The NCAA is continuing its investigation of Ole Miss, which, with its sudden uptick in recruiting, has raised more than a few eyebrows in recent years. In January, Ole Miss was charged with 28 violations in three sports, including 13 in football. Then, on draft night, first-round pick Laremy Tunsil more or less admitted that he received improper benefits in college. NCAA reps are now interviewing players who were recruited by Ole Miss but who signed elsewhere in the SEC.
Should Ole Miss, which went 10-3 last year and is ranked No. 11 in the preseason, be worried?
In a word, yes.
“That could be a huge distraction,” former Ole Miss head coach and current CBS college football analyst Houston Nutt said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show, referring to the NCAA investigation. “And they’re playing a very, very good football team right off the bat (Florida State), so it’ll be very important that Coach Freeze and his staff to really keep everything circled up, keep it very tight and concentrate on the task at hand. That’s what’s difficult when there’s talk and papers and blogs about different things and the investigations that are happening. It could be a huge, huge distraction.”
The Rebels were the only team in America to beat Alabama last season – and they did it in Tuscaloosa, stunning the Tide, 43-37, last September. Nevertheless, Alabama enters the season fresh off a national championship, again, and ranked No. 1 in the preseason, again.
Are the Tide the best team in the country?
“Until somebody proves otherwise,” Nutt said. “We always ask the same question each and every season – Who’s the quarterback? – but it doesn’t matter because he has such a good supporting cast. Coach Saban has done an unbelievable job of recruiting. When you win four national titles out of seen years, it’s easy to take a deep breath. But he’s the best at after winning a big game or a championship game, maybe taking a day or two. Then it’s right back and it’s full throttle. You got to give him credit there. The line of scrimmage, that’s where it all starts with Alabama. It looks very, very good. You lose a Derrick Henry, but here comes Bo Scarbrough with Damien Harris. The receivers look outstanding. Calvin Ridley, ArDavrius Stewart look like big-time playmakers, and the defense, they’ve always been very solid. So I just got to keep them right there until somebody proves us wrong.”
Elsewhere around the country, Houston looks like a sleeping giant, especially if it can latch on to the Big 12. The Cougars went 13-1 in Tom Herman’s first season, beat Florida State by two touchdowns in the Peach Bowl, and enter the season ranked 15th in the country.
This is all being done in the American Athletic Conference, by the way. Houston, it seems safe to say, could be a national power if it joins the Power 5.
“You would think with the media market, you would think it’d be a natural fit, especially the way Coach Herman has it rolling,” Nutt said. “Greg Ward is fun to watch. They play Oklahoma in the very first game. Man, that’s going to be something to see. Winning is powerful. As you know, it can be very, very powerful, and that can really help things. If they can keep things going, to me, it seems like it’d be a good fit.”