missouri:

It's been a rough year for us, in terms of some of the tough losses that we have had, in nonconference and conference play. Our guys have had to battle. Some games we have performed well and come up short, one or two possessions. Other games we have not performed well and not been as close. A lot of times when you see teams going through some of the struggles that we go through, you begin to worry in terms of how they feel in terms of the work that they're putting in and the results they're getting. I called it a character win because our guys have approached practice the right way, in terms of preparing for every game and approach their preparation and putting themselves in position to win. It was a tough loss on the road at Texas A&M on Thursday night. Weather caused us to spend the night in Texas. We came back about 3 o'clock. On the way from the airport to campus, the bus broke down, and the guys had to wait to get another bus to bring them to campus. We had an evening practice in preparation for Missouri the next day. They did a great job of being able to lock in. Coming off a loss like that and to respond the way they did in less than 24 hours, it showed great character by our guys.

On the Missouri win starting a wave of momentum?

Each game has a life of its own. I have been doing this long enough where you understand as a coach that every game presents different challenges. That one game, certainly, was a great character win. Now, we have to be able to learn the lessons from that, good and bad, and move forward and understand that we're going to get a completely different look when we go on the road here for Ole Miss.

Texas A&M head Billy Kennedy

On the seven-way tie for fourth place in the SEC standings and importance of upcoming games:

That's definitely a lot of times team tied. I'm sure there's not another league in the country with that situation. In general, there is parity in college basketball. You have some heavyweight teams in each league. You look at the ACC, you look at the Big Ten, you look at the Pac-12, you look at the Big 12, and we follow the Big 12, having been in it, and you have teams with losing record that were once top-10 teams. It's college basketball. It's just not our league. Our league gets beat up, but it's not any different from any other league. A lot needs to be said about college basketball in general that there are about four to six heavyweight teams, and then it's the rest of us. It's kind of what college basketball is all over the map.

On the importance of the double bye:

It would be tremendous for all these teams that are 7-7 because there's not a big difference, and most of us have depth problems. We're not very deep. We have most of our teams back. It would be interesting to see how many seniors are on those 7-7 teams and how many teams will have guys back. To have some momentum going into the end of the season and hopefully some type of postseason play, and to have all those guys coming back for next year is something to build on.

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