Ole Miss Rebels
Head Coach: Hugh Freeze
2014 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 SEC West
2014 Postseason results: Lost to TCU 42-3 in the Peach Bowl
2015 returning starters: 9 offense, 7 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 50/1
Odds to win 2015 SEC Championship Game: 17/2
Odds to Win 2015 SEC West Division: +510
Regular season wins: under 8 1/2 -130 / over 8 1/2 -110
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Last year, the Ole Miss Rebels started off the season 7-0 and were dreaming of the SEC title and qualifying for the inaugural College Football playoffs. However, the wheels came off the Rebel bandwagon in the second half as they went 2-4. Ole Miss still qualified for one of the New Year’s Six bowl games, but were crushed by TCU 42-3 in the Peach Bowl.
Sixteen starters are back for coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels have a chance to contend for the SEC title again.
Nine starters are back for co-coordinators Matt Luke and Dan Werner. Last year, Ole Miss averaged 419 yards per game on offense and 28 points per game.
The Rebels must replace quarterback Bo Wallace. He threw for 3,194 yards with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, along with 121 carries for 199 yards and 5 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Chad Kelly was dismissed from Clemson after an arrest and had to play a year at junior college. Still, he is the favorite to take over as the quarterback. He wasn’t officially named as the starter though, and will compete with redshirt sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DaVante Kincade for the job in fall camp.
Senior running back Jaylen Walton is back after he had 106 carries for 586 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus 19 catches for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jordan Wilkins is also back after rushing for 361 yards on 52 carries with a touchdown. JUCo transfer Akeem Judd will also get a lot of carries. Freshman Eric Swinney had to have surgery on a stress fracture and his status for the fall is up in the air. I’tavius Mathers (67 carries, 290 yards and 3 touchdowns) has transferred to Middle Tennessee and Mark Dodson (36 carries, 249 yards and 4 touchdowns) has graduated.
The Rebels must replace leading receiver Vince Sanders who had 39 catches for 696 yards and 6 touchdowns, but has graduated. Junior tight end Evan Engram is back after making 38 catches for 662 yards and 2 touchdowns. Receiver LaQuon Treadwell missed the last 4 games of the season with a leg injury, but is healthy. He had 48 catches for 632 yards and 5 touchdowns before the injury. He could be a top 10 pick in the NFL if he stays healthy. Cody Core had 41 catches for 558 yards and 6 touchdowns. Quincy Adeboyejo is also back after making 26 catches for 313 yards and 2 touchdowns.
All five starters are back on the offensive line, headlined by left tackle Laremy Tunsil. He has NFL potential, but is coming off a broken leg and dislocated ankle suffered in the Peach Bowl. All of the rest of the returners are seniors but they struggled with consistency. Freshman guard Javon Patterson was a 5 star recruit and could take some playing time from the veterans.
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Ole Miss gave up 329 yards per game on defense including 192 passing and 137 rushing yards. The Rebels were #29 or better nationally in all three categories. Mississippi led the nation in points allowed at 16 points a game. Seven starters are back for co-coordinators Jason Jones and Dave Wommack.
Three starters are back on the defensive line, headlined by All-American tackle Robert Nkemdiche. He is another NFL prospect. Nose tackle Isaac Gross and end Fadol Brown are also back. JUCO transfer D.J. Jones will also see some time at tackle as a run stopper.
Linebackers C.J. Johnson and Tony Conner are also back. Conner plays both outside linebacker and the nickelback. Robert’s older brother Denzel Nkemdiche is back at the other outside linebacker after suffering an ankle injury that kept him out for November and the Bowl game.
The Rebels must replace two All-American defensive backs, but Tony Bridges and Tee Shepard were very impressive in the spring. Ole Miss moved Mike Hilton to safety where he will start alongside Trae Elston.
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Sophomore kicker Gary Wunderlich is back after making 6 of 8 field goals. Punter Will Gleeson planted 24 of 58 kicks inside the 20 last year and is a rugby style punter. Walton will return kicks, and freshman Jaylen Julius will return punts.
After warm-ups against UT-Martin and Fresno State both at home, Ole Miss travels to Alabama. The Rebels close out September with a home game against Vanderbilt. In October, Ole Miss has road games at Florida, Memphis and Auburn, and home games against New Mexico State and Texas A&M. November brings home games against Arkansas and LSU and the annual Egg Bowl showdown against Mississippi State.
The road schedule is very tough, and the Rebels could take a step back in 2015. I think Ole Miss wins 8 or 9 games, and qualifies for a mid-tier bowl.
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