As published in the September/October 2016 Issue: We caught up with Steven Godfrey this summer and asked him a few questions about Ole Miss and College football in general. Here are a few of his thoughts.
RN: Coming off a year where he tied or broke 17 Ole Miss quarterback records (in his first year as a college starter and starting in the SEC for that matter), does Chad Kelly have a legitimate shot at winning the Heisman Trophy in 2015. Does Ole Miss have to go 4-0 to start the season for him to be a real contender? Also, what do you think Kelly needs to improve on to be just as good or better in 2016?
GODFREY: If you’re the quarterback of an undefeated SEC team come October, you’re almost certainly in the Heisman race. In Kelly’s case, he might even be able to suffer a loss to FSU or Bama, provided he isn’t the easily identifiable reason for the L. That being said, it’s an exceptionally crowded field this year, and whoever ends up winning will do so based on late season performance in big games. For Kelly to be in that conversation Ole Miss needs to be in the national title conversation. As far as improvements, turnover ratio and decision making – Heisman voters like to see clean statistical progress in their QBs.
RN: The National Media loved Hugh Freeze over the past 4 seasons at Ole Miss. He was on every college radio or TV show on a regular basis. After the NCAA announced the violations, why do you think those same media members jumped off the Freeze bandwagon so quickly and start to attack him?
GODFREY: This is a bit of an oversimplification. Even hardened Ole Miss loyalists have to admit that Freeze brought at least some of the criticism upon himself. Remember the compliance Tweet? Media perception is a prism, and depending on how you looked at Freeze initially informs what you think of him now. Was he an early overachiever? Too pious? Under-appreciated for his ability to recruit? I’m not sure there’s a single narrative on Freeze, at least not yet.
RN: There is talk of the Big 12 wanting to expand and some teams who have since left (let’s say Mizzou) are hinting around that they would want to go back to rejoin the Big 12. IF that happens, does the SEC expand too or do you already see the SEC expanding again in the near future. If the SEC were to expand, who would you think their main targets would be?
GODREY: I don’t think the SEC is interested in expanding for a while. Unless the Big 12 were to suddenly implode, there isn’t a school the league would want that could join without forfeiting their TV revenue for years – decades in some cases. The next possible major realignment could be 2025, when the current Big 12 TV rights are set to expire. That date could change soon with Big 12 expansion, but it’s impossible to see 10 years into the future of media rights. ESPN as we know it could be something very different by then.
RN: Let’s talk basketball on this one. Andy Kennedy now has the best arena in college basketball to recruit to. 1. Does that even matter to attract top kids. 2. Will fans keep supporting a coach who is averaging 20+ wins every years he’s been in Oxford and 3. Will Ole Miss ever take basketball as serious as they do football and baseball. Why is basketball at Ole Miss (even with it’s success) the third sport in Oxford?
GODFREY: I’m not sure it’s possible to turn a football school into a basketball school. There are plenty of national programs who have achieved a great balance – Ohio State, Wisconsin, Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon – but it takes years of developing consistent tournament teams. I’m doubtful Ole Miss will ever fully embrace basketball. Baseball took off in Oxford because it allowed Rebel fans to marry their true passion – socializing – with a live sporting event. Basketball is a much more game-focused experience. This disconnect between expectations for Kennedy and the true support he receives has always puzzled me.
RN: I think most Ole Miss fans see the Egg Bowl as a big rivalry game. But to the other guys, it seems to have become the only game that matters on their schedule anymore. In your opinion, why has this rivalry gotten so bitter since the arrival of Hugh Freeze? I think one fan base takes this game waaaay more serious than the other one.
GODFREY: Both fan bases have become obsessed. I know that because both sides claim the other is far too invested. I’m not sure if this is the peak of acrimony or not. I can remember some nasty games in the late 1990s for sure. I think the combination of national relevance for both programs and the social media culture have created a pressure cooker for fans. Mississippi’s population is such that you are very, very familiar with the other team’s fans. There isn’t a big city to hide in. This game is very personal; often stupidly so. But I would say that at the moment it’s nastier than most in-state rivalries.
RN: Ole Miss gets Alabama at home this year after back to back wins in 2014 and 2015. If the Rebels can pull off a 3-peat in 2016, what would that do for the Ole Miss football program overall (would they finally be a legitimate national contender) and would all of Bama Nation commit suicide by jumping over the top wall of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium?
GODFREY: I think a three-peat is unlikely (Editor’s Note: Saban ended the skid, as Bama held off Ole Miss escaping with a 48-43 win over the Rebels) – Saban hasn’t suffered a 0-3 run vs. a conference foe since he was at Michigan State. But let’s say it happens… I think this time Ole Miss will learn from its mistakes, namely the Memphis let down. Ole Miss is a young program relative to national title talk. They’ve mismanaged their momentum and they’ve failed to show consistency after big, big wins. But this isn’t unique to the Rebels; managing college football players’ psyches is hard. I will say that if Ole Miss is 4-0 with wins over FSU, UGA and Bama, that’s the best resume in the nation without argument. – RN
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