HOOVER, Ala. — Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace's career passing numbers are drastically higher than any other returning quarterback in the Southeastern Conference.
Yet on Thursday, Mississippi's senior learned the media had selected him for the All-SEC preseason third team, putting Auburn's Nick Marshall on the first team and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott on the second team.
He wasn't happy about it.
Wallace said the perceived slight "adds another chip on my shoulder that I play with anyway." Mississippi has 15 starters returning, including nine on defense, from a team that finished 8-5 last season.
Now third-year coach Hugh Freeze said he expects the Rebels to be "very relevant in the SEC West." Ole Miss has never been to the SEC championship game since the league split to two divisions in 1992.
Wallace is a big reason why the Rebels are so confident in their chances this year. He threw for 3,346 yards and 18 touchdowns last season despite dealing with a surgically-repaired throwing shoulder that he says wasn't always 100 percent during the season.
Wallace said he wasn't surprised Marshall was named first-team All-SEC because he led Auburn to an SEC championship and the national title game. But Prescott's placement on the second team — especially considering he plays for the rival Bulldogs — was a big surprise.
Mississippi State beat Ole Miss 17-10 in overtime in the Egg Bowl last season when a banged-up Prescott returned to lead the Bulldogs. A Wallace fumble ended the game. He has no doubt that's part of the reason some view Prescott as the superior quarterback.
"I think about it every day," Wallace said. "I work every day to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Wallace has at least one big fan: his coach. Freeze said Wallace is maturing and should have a good senior season.
"The guy has a chance to own every passing record in Ole Miss history before he leaves," Freeze said. "Like I've said in many interviews, there's no way we win two bowl games without him the past two seasons."
Wallace should also get some help from his defense, which returns several key contributors from last season. All-American safety Cody Prewitt led the SEC with six interceptions while linebacker Serderius Bryant had 78 tackles, including 12½ for a loss.
Ole Miss opens the season with a high-profile game against Boise State on Aug. 28 in Atlanta.
Freeze said it's a chance for the Rebels to elevate their profile and prove they're ready to contend in the SEC.
"We're excited and hopefully can embrace the opportunity and the magnitude it will have on expanding our brand nationally," Freeze said. "You certainly know that could help."