2013 Ole Miss football's 10 things to know: The Rebels are never boring

Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

It is rare for a team to considerably improve or regress in one year. Well, it's rare for teams not named Ole Miss. The Rebels do it every damn year. Don't pretend like you know what might happen in Hugh Freeze's second year, following huge improvement and a stunning recruiting class in Year 1. For more on Ole Miss football, head over to Red Cup Rebellion.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. "Probably not. But hey, you never know, so keep reading."

In hiring him, Ole Miss somehow managed to be both conservative (he certainly came cheaper than other candidates) and ambitious.

The fall was drastic; is there any hope that Hugh Freeze can inherit what was once seen as decent raw talent and put a third instant turnaround on his resume? (Probably not. But hey, you never know, so keep reading.)

In reality, the line is probably still going to struggle, and the quarterback situation could very well remain unsettled.

So it's a bit of a good-news-bad-news situation up front: three of last year's top four-tacklers, and two of the four players to log more than 2.5 tackles for loss, are gone. New blood might not be a bad thing here, but defensive coordinator Dave Wommack will be filling in a two-deep with last year's backups (who were, in theory, not as good as the starters that were getting pushed around), freshmen and redshirt freshmen.

When you have won a combined six games in two years, and your schedule includes nine teams projected in the Top 50 (seven in the Top 25), you probably aren't going to be in major contention for a bowl game this year.

These are all things I said in what was, I felt, a reasonably positive Ole Miss preview about ten months ago. I felt it was rather optimistic because I said it was "not impossible" to see the Rebels somehow reaching 6-6. I even talked about the potential for a quick turnaround under a coach who had already engineered a few of them.

The hire of Hugh Freeze did not knock the socks off many in Oxford, but I loved it. Freeze's short resume is full of quick turnarounds and high quality, and if Ole Miss has proven anything in the last few years, it's that a) the Rebels can turn their fortunes around (in both directions) in a hurry, and b) wow, are the Rebels in need of such a turn around.

I still didn't see this. I didn't see Ole Miss not only making a bowl, but also signing a top-ten recruiting class and beginning the 2013 season justifiably in the preseason Top 25. I didn't see Freeze so quickly putting together a team that has wide swaths of potential at nearly every single position.

In 2013, Ole Miss will still be a work in progress. We should keep that in mind. We're still trying to figure out the Rebels' ceiling in an environment where the No. 7 recruiting class in the country (according to Rivals) was barely third in their own division. Ole Miss will still be ridiculously young this fall -- hell, with all of the star freshmen entering the rotation, the Rebels will actually be younger than they were last year -- and that's not typically a prompt for great success. But while we hope our school's new coach will engineer stunning progress on the field, in recruiting and in the optimism department, it doesn't actually happen.

At least, it usually doesn't. It has in Oxford.

2. Ole Miss football is not boring

Since 2006, 842 FBS teams have taken the field. Only 107 of them (13 percent) have either improved or regressed by 40 spots in the F/+ rankings in a single season. Ole Miss, meanwhile, has done so four times in five years. That's absurd. The Rebels rose from 77th to 10th in 2008, fell from 19th to 60th in 2010, fell from 60th to 100th in 2011, and rose from 100th to 40th in 2012. It's a little bit of a surprise if that happens to you once in seven years. Ole Miss yawns at "surprising."

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 10-3 | Final F/+ Rk: 40
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep Central Arkansas 49-27 W 38.3 - 31.2 W
8-Sep UTEP 28-10 W 38.6 - 21.2 W
15-Sep Texas 31-66 L 28.0 - 45.7 L
22-Sep Tulane 39-0 W 28.7 - 8.6 W
29-Sep at Alabama 14-33 L 30.0 - 15.1 W
6-Oct Texas A&M 27-30 L 31.4 - 27.4 W
13-Oct Auburn 41-20 W 33.5 - 23.6 W
27-Oct at Arkansas 30-27 W 27.1 - 27.1 L
3-Nov at Georgia 10-37 L 20.9 - 30.4 L
10-Nov Vanderbilt 26-27 L 31.7 - 26.6 W
17-Nov at LSU 35-41 L 37.0 - 31.0 W
24-Nov Mississippi State 41-24 W 37.5 - 20.6 W
5-Jan vs. Pittsburgh 38-17 W 30.9 - 13.7 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 31.5 47 27.6 60
Adj. Points Per Game 31.8 39 24.8 36

3. "NOOOOO."

This was one of the sillier, funnier stories of the 2012 season. Three weeks into the season, fresh off of an outright whipping at the hands of Texas (one in which a yelling Marine was the only person who could stop Marquise Goodwin), it was difficult to imagine everything that was to follow for Ole Miss. The Rebels were just a team that was trying to rebuild for about the 12th time in 25 years and facing a brutal schedule that would include visits to Alabama, Georgia and LSU. But somewhere between the Texas and Tulane games, Ole Miss figured out how to play a little defense. And it rather dramatically changed the course of the season. The Rebels were able to absorb a shoulder injury to quarterback Bo Wallace (and the miniature offensive slump that followed), reach a bowl game, and, of course, sign three five-star recruits and a strangely impressive recruiting class.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 3 games): Ole Miss 35.0, Opponent 32.7 (plus-2.3)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 10 games): Ole Miss 30.9, Opponent 22.4 (plus-8.5)

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 46 18 18 21
RUSHING 51 32 12 49
PASSING 49 14 27 14
Standard Downs 27 17 31
Passing Downs 14 16 15
Redzone 18 20 15
Q1 Rk 13 1st Down Rk 26
Q2 Rk 26 2nd Down Rk 44
Q3 Rk 58 3rd Down Rk 15
Q4 Rk 35

4. What a turnaround

You don't rise 60 spots in the F/+ rankings without improvement on both sides of the ball, but while Ole Miss' defensive improvement was impressive (from 78th in Def. F/+ to 34th), the turnaround on offense was stunning. At least, it would have been stunning for teams that aren't used to such surges. The Rebels fell to a dreadful 110th in Off. F/+ in 2011 with a decent running game and, despite two solid receivers, a horror show for a passing game. But Freeze and co-coordinators Matt Luke and Dan Werner were able to engineer immediate, across-the-board improvement from 110th to 34th. Junior-college transfer Bo Wallace stepped in at quarterback, and while he had some decision-making issues at times (we'll get to that), he led a passing game that improved from 78th in Passing PPP+ (explosiveness) to 14th despite the loss of No. 2 receiver Nick Brassell to academic issues. Donte Moncrief was an outstanding No. 1 receiver as a sophomore, Ja-Mes Logan improved his catch rate from 49 percent to 74 percent and became a steady possession receiver, and former star recruit Vince Sanders became a dependable No. 3.

Combine explosive passing with efficient running, and you have yourself an offense. Jeff Scott is in no way an explosive back, but despite his diminutive size, he was able to grind out key yardage on standard downs (despite what was only a decent line) and set Wallace up with favorable second and third downs.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Bo Wallace 6'4, 204 Jr. *** (5.6) 235 368 2,994 63.9% 22 17 28 7.1% 7.1
Barry Brunetti 6'0, 212 Sr. NR 23 36 196 63.9% 1 0 3 7.7% 4.6
Maikhail Miller 6'2, 240 So. *** (5.6)






Ryan Buchanan 6'3, 210 Fr. **** (5.8)






5. Live by the Wallace, die by the Wallace

Are you not entertained? Bo Wallace, the junior-college (via Arkansas State) transfer with the floppy bangs and total fearlessness, played through injuries, tucked the ball and ran at good defenses and managed to complete 64 percent of his passes and throw for 22 touchdowns. He also took far too many sacks and threw an interception for almost every touchdown. A little bit of fear can be a good thing at times. If Wallace can learn to throw the ball away under pressure and take what the defense gives him a bit more, Ole Miss could see even more improvement in 2013. But I'm not sure that's in his DNA. But hey, at least he's learning that he shouldn't take as many hits. That's something.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Jeff Scott RB 5'7, 170 Sr. *** (5.5) 197 850 4.3 3.7 6 -6.1
Bo Wallace QB 6'4, 204 Jr. *** (5.6) 115 571 5.0 4.8 8 +4.2
Randall Mackey RB 76 351 4.6 3.4 4 -2.7
Barry Brunetti QB 6'0, 212 Sr. NR 57 292 5.1 3.4 3 +1.2
I'Tavius Mathers RB 5'11, 196 So. **** (5.8) 27 208 7.7 7.2 1 +6.1
Jaylen Walton RB 5'8, 167 So. *** (5.7) 23 118 5.1 3.5 1 +1.3
Maikhail Miller QB 6'2, 240 So. *** (5.6) 6 23 3.8 1.6 0 -1.1
Mark Dodson RB 5'10, 193 Fr. **** (5.9)




Kailo Moore RB 5'10, 180 Fr. **** (5.8)





Jordan Wilkins RB 6'1, 210 Fr. **** (5.8)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Donte Moncrief WR-X 6'3, 216 Jr. **** (5.8) 102 66 979 64.7% 9.6 27.4% 67.6% 10.0 161.6
Ja-Mes Logan WR-H 6'3, 195 Sr. *** (5.5) 58 43 493 74.1% 8.5 15.6% 60.3% 8.5 81.4
Vince Sanders WR-Z 6'1, 190 Jr. **** (5.9) 55 39 504 70.9% 9.2 14.8% 65.5% 9.2 83.2
Korvic Neat WR-H 5'9, 164 Sr. *** (5.7) 35 24 257 68.6% 7.3 9.4% 48.6% 7.4 42.4
Randall Mackey RB 31 25 352 80.6% 11.4 8.3% 48.4% 11.8 58.1
Jeff Scott RB 5'7, 170 Sr. *** (5.5) 31 22 172 71.0% 5.5 8.3% 35.5% 5.2 28.4
Jamal Mosley TE 22 15 162 68.2% 7.4 5.9% 50.0% 7.2 26.7
Ferbia Allen TE 12 8 138 66.7% 11.5 3.2% 83.3% 11.5 22.8
Philander Moore WR 8 4 38 50.0% 4.8 2.2% 75.0% 6.3 6.3
Jaylen Walton RB 5'8, 167 So. *** (5.7) 5 3 57 60.0% 11.4 1.3% 40.0% 17.1 9.4
Collins Moore WR 6'1, 196 Jr. *** (5.7) 5 4 53 80.0% 10.6 1.3% 40.0% 11.8 8.7
Cody Core WR-X 6'3, 191 So. ** (5.4)








Jordan Holder WR-Z 5'11, 177 Sr. NR








Quadarias Mireles WR-H 5'11, 185 Jr. *** (5.6)








Laquon Treadwell WR 6'3, 198 Fr. ***** (6.1)








Quincy Adeboyejo WR 6'3, 175 Fr. **** (5.8)








6. Toys in the toy box

With Moncrief, Logan and Sanders, Ole Miss would have been returning a pretty solid trio of experienced, quality receivers even if they hadn't gone out and signed five-star freshman Laquon Treadwell this February. Now, Treadwell comes into a situation in which he doesn't face pressure to immediately become a No. 1-caliber receiver. But hey, if he were to turn out to be a Marqise Lee or Sammy Watkins, an instant, high-impact guy, I don't think anybody in Oxford would complain.

It's the same story at running back, where sophomores I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton would have been pushing Scott for carries even if Ole Miss hadn't brought in three new four-star running backs. It will be interesting to see how the targets and carries are divvied up and how quickly some potentially high-impact freshmen get their turn in the pool.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 102.5 2.88 2.96 42.8% 71.7% 22.4% 86.2 3.8% 12.5%
Rank 63 77 82 25 45 107 82 45 120
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
A.J. Hawkins RG 28 career starts
Evan Swindall C 6'4, 295 Sr. *** (5.5) 22 career starts
Aaron Morris LG 6'5, 330 Jr. **** (5.8) 18 career starts
Emmanuel McCray LT 6'5, 316 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 career starts
Pierce Burton RT 6'6, 289 Sr. *** (5.6) 13 career starts
Patrick Junen RG 6'7, 325 Sr. NR 10 career starts
Jared Duke LG 6'7, 354 Sr. *** (5.6) 6 career starts
Derrick Wilson LT 6'2, 326 Sr. NR
Ben Still C 6'2, 280 So. *** (5.5)
Justin Bell RG 6'3, 335 So. *** (5.6)
Robert Conyers RT 6'3, 277 RSFr. *** (5.6)
Austin Douglas C 6'2, 320 Jr. ** (5.4)
Laremy Tunsil OL 6'6, 295 Fr. ***** (6.1)
Austin Golson OL 6'6, 284 Fr. **** (5.9)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 45 32 38 26
RUSHING 26 25 23 30
PASSING 82 43 58 40
Standard Downs 46 40 47
Passing Downs 21 37 16
Redzone 36 28 54
Q1 Rk 10 1st Down Rk 30
Q2 Rk 52 2nd Down Rk 17
Q3 Rk 25 3rd Down Rk 45
Q4 Rk 52

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 119.5 2.82 1.83 35.5% 68.4% 24.4% 125.8 5.8% 10.1%
Rank 9 46 4 25 67 12 26 27 15
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
C.J. Johnson DE 6'3, 233 Jr. ***** (6.1) 13 41.5 5.5% 8 6.5 0 1 0 1
Issac Gross NT 6'1, 254 So. *** (5.7) 13 27.5 3.6% 10 2.5 0 1 0 0
Gilbert Pena NT 13 24.0 3.2% 6.5 2 0 0 0 0
Jason Jones DE 13 23.5 3.1% 7.5 3.5 0 1 0 0
Uriah Grant DT 11 19.0 2.5% 7 5 0 0 0 0
Cameron Whigham DE 6'3, 255 Sr. ** (5.2) 13 17.5 2.3% 2 1.5 0 0 0 2
E.J. Epperson DE 13 17.0 2.3% 4 1 0 3 2 0
Channing Ward DE 6'4, 256 So. **** (6.0) 12 15.0 2.0% 1.5 0 0 0 0 0
Woodrow Hamilton NT 6'3, 292 So. *** (5.6) 8 6.5 0.9% 1.5 1 0 0 0 0
Bryon Bennett DT 6'2, 294 Jr. *** (5.7) 13 6.0 0.8% 1.5 1 0 0 0 0
Carlton Martin NT 6'2, 288 Jr. **** (5.8) 12 4.0 0.5% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Carlos Thompson DE 6'4, 243 Jr. **** (5.8)
John Youngblood DE 6'3, 237 RSFr. ** (5.4)
Lavon Hooks DT 6'4, 290 Jr. **** (6.0)

Robert Nkemdiche DE 6'5, 260 Fr. ***** (6.1)






7. Continuing the magic up front

In last year's preview, I talked about how disappointing the Ole Miss defensive line had been in 2011, ranking worse than 80th in Adj. Line Yards and worse than 100th in Adj. Sack Rate despite the presence of what were, at one time, some pretty high-caliber recruits. That changed dramatically in 2012. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack and line coach Chris Kiffin unlocked this unit's potential. The Rebels improved all the way to ninth in Adj. Line Yards and a more than respectable 26th in Adj. Sack Rate. With a deep, extremely active set of tackles, Ole MIss both stood up to run blocking and frequently sliced into the backfield. This was the line Ole Miss was supposed to have all along.

In 2013, depth could potentially be an issue for the line, but wow, is there potential here. C.J. Johnson, a former blue-chipper who really started to play like it in 2012, returns, as does sophomore tackle Isaac Gross. But the next two tackles on the list are gone, as is end Jason Jones. Ole Miss had six linemen with at least four tackles for loss last fall, and now four are gone.

But if you're going to have to lean on newcomers to fill in the depth chart, they might as well include the No. 1 high school recruit and the No. 2 junior college recruit according to Rivals.com. Junior tackle Lavon Hooks rang up 21 tackles for loss at NE Mississippi Community College, while incoming freshman Robert Nkemdiche was the most sought-after high school senior in the country. Unlike Treadwell, the newcomers will perhaps face a little bit more pressure to succeed early, but with Johnson and Gross leading the way, they could still get away with playing complementary roles for a while. Jadeveon Clowney had Melvin Ingram and Devin Taylor leading the way when he was a freshman. For Nkemdiche, expectations are going to be oppressively high (nobody should have their name associated with Clowney's this much before even playing a down of college ball), but he'll have a steady, if potentially thin, supporting cast helping him along.

If the line can achieve at a level similar to last year's -- there's certainly potential for it to do so, even if the newcomers make it something less than a given -- then the experienced back seven of the defense could once again wreak havoc. The linebackers are fun, fast, mostly light and active, and after a year of junior college, Nick Brassell rejoins the squad, this time (evidently) as a defensive back. In all, four of the top-five linebackers return, as does every defensive back who logged at least 13.0 tackles last year. Last year's improvement came with a rather inexperienced defense (outside of the line). Experience is no longer an issue.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Denzel Nkemdiche OLB 5'11, 203 So. NR 13 59.5 7.9% 13 3 3 5 4 1
Mike Marry MLB 6'3, 256 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 57.5 7.6% 10.5 2.5 1 0 1 1
Joel Kight MLB 13 36.5 4.8% 3 1 0 2 0 1
Serderius Bryant OLB 5'9, 223 Jr. *** (5.7) 13 22.5 3.0% 3.5 0 0 1 0 0
Keith Lewis OLB 6'1, 235 Jr. *** (5.6) 13 15.5 2.1% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Aaron Garbutt LB 9 13.0 1.7% 1 1 0 0 0 0
D.T. Shackelford MLB 6'1, 250 Sr. **** (5.8)

Temario Strong MLB 6'0, 240 RSFr. *** (5.6)






8. The gift

The number of "ifs" it took for Robert Nkemdiche to land at Ole Miss was staggering. But the primary connection is easy to understand: Nkemdiche's relatively unrecruited brother, Denzel, not only showed up in Oxford to play for Houston Nutt two years prior, but under a new regime, Denzel improbably thrived as a severely undersized outside linebacker, or STINGER back in Wommack's flexible 4-2-5 (almost 4-1-6, with big Mike Marry as the anchor in the middle) scheme. On a defense full of former three, four and five-star recruits, the older Nkemdiche raised the biggest ruckus. You're not going to find many players capable of recording 13 tackles for loss and defensing eight passes, but that's what he did. And his success played an incredibly large role in bringing his younger brother to town. Robert got all of the recruiting hype, but he will have to play really well to catch up to the number of feats his brother has already recorded.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Cody Prewitt FS 6'2, 214 Jr. **** (5.8) 13 62.0 8.2% 5 1.5 2 4 2 2
Charles Sawyer CB 5'11, 181 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 53.5 7.1% 4 1.5 1 8 0 1
Trae Elston ROV 6'0, 190 So. *** (5.7) 12 46.5 6.2% 1 1 0 6 0 1
Senquez Golson CB 5'9, 188 Jr. *** (5.7) 12 29.0 3.8% 0.5 0 3 3 0 0
Mike Hilton NB 5'8, 182 So. *** (5.6) 12 27.5 3.6% 3.5 2 0 0 2 0
Dehendret Collins CB 5'10, 185 Sr. *** (5.6) 11 23.0 3.1% 3 0 3 5 0 0
Chief Brown FS 6'1, 202 So. *** (5.6) 12 13.5 1.8% 0 0 1 0 1 1
Louis Covington CB 9 11.0 1.5% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Wesley Pendleton DB 8 11.0 1.5% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Cliff Coleman DB 5'10, 181 Jr. *** (5.6) 10 10.0 1.3% 0 0 0 5 0 0
Quintavius Burdette ROV 5'11, 189 So. ** (5.2) 13 10.0 1.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Brishen Mathews NB 6'0, 200 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 8.0 1.1% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Standifer CB 6'0, 182 So. *** (5.7) 3 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Davis CB 5'9, 163 So. ** (5.3)

Nick Brassell CB 6'1, 180 Jr. **** (5.9)

Antonio Conner DB 6'2, 202 Fr. **** (6.0)

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Jim Broadway 57 41.1 2 19 15 59.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Bryson Rose 53 62.1 24 45.3%
Nathan Noble 6'4, 211 So. 27 63.6 11 40.7%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Bryson Rose 49-49 11-13 84.6% 7-15 46.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jaylen Walton KR 5'8, 167 So. 26 24.7 1
Carlos Davis KR 5'9, 163 So. 4 15.8 0
Korvic Neat PR 5'9, 164 Sr. 16 5.1 0
Philander Moore PR 5 -1.4 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 111
Net Punting 62
Net Kickoffs 45
Touchback Pct 36
Field Goal Pct 91
Kick Returns Avg 84
Punt Returns Avg 100

9. Stop giving away points

There was one area in which Ole Miss regressed severely in 2012: special teams. The Rebels fell from 13th to 111th in Special Teams F/+, doing well in the kickoffs department and poorly just about everywhere else. You don't have to be awesome at special teams, but since it does make up about 10-15 percent of a given game, you are setting yourself up to fail if you aren't at least competent here.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug at Vanderbilt 49
7-Sep SE Missouri NR
14-Sep at Texas 11
28-Sep at Alabama 1
5-Oct at Auburn 59
12-Oct Texas A&M 13
19-Oct LSU 3
26-Oct Idaho 121
9-Nov Arkansas 37
16-Nov Troy 102
23-Nov Missouri 39
30-Nov at Mississippi State 51
Five-Year F/+ Rk 38
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 23
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -1 / +0.5
TO Luck/Game -0.6
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 18 (8, 10)
Yds/Pt Margin** -0.1

10. A strangely navigable slate

If Ole Miss is truly a Top 20-25 team this season, and it certainly could be, then there are a lot of wins to be found on the 2013 schedule. Yes, trips to Alabama and Texas are brutal, and yes, the Rebels will be underdogs in home games versus LSU and Texas A&M. But they play three insanely winnable non-conference games, their trips to Auburn and Mississippi State are far from intimidating, and they play Vanderbilt and Missouri from the East instead of, say, Georgia and Florida. A Top 25 team can go 9-3 against this schedule. Hell, a Top 15 team could go 10-2. But if the Rebels only consolidate their gains in 2013, if they take a year to get all of the pieces settled before a 2014 surge, and if they are only a Top 40 (or so) team, then expectations fall to simply reaching another bowl.

Typically when a team improves so dramatically in one year, regression toward the mean is likely the next season. Teams also don't typically come out of nowhere to sign a top-ten class after languishing at a much lower level in the preceding years. But Ole Miss is in no way typical. We knew that before Hugh Freeze even came to town, and we definitely know it now. I'm pretty optimistic about this team, but one probably doesn't make much money betting on the Rebels, one way or another.

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