Beating Alabama once is tough. Doing it in back-to-back years during Nick Saban's tenure is almost impossible. Only Les Miles' LSU Tigers have pulled it off, doing so in 2010 and 2011.
Hugh Freeze's Ole Miss Rebels will have a chance to join the exclusive club on Saturday.
The reason No. 15 Ole Miss has a chance is because of recruiting. Freeze's first three full recruiting classes netted 76 signees, 24 of which were rated four- or five-stars by the 247Sports Composite rankings. That ratio isn't excellent by SEC West standards, but it is significantly better than the previous staff. With a combination of renewed energy and knowledge of the crucial Memphis area, the former high school coach and his staff have connected with recruits.
Their best work came in 2013, when Ole Miss pulled in five-stars like defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, receiver Laquon Treadwell and safety Tony Conner, plus seven four-star recruits. All four have been major hits for the program. They keyed a tremendous season for the Rebels in 2014, including the first win over Alabama in more than a decade.
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What is so impressive about the 2013 class is Ole Miss' hit rate. About a third of the depth chart is made up of juniors, and several more members from the 2013 class are key reserves. Ole Miss could have four or more members of the class leave early for the NFL after this season.
So, this season might be the last chance for the 2013 class to make its impact on the field. That could mean Ole Miss' first 10-win season since 2003, or perhaps its first SEC West title, since, well, ever. And that starts with attempting to spring the upset of Alabama. The Tide out-recruits Ole Miss by a significant margin, but Freeze and company's success rate gives the Rebels a shot.
They may have to do so without the help of Tunsil, who has been held out due to NCAA concerns. That'll make the task of taking down Alabama even tougher. One of the biggest questions about Ole Miss is whether it can run the football effectively. Alabama has the best front seven in the country, and while it has a newer secondary, challenging it on third-and-long is probably not the best course for the Ole Miss offense.
On the recruiting trail, though, this class has already cemented its legacy. No. 1 overall recruit Nkemdiche and others made it cool for elite players, especially those from outside of Mississippi, to attend Ole Miss. You can trace the genesis of the well-ranked 2016 class -- a class that is a dark horse to stop Alabama's streak of No. 1 classes -- to 2013. The 2016 group currently features 19 commitments and eight blue chips, including No. 1 QB Shea Patterson. Six of Ole Miss' top-10 commitments are from outside Mississippi.
It's too early to know what the final chapter will be for Ole Miss' 2013 class. But already, it has changed Ole Miss' status on the recruiting trail in the modern era and likely given the Rebels staying power after its exit.