Sunday, 19 October 2003

Cutcliffe survival meter midterm review

The David Cutcliffe Season Survival Meter has been a rousing success so far. It’s time to look back at the initial announcement and see how David is doing (and where he needs to go from here).

In the initial post, I outlined some minimum requirements for his survival:

  1. Defeating homecoming foe Arkansas State.
  2. Defeating SEC West cellar-dweller Mississippi State on Thanksgiving.
  3. Defeating at least 3 of the 6 other SEC opponents.

So far, Cutcliffe has accomplished #1 and two-thirds of #3. The Rebels [5-2, 3-0 SEC] took care of Florida for the second straight season, blew out Arkansas State, and—this Saturday—thoroughly outplayed Alabama, a long-term nemesis of the program.

Now, though, I wonder if Cutcliffe has raised expectations to the point that these minimum requirements may be insufficient. Rebel fans did not expect the team to win both the Florida and Alabama games. An SEC West title is now almost expected, which means that if the team fails to deliver the faithful may want a new coach—particularly if Mississippi State looks like it might attract a name coach.

So, what do the Rebels have to do to win that title? The easy answer is “win out.” The second-best answer is that the Rebels can afford a loss, as long as it’s not against Auburn, because of the division tiebreaker rule (if both Auburn and Ole Miss are 7-1, the head-to-head winner is division champion); however, they are probably the largest impediment to winning out for the Rebels, as they are the main road test. Third-best is beat everyone except Auburn and hope someone hangs two losses on the Tigers. Auburn will probably lose at Georgia, and their upcoming trip to LSU is going to be a tough challenge for Tommy Tuberville’s squad as well. It is important to bear in mind that LSU is still lurking as well.

So, the DCSSM rests on the Rebels now winning the SEC West—something I’m perversely optimistic will happen. If the Rebels do it, Cutcliffe will be hailed as the reincarnation of both Johnny Vaught and Bear Bryant. If they don’t, expect him to be the sacrificial lamb for an embattled university administration already reeling from their mishandling of the Colonel Reb debacle.