Desoto County Sports

Finebaum expects Rebels to play in College Football Playoffs 

Photo: Paul Finebaum, ESPN national talk show host, speaks to reporters ahead of his appearance at Monday evening’s Memphis Touchdown Club meeting. (Bob Bakken/

With the expansion of the college football playoffs next season to 12 teams from the previous four, Ole Miss should be expected to be one of the teams vying for a national championship. At least that’s according to Memphis native and national talk show host Paul Finebaum, who was the featured speaker at the Memphis Touchdown Club gathering Monday night.  

At a brief media gathering before the meeting, Finebaum said he felt there could be teams in the revamped playoff format with as many as three losses when they start. 

“You could possibly even lose three games and make the playoffs if you lose early and then score a big win late,” Finebaum said. “ So it’s a completely different dynamic, but I think three to four (SEC teams) is a conservative estimate for teams in the playoffs.”

As far as the Rebels are concerned, Finebaum said he fully expects them to be extending their year into the postseason.  

“I think this is the best Ole Miss team, maybe since the 60s and Johnny Vaught,” Finebaum said. “I think Ole Miss is a legitimate national championship team. They have an incredible team there and what they’re bringing in from various places is phenomenal.”

Finebaum said Mississippi State has a lot of ground to catch up in coach Jeff Lebby’s first season as head coach. Lebby was named head coach back in November of last year, coming from Oklahoma where he was offensive coordinator.  

“They’re going to have to accelerate everything they do to keep up,” Finebaum said. “I think there is a commitment. There is Zack Selmon, who is a phenomenal athletic director and I’ve gotten to know him really well. But I think overall though, they have a lot of ground to catch up and I think it can be done.”

According to Finebaum, Memphis has a chance this fall to be one of the teams in the playoffs from the so-called “Group of Five.”

“There’s a lot of excitement for Memphis football and seems like it will be in contention for that Group of Five spot,” Finebaum said. “I think this is a great time in Memphis.”

The ESPN national sports talk host also said he supports the Memphis program’s continual efforts to move into another conference, if another round of conference realignment takes place.

“I thought the ACC quite frankly, a year ago made a mistake not taking Memphis versus SMU,” said Finebaum. “What does SMU bring to the table? Absolutely nothing in my opinion. I think the Big 12 made a bigger mistake when they took Houston and UCF, and didn’t come to Memphis this way.”

When asked about the possibility of Memphis and Arkansas renewing their basketball rivalry, Finebaum felt it would be beneficial to do so for both teams, including Arkansas with new coach John Calipari. It was Calipari who ended the rivalry when he coached at Memphis and wouldn’t hook up during the season against the Tigers when at Kentucky.   

“I think it would be absolutely absurd not to rekindle it,” said Finebaum. “Why wouldn’t you have a basketball game that the whole country would be excited about? Especially the two fan bases who are among the most rabid.”