Last Updated: 2017-08-30
The bottom fell out for the Mississippi Rebels last season. Hugh Freeze took the job in 2012 and inherited a 2-10 team from Houston Nutt. During that first season, the Rebels improved dramatically and went 7-6. They followed that up with an 8-5 record, then a 9-4 record, then a 10-3 record. An 11-win season was not going to be in the cards in 2016, but not a whole lot of people saw a drop from 10 wins to five wins.
During the Freeze era, a massive recruiting windfall in Oxford has really changed the dynamic of the program. Freeze was regularly pulling top recruits at their respective positions. As some things have come to light, the recruiting classes have gone down a little bit. This is still a talented team loaded with a lot of premier recruits, but it could be a struggle. Coaching changes with both the offensive and defensive coordinator mean a lot of unknowns at Ole Miss.
Those that love points are going to love Ole Miss. Those that love cashing win totals will have to think long and hard about the 5.5 line at 5Dimes Sportsbook, with -130 on the over. Keep in mind that the number does not include conference championships or bowl games. It only applies to the regular season.
||@ Mississippi State
Total Expected Wins: 6.65
The Rebels have been a pretty potent offense on Hugh Freeze’s watch, but things could seriously go up a notch or two this season. Chad Kelly is gone and Dr. Bo Wallace is long gone, leaving true sophomore Shea Patterson with the keys to the very expensive car that is the Ole Miss offense. Offensive coordinator Phil Longo had been the OC at Sam Houston State, where the Mike Leach disciple had incorporated an Air Raid offense. The Bearkats still had a lot of success running the football and ran it a fair amount, but you can bet that Patterson, who was the #2 QB recruit in the 2016 class, is going to get a lot of chances to throw.
The question is who he will throw to. Van Jefferson is the top returnee at wide receiver with 49 catches. Evan Engram was a first-round pick and Damore’ea Stringfellow had over 15 yards per catch on his 46 catches. It doesn’t help that the running back position is also thin. The Rebels only ran for 149 yards per game last season and Akeem Judd, the leading rusher, is gone. There aren’t many game-breakers here, but there are four returning offensive linemen. If there’s one thing that Freeze has had success with at Ole Miss, it has been loading the OL up with talent. There’s high-upside talent to work with on offense.
Last year’s losses had a pretty devastating effect on the Rebels defense. Ole Miss went from 22.6 points and 386 yards per game to 34 points and 461 yards per game. The Rebels gave up 37 points per game in conference play, which is no way to win in the SEC. This season, five of the top six tackles are back and there aren’t any tremendously significant losses. The secondary was virtually brand new last season and very young, with freshmen all over the two deep. The front seven, rebuilt on the line, allowed 5.4 yards per carry.
First-year defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff has plenty of SEC experience as the co-DC at Auburn last year and he was actually the co-DC at Ole Miss during Freeze’s first year at the helm. There’s a lot of familiarity between these two and they should be on the same page, which will smooth over the transition for the Rebels. Unlike last season, when many of the top players moved on to the NFL, there should be more continuity this year, even with a new set of schemes. That will be helpful as the offense goes through its own growing pains.
As far as SEC schedules go, this one isn’t all that bad. The Rebels draw Vanderbilt and Kentucky from the East. They’ve also got three easy non-conference games to go along with a trip out to California, where the Rebels will be a comfortable favorite. The Alabama/Auburn back-to-back is brutal, but the Rebels were going to lose both of those regardless of when they were played. This is a team with a wide range of possible outcomes, though, with a bunch of new talent on offense and new schemes on both sides of the ball.
Win Total Pick: Over 5.5
As you can see from my numbers, this one makes sense as a numbers play. The schedule is pretty tolerable and there are three non-conference wins on the schedule, plus a game that the Rebels should win over a rebuilding California program under first-year head coach Justin Wilcox. The Rebels did only win two SEC games last season, but the schedule is a bit friendlier this year. There’s still a lot of talent here and it will have time to develop with that soft non-conference schedule and then a bye week.
<< Previous PostNext Post >>