Ole Miss football was in the playoff conversation in 2023 after going 10-2 on the year. The anticipated continued progress has the Rebels hoping for a playoff birth in 2024 as the FBS level of college football expands to 12 teams instead of four.
4 reasons why Ole Miss football should not be thinking college football playoff, but national championship instead, in 2024
Key players returning: With head coach Lane Kiffin returning to Oxford for his fifth season, to begin with he will have his leading wide receiver Tre Harris and running back Quinshon Judkins from 2023 both returning, as well as his quarterback in Jaxson Dart. Kiffin has never had a three-year starting quarterback. This is scary for the rest of the country not only because of what Dart will have around him, but the fact that during his time at FAU and Ole Miss, starting quarterbacks from year one to year two under Kiffin improved their record from 18-19 to 29-7. Not only that, but the combined number improved as well going from 61 touchdowns and 37 interceptions combined in year one, to 64 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions combined in year two. Year three is unknown, but based on the trajectory, all of these factors combined are scary for the rest of the country.
Transfer Portal Success: Lane Kiffin has been known as “the king of the transfer portal” across the college football landscape the past few seasons, starting with his success in 2022. The success of Ole Miss in the transfer portal has continued so far in 2023. According to www.247sports.com, the Rebels rank 2nd nationally in transfer portal commitments, trailing only Colorado. Colorado and Ole Miss are the only two schools with five four-star commitments. Some names that stand out for Ole Miss are wide receiver Antwane “Juice” Wells from South Carolina, defensive end Princely Umanmielen from Florida and linebacker Chris “Poo” Paul from Arkansas. 247Sports also has former Texas A&M defensive lineman Walter Nolen projected to join this star-studded class in Oxford shortly as well. Even if Nolen somehow does not land in Oxford, Kiffin has the Rebels loaded for sure and ready to take on the rest of the SEC in 2024.
Lane Kiffin’s Tenure: As we all mature throughout the years, Lane Kiffin is no different. During his time as a head coach in his younger years, he’s had some questionable moments like leaving Tennessee in the middle of the night for the job at USC and not staying 100% committed to his post at the University of Alabama throughout the college football playoff to the point where Alabama head coach Nick Saban had to let him go before the national championship game.
With that being said, Kiffin has grown leaps and bounds. And it is evident with the on-the-field progress of the Ole Miss Rebels throughout his four years in Oxford so far. Those four years are also the longest Kiffin has been with any program. And it is paying dividends. After a rough first year going 5-5, Kiffin has led the Rebels to two 10-win seasons in the last three years, and is poised for a third.
The Grove Collective: With the new era of NIL, players getting paid is paramount to landing commitments - whether they’re high school seniors or from the transfer portal. And with the help of the Grove Collective and Ole Miss fans, the Rebels are doing just that. The Grove Collective Executive Director Walker Jones is making headlines nationally with his ability to raise funds that have helped build the Rebels into a national title contender. On3's Pete Nakos listed Ole Miss as one of the top 10 most ambitious NIL collectives in the country. And he is not wrong. LockedOn Ole Miss host Steven Willis praised the Rebels administration, fans and Grove Collective in a recent podcast episode for being a big reason for Ole Miss’s recent success.
While 2024 is a ways away and a bowl game against Penn State is still to be played for the 2023 season, the energy towards 2024 is already palpable in Oxford and beyond for Ole Miss fans. While the culture and experience of the Grove on gameday has always been paramount, it all seems to be clicking and going to another level under the direction of head coach Lane Kiffin. Look for all of this to culminate in the Rebels winning the national championship in 2024.