Ole Miss Rebels
Head Coach: Hugh Freeze
2015 record: 10-3 overall, 6-2 SEC West
2015 Postseason results: Beat Oklahoma State 48-20 in the Sugar Bowl
2015 returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense
Odds to win 2017 College Football Championship game: 66/1
Odds to win 2016 SEC Championship Game: 27/2
Odds to Win 2015 SEC West Division: +745
Regular season wins: under 8 1/2 -150 / over 8 1/2 +120
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The Mississippi Rebels had three players drafted in the first round of the NFL draft and only have ten starters returning. Still, there is a lot of talent and the Rebels look to again contend for the SEC West title under coach Hugh Freeze.
Last year, Ole Miss opened the season 4-0 including beating Alabama for the second straight season. The Rebels then lost 2 of their next 3 games to Florida and Memphis. The Rebels won 5 of their last 6 games, with the only blemish being a 53-52 loss in overtime to Arkansas. Ole Miss ended the season with a 48-20 rout of Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl.
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Mississippi averaged 517 yards per game on offense including 335 passing yards and scored 41 points a game. the Rebels were in the top ten nationally in all three categories. Five starters are back for co-coordinators Dan Werner and Matt Luke.
Quarterback Chad Kelly is back after thrown for 4,042 yards with 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and had 107 carries for 500 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is arguably the best quarterback in the SEC, and will likely be a star NFL quarterback like his hall-of-fame uncle Jim Kelly. Freshman Shea Patterson will be the back-up and quarterback of the future.
Running back Jaylen Walton has graduated after rushing for 730 yards with 5 touchdowns, and making 23 catches. Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins were supposed to split the carries. However, Wilkins was ruled academically ineligible and is out for the season. Judd had 77 carries for 421 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Wilkins had 72 carries for 379 yards and 4 touchdowns. Eugene Brazely will likely get more carries with out Wilkins after rushing for 222 yards and 3 touchdowns last year.
Receiver Laquon Treadwell was a first round pick by the Minnesota Vikings. He had 82 catches for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns. Cody Core is also in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals after making 37 catches for 644 yards and 4 touchdowns. Quincy Adeboyejo is back after making 38 catches for 604 yards and 7 touchdowns last year. Damore’ea Stringfellow is also back after making 36 catches for 503 yards and 5 touchdowns. Markell Pack had 31 catches for 380 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is battling thumb injury and is questionable for the start of the season. Tight end Evan Engram had 38 catches for 464 yards and 2 touchdowns. Despite making only one catch last year, slot receiver DaMarkus Lodge is slated to start.
The line must replace four starters including tackle Laremy Tunsil, who was a first round pick by the Miami Dolphins. Tunsil’s effects might be felt for years after because on the night of the draft someone hacked his twitter account and posted screenshots of text messages of Tunsil allegedly soliciting Ole Miss staff for money. An NCAA investigation is pending. True freshman Greg Little moves into the left tackle spot vacated by Tunsil.
Ole Miss allowed 386 yards per game on defense including 259 passing and 23 points per game. Five starters are also back for defensive coordinators Jason Jones and Dave Wommack.
Tackle Robert Nkemdiche was a first round pick by the Arizona Cardinals. He had seven tackles for loss and 3 sacks last year. End Marquis Haynes had 16.5 tackles for loss including a school record 10 sacks. Fadol Brown also has NFL potential at the other end, but is doubtful with a foot injury. Breeland Speaks and D.J. Jones will start at the tackles. Tackle Isaac Gross missed almost all of last season after a neck injury, but has 27.5 career tackles for loss.
A pair of transfers should bolster the linebackers. Graduate transfer Rommel Mageo had 87 tackles for Oregon State last year. JUCO transfer Detric Bing-Dukes will also make an impact. DeMarquise Gates led the Rebels in tackles at 76 last year. Terry Caldwell should also contribute.
Nickel back Tony Gates looks to return to form after missing all but three games last season. He has NFL potential if healthy. Zedrick Woods and C.J. Hampton are new starters at safety.
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Kicker Gary Wunderlich converted 19 of 25 field goals and all 63 extra points he attempted. Punter Will Gleeson looks to bounce back from a sub-par year. Carlos Davis will return both kicks and punts.
Schedule and Outlook
Ole Miss opens the season on Labor Day in Orlando against Florida State. It doesn’t get much easier as Ole Miss hosts Wofford, Alabama, Georgia and Memphis. Then comes road games at Arkansas and LSU. The Rebels host Auburn and Georgia Southern, before road games at Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. Ole Miss hosts Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl to close out the season.
The schedule is very difficult with four top 25 teams in the first seven games, including three ranked in the preseason top five. I think Ole Miss will have a slight drop off from the last two years but I still think they win 8 or 9 games.
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