Jerrion Ealy says the Rebels are one step closer to their goal after Saturday night's 41-3 victory over New Mexico State.
And that goal is?
"Going to a bowl game," said Ealy.
Ole Miss, which improved to 4-6 on the season Saturday, plays what probably will be the nation's No. 1 ranked team in the form of the LSU Tigers next week in Oxford. The Rebels will be heavy, heavy underdogs, and barring an upset that would wreck the landscape of the college football playoffs, Ole Miss could suffer its seventh loss of the season. That seventh loss is usually a disqualifier for the postseason, as six wins from a 12-game schedule are generally required.
But Ealy professing a goal of reaching a bowl game isn't totally out of the question. Even if they lose to LSU, with a win at Mississippi State on Thanksgiving night, the Rebels could become bowl eligible at 5-7 based on their national Academic Progress Rate (better known as APR) ranking.
I want...no, I need to emphasize the word could.
According to members of the Ole Miss staff the Spirit spoke with on background following Saturday night's game, the Rebels would have stacked up at No. 2 in bowl consideration among potential 5-7 APR teams heading into Saturday's games. Those staff members will recalculate things on Sunday, as the APR picture is ever-changing based on results of games from all over the country each and every weekend.
It is prudent, however, to consider the possibility that Ole Miss could, in essence, backdoor its way into the postseason. That much we do know.
Don't get too excited, though. Right now, almost everyone I have talked to understands the APR selection process like it's some form of New Orleans voodoo. There aren't a whole lot of people talking about it with great confidence right now, and I certainly am not intending to do it here.
What we do know for sure is that, if there aren't enough bowl-eligible, six-win teams at season's end, teams that finish 5-7 are extended postseason invitations based on the APR rankings, and Ole Miss has a score that could carry its season into the month of December.
There is enough thought being given to this inside the Manning Center that it is being tracked. We know that much, too.
I asked Matt Luke about the possibility of an APR entry into the postseason for the Rebels last week. I really didn't get much of a response. Understandably, Luke can't have the appearance of looking that far forward in the heat of a season.
As bowl games expanded in 2015, the NCAA approved the use of APR rankings as the guideline for 5-7 teams to make the postseason in order to fill slots in all of the games, if not enough teams won the required six.
I'm not trying to tease you here. I plan on calling the SEC office Monday, which is what Ole Miss sports information people recommended doing, for more clarity. Right now, I can't even give you an updated list of APR rankings. The latest one I can find is from the spring, and I'm not sure that is even relevant right now. I asked around Saturday night and came to the conclusion no one else was sure, either.
Again, this is a moving target. A sliding scale that changes week-to-week as game scores pour in from around the country.
It's certainly worth mentioning, though, and that's all I'm doing here.
It could set things up for an interesting Egg Bowl in a few weeks. Maybe one in which the winner goes bowling.
After everything this Ole Miss football program has been through over the last few years, the Rebels ought not apologize to anyone if things work out this way.
It sounds like that's what Jerrion Ealy and his teammates would do.