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BARNEStorming: Thoughts Around the College Football World

BARNEStorming: Thoughts Around the College Football World

We are just one week away from Ole Miss taking the football field to open the 2021 season. It seems to be the perfect time to roll out the first version of Barnestorming of the year. 

BOWLING PARTNERS

Ole Miss will face four teams this season it has faced in its bowl history. And each of those teams are in the SEC. 

The Rebels defeated Arkansas twice in the Sugar Bowl – 17-13 in 1962 and 27-22 in 1969; whipped LSU 21-0 in the 1959 Sugar Bowl; split a pair of bowl games with Auburn – beating the Tigers 13-7 in the 1965 Liberty Bowl and falling to Auburn 35-28 in the 1970 Gator Bowl and Ole Miss lost to Alabama 12-7 in the 1963 Sugar Bowl. 

Teams on the Rebels’ 2021 schedule went 4-2 in bowl games led by ‘Bama who won two postseason games on its way to the 2020 national championship. 

NEW DUDES IN CHARGE

The Southeastern Conference will welcome four new head coaches to the league this season. Shane Beamer takes over at South Carolina, Bryan Harsin is the new man in Auburn, Josh Heupel was tabbed to coach Tennessee and Clark Lea is now in charge at Vanderbilt. 

Given the school’s history, facilities, returning players and recruiting base, Harsin should be in the best shape to start his tenure on the Plains. Heupel is a close second in Knoxville. Beamer would follow and he has the advantage of his lineage being raised by Virginia Tech’s legendary coach Frank Beamer. Lea has talent on its roster and Vanderbilt has plans to upgrade its facilities, but the football program is still lagging behind the Commodore baseball team. 

Last season, the SEC had four new head coaches who had a combined record of 17-24. Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss and Mizzou’s Eli Drinkwitz each went 5-5, Mike Leach was 4-7 at Mississippi State and Arkansas’ Sam Pittman went 3-7. 

A “CALI” to ARMS

It was not long ago when the trend in college football to have quarterbacks from Hawaii. Ole Miss had Jordan Ta’amu, Alabama started Tua Tagovailoa, and UCF featured the tandem of McKenzie Milton and Dillon Gabriel. All of them bid aloha to the islands to play in the south. 

Teams are staying out west, but at least moved it back to the mainland. Arguably the best two quarterbacks in the SEC hail from California. 

Matt Corral, the starter at Ole Miss, hails from Ventura, Calif., and Georgia’s J.T. Daniels is a native of Irvine, Calif. While Daniels got to Athens after transferring from Southern Cal, Corral moved to Oxford directly from Long Beach Poly High School. 

Alabama’s Bryce Young is also a native Californian who went to Mater Dei High School, the same school as Daniels. Unlike Daniels, Young has had some lofty deposits into his bank account. According to Nick Saban, Young has received nearly $1 million in NIL money without ever starting a game for the Crimson Tide. Nice work if you can get it. 

TRICKLE DOWN SCHEDULING

Southeastern Conference schools have often been criticized for the level of competition they find for their non-conference schedules. 

This year, a few schools have bucked that trend. Alabama will start with Miami; Georgia will take on Clemson and Ole Miss will play Louisville and top-25 Liberty. 

However, schools are still scheduling both mid-major and teams from the Football Championship Subdivision. Several of the big boys are keeping their multi-comma amount checks in state to help the smaller schools who need them. 

Alabama will host Mercer from nearby Macon, Ga., Auburn plays not only Alabama State located less than an hour from Jordan-Hare Stadium, but also Georgia State located 125 miles away in Atlanta. Arkansas will take on Arkansas-Pine Bluff of the FCS, LSU will play McNeese State from Lake Charles, La., and Louisiana-Monroe who will be coached by Terry Bowden. Texas A&M will welcome Prairie View to College Station and Mississippi State is an easy bus trip for Louisiana Tech in Ruston, La. 

IS CLEVELAND NEXT? 

Jack Abraham is listed on the Mississippi State roster as a redshirt senior quarterback. His journey to Starkville completes Abraham’s Magnolia State Big Three Tour, plus one other stop. 

Abraham is a graduate of Oxford High School, a ten-minute drive from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. He began his career at Northwest Mississippi Community College before moving on to Southern Miss where he played for three years. 

From Oxford to Senatobia to Hattiesburg to Starkville. 

Could Delta State be a destination if he finds some more eligibility? 

A HUGE, SMALL-SCHOOL PREDICTION

Saturday, there will be an under-the-radar taking place in Lake Charles, La., when McNeese State hosts West Florida. 

This could be an ultimate trap game for the Cowboys as Division II-UWF comes calling. The Argonauts are not an ordinary Division II team, they are the defending national champions. UWF returns quarterback Austin Reed who threw for 4,089 yards and was named the national freshman of the year for the 13-2 Argos. 

UWF did not field a team in 2020, as no D-II team did, but that does not mean the Argonauts did not improve during their hiatus. West Florida’s roster boasts 16 transfers from FBS schools including power-5’s Oregon State, Washington State, West Virginia and Purdue. The Purdue transfer is senior linebacker Cornel Jones who started 15 games for the Boilermakers, collecting 99 tackles, 14.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks. 

The Argonauts’ wide receivers are coached by Ron Dickerson, Jr., who also coached receivers at Ole Miss from 2007-10, helping the Rebels to a pair of Cotton Bowl Classic wins. 

But another reason West Florida could spring an upset apart from its talent? The next week McNeese travels to LSU. Which team will be foremost on the Cowboys’ minds Saturday? They will probably be thinking of Bayou Bengals and not Argonauts. 

About The Author

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers. He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio. A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series. Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time. He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk. Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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