Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. Ole Miss is never, ever boring
Let's start with a flashback to my 2012 team preview.
The Ole Miss of the present tense has battled a spectacular case of bipolarity, capable of greatness, but only fleetingly.
Now Hugh Freeze steps in. Freeze's résumé is nearly flawless -- 30-8 career record as a head coach (at two programs that combined for a 7-16 record in the years before he took over), strong offensive resume, delightful grasp of the hybrid positions that are currently en vogue -- but it also fits on just one page. And in hiring him, Ole Miss somehow managed to be both conservative (he came cheaper than other candidates) and ambitious. But contradiction has been the name of the game in Oxford for most of the last half-century.
The Rebels find ways to stand out, for better or worse. Their last seven coaches:
- Billy Brewer, who led the Rebels to five winning seasons and three bowl wins and got them wrecked by NCAA probation.
- Joe Lee Dunn, Brewer's defensive coordinator who coached for just one 4-7 season (1994) and ended up at Mississippi State by 1996.
- Tommy Tuberville, who guided the Rebels through probation, led them to bowls, announced "they'll have to carry me out of here in a pine box" in response to rumors, then left for Auburn two days later.
- David Cutcliffe, who kept Eli Manning at home, led Ole Miss to five consecutive winning seasons (the first time that had happened since John Vaught's last five years), and got fired after a single losing season.
- Ed Orgeron, who is Ed Orgeron.
- Houston Nutt, who is Houston Nutt.
- Freeze, who had just six years of college experience, one third of it at Lambuth, a defunct NAIA program.
Freeze inherited a program that had won six games in two years, and he won seven games in 2012, eight in 2013, nine in 2014, and 10 in 2015. He has built a deep, physical squad that is almost as marvelous in failure as it is in increasing success.
In 2014, Freeze's Rebels were the best team in the country through two months, then crashed in amazing fashion, losing via last-minute interception at LSU, then to Auburn when their star receiver suffered a significant injury and fumbled millimeters before the game-winning touchdown. They finished by getting humiliated by TCU in the Peach Bowl.
In 2015, they dealt with injuries and suspensions to nearly every star, shuffled their offensive line and defense constantly, beat eventual national champion Alabama (in Tuscaloosa!) for the second straight year, and lost to Memphis four weeks later. They rallied, lost the best game of the 2015 season, 53-52, to Arkansas, and then beat LSU, Mississippi State, and Oklahoma State by a combined 60 points.
The Rebs enter 2016 in an interesting place. They are 12th in the Coaches Poll, and because of last season's injuries and suspensions, they got a lot of players experience and are perhaps better suited to handle the loss of stars like Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell, and Robert Nkemdiche than they would have otherwise been.
They could get hit with the NCAA's sanctions hammer at any moment between tomorrow and about 2019, but before they inevitably deal with scholarship reductions, Freeze and company have built a roster with both experience and thrilling young talent in every unit.
They might fall drastically short of expectations. They might win the SEC. They might be banned from the postseason by November. They are endlessly fascinating.
|Record: 10-3 | Adj. Record: 12-1 | Final F/+ Rk: 5 | Final S&P+ Rk: 5|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|10-Oct||New Mexico State||118||52-3||W||98%||100%||+22.3||+5.5|
|28-Nov||at Mississippi State||16||38-27||W||91%||97%||+9.3||+10.0|
|1-Jan||vs. Oklahoma State||40||48-20||W||96%||100%||+19.9||+20.5|
|Points Per Game||40.8||8||22.6||33|
2. A commendable rebound
The biggest difference in Ole Miss' 2015 was resilience. The 2014 Rebels were strong, but once they had their heart broken, they crumbled. It was understandable -- the way they lost the Auburn game was an all-time stomach punch -- but it was still a missed opportunity. They managed to beat Mississippi State, but the Egg Bowl win came between a 30-point loss to Arkansas and a 39-point loss to TCU.
By midseason 2015, the defense was becoming a disheveled mess. Safety Tony Conner got hurt against Alabama, and linebacker C.J. Johnson got hurt against Florida. Tackles Issac Gross and Herbert Moore had been out for a while. Nkemdiche left the Memphis game with a concussion. Ole Miss was vulnerable, and Memphis took complete advantage, throwing for 384 yards. They scored 37 points -- two weeks after Florida had scored 38 -- and Ole Miss lost for the second time in three weeks.
This time, there was a rebound. Arkansas still exploded for 53 points (45 in regulation), but the Rebs looked mostly awesome down the stretch.
- First 4 games:
Record: 4-0 | Average percentile performance: 91% (~top 11) |
- Next 5 games:
Record: 3-2 | Average percentile performance: 67% (~top 40) |
- Last 4 games:
Record: 3-1 | Average percentile performance: 90% (~top 13) |
The 2015 team was far more mature, and while quite a few of the reasons for that maturity are gone, plenty are back.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||50.4%||4||Succ. Rt. +||128.6||3|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||30.1||72||Def. FP+||28.0||35|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||5.1||14||Redzone S&P+||129.1||2|
|Q1 Rk||1||1st Down Rk||6|
|Q2 Rk||17||2nd Down Rk||11|
|Q3 Rk||17||3rd Down Rk||2|
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Chad Kelly||6'2, 224||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8727||298||458||4042||31||13||65.1%||17||3.6%||8.2|
|Jason Pellerin||6'4, 230||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8772|
|Shea Patterson||6'2, 200||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9979|
3. Lucky and good
Kelly's most memorable pass was also his luckiest. He fielded a bad snap, faced three charging Alabama pass rushers, and threw desperately toward a well-covered Treadwell, who tipped the ball to Quincy Adeboyejo for a long touchdown in an eventual six-point win. It was incredible and fluky as hell.
The play exposed both Kelly's swagger and occasional silliness. The latter backfired on him at times, as he threw 13 interceptions, but his confidence was important. Ole Miss ranked second in Passing S&P+ and did so despite playing half of its season without Tunsil. Kelly plays with the swagger of a guy who has a rap song about himself and declared himself the best QB in the SEC over the summer. I'm pretty sure he's right, and I don't think it's particularly close.
The gunslinger threw for 4,042 yards, and while Treadwell was the bell cow, catching more than twice as many balls as anyone else, the supporting cast was too important to ignore. Six other Rebels caught at least 23 passes, and four of them return.
Damore'ea Stringellow and Adeboyejo are back after combining for 74 catches and 1,107 yards at 9.7 yards per target. So is tight end Evan Engram, one of the early stars of the celebrated 2013 recruiting class, after catching 38 balls last year. It appears slot receiver Markell Pack is going to be out for a little while, but blue-chip redshirt freshman Van Jefferson appeared to have already surpassed him on the depth chart. And as long as one of three four-star freshman receivers is ready to contribute, it appears Ole Miss' receiving corps will be loaded.
|Chad Kelly||QB||6'2, 224||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8727||90||646||10||7.2||5.3||57.8%||8||2|
|Akeem Judd||RB||5'11, 228||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8781||78||425||3||5.4||4.0||46.2%||0||0|
|Jordan Wilkins (ineligible)||RB||6'1, 215||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9100||72||379||4||5.3||5.7||41.7%||1||1|
|Eugene Brazley||RB||5'9, 192||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8641||21||219||3||10.4||18.1||38.1%||1||1|
|D.K. Buford||RB||5'11, 227||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8687||7||78||1||11.1||11.6||57.1%||1||1|
|Jeremy Liggins||TE/OL||6'3, 310||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8697||4||1||0||0.3||0.0||0.0%||1||0|
|Eric Swinney||RB||5'9, 210||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9423|
|D'Vaughn Pennamon||RB||5'11, 218||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9091|
4. The run game came around
For the most part, Ole Miss was improving year-to-year despite the run game. It was a constant drag with iffy blocking from the line and all-or-nothing play from the backs.
Perhaps because the passing game was rising so quickly, the run game turned from liability into beautiful complement. Ole Miss ranked 24th in Rushing S&P+, with three backs combining for 22.5 carries per game and 5.3 yards per carry.
Starter Jaylen Walton was probably the least effective of the three, at least on a per-carry basis. Both Akeen Judd and Jordan Wilkins topped him in efficiency, and Wilkins was a little bit more explosive as well. And in a smaller role, Eugene Brazley showed serious jets, though almost all of his production came against UT-Martin and New Mexico State. Between these three and two four-star freshman -- Eric Swinney (redshirt) and D'Vaughn Pennamon (true) -- it's hard to imagine too much of a drop-off from the backs.
So that leaves the line.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Damore'ea Stringfellow||WR||6'2, 211||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9653||58||36||503||62.1%||12.5%||8.7||69.0%||51.7%||1.60|
|Quincy Adeboyejo||WR||6'3, 195||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8696||56||38||604||67.9%||12.0%||10.8||76.8%||51.8%||2.01|
|Evan Engram||TE||6'3, 227||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8435||55||38||464||69.1%||11.8%||8.4||50.9%||52.7%||1.42|
|Markell Pack||SLOT||6'2, 184||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9380||40||31||380||77.5%||8.6%||9.5||72.5%||62.5%||1.40|
|Akeem Judd||RB||5'11, 228||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8781||11||9||54||81.8%||2.4%||4.9||45.5%||45.5%||0.85|
|Derrick Jones||WR||6'2, 188||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8392||9||6||120||66.7%||1.9%||13.3||55.6%||55.6%||2.37|
|Jordan Wilkins||RB||6'1, 215||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9100||6||5||75||83.3%||1.3%||12.5||66.7%||50.0%||2.28|
|Taz Zettergren||TE||6'3, 218||Sr.||NR||NR||6||4||38||66.7%||1.3%||6.3||50.0%||50.0%||1.27|
|Hunter Thurley||TE||6'4, 241||Sr.||NR||NR||3||2||44||66.7%||0.6%||14.7||66.7%||66.7%||1.90|
|Jeremy Liggins||TE/OL||6'3, 310||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8697||2||1||18||50.0%||0.4%||9.0||50.0%||50.0%||1.93|
|Trey Bledsoe||WR||6'1, 205||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8116|
|Damarkus Lodge||WR||6'2, 190||So.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9807|
|Van Jefferson||SLOT||6'2, 187||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9489|
|A.J. Brown||WR||6'1, 225||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9792|
|D.K. Metcalf||WR||6'4, 217||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9445|
|Octavious Cooley||TE||6'3, 246||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9242|
|Tré Nixon||WR||6'1, 170||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9224|
|Gabe Angel||TE||6'3, 238||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8911|
|Jacob Mathis||TE||6'4, 233||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8901|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Robert Conyers||C||6'5, 298||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8219||5||8|
|Sean Rawlings||RT||6'5, 282||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8426||7||7|
|Javon Patterson||LG||6'3, 307||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9739||6||6|
|Jordan Sims||RG||6'4, 334||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8737||5||5|
|Rod Taylor||LG||6'3, 329||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9758||2||4|
|Jeremy Liggins||LT||6'3, 310||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8697||0||0|
|Talbot Buys||LT||6'8, 320||Sr.||NR||0.7900||0||0|
|Jacob Feeley||C||6'2, 282||Sr.||NR||NR||0||0|
|Daronte Bouldin||RG||6'5, 324||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8453||0||0|
|Alex Givens||LT||6'6, 297||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8669|
|Michael Howard||RT||6'5, 250||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8603|
|Greg Little||OL||6'6, 332||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9991|
|Bryce Mathews||OL||6'6, 275||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9086|
|Eli Johnson||C||6'1, 289||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8706|
5. The biggest question mark
This year's good news is last year's bad news. Injury and suspension led to constant shuffling up front for Ole Miss. That the Rebels were prolific despite it was impressive, but there's no question that the line was an issue. The Rebels ranked 127th in power success rate, 101st in stuff rate, and 72nd in passing downs pass rate. At least part of that was because of the quarterback and running backs, but ... those are really bad numbers for an otherwise strong offense.
But that shuffling could be the Rebels' savior in 2016. Yes, five linemen with at least 20 career starts are gone, but five returnees still started at least two games last year, including former blue-chippers Javon Patterson and Rod Taylor.
There are clear question marks here. That converted tight end Jeremy Liggins was listed as starting left tackle in the preseason depth chart, instead of someone more seasoned, was itself alarming, and that was before Liggins got himself suspended in fall camp. Blue-chipper Greg Little supposedly reported to camp a little bit on the overweight side as well.
Between last year's part-time starters, a smattering of upperclassmen, and youngsters like Little and redshirt freshmen Alex Givens and Michael Howard, it's not hard to assume the line will produce a decent starting five. The question is how long it will take. Ole Miss plays two top-five teams in the first three weeks, after all.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||38.2%||34||Succ. Rt. +||112.0||28|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||29.8||70||Off. FP+||31.8||28|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||3.9||24||Redzone S&P+||118.3||15|
|Q1 Rk||14||1st Down Rk||14|
|Q2 Rk||17||2nd Down Rk||20|
|Q3 Rk||46||3rd Down Rk||6|
6. Opponents took their chances with the pass
Despite the immense success of the last two seasons, Ole Miss' timing was still a bit off. The Rebels ranked first in Def. S&P+ in 2014 but came in just 35th in Off. S&P+. Last fall, the offense surged to 10th, but because of the steady drip of injuries, the defense fell to 22nd. A team with Ole Miss' 2014 defense and 2015 offense would have been the best in the country, but things don't always play out in coordinated fashion.
It seemed the two areas most affected by injury were defensive tackle and the secondary.
That the Rebels still managed to rank fifth in power success rate and 17th in Rushing S&P+ was impressive, considering the tackles who went down, but the secondary suffered.
Ole Miss fell from sixth in Passing S&P+ to 23rd, primarily due to a lack of efficiency. The pass rush disappeared, and the safety position took a huge hit, both planned (2014 star Cody Prewitt was already gone) and unplanned (Tony Conner and C.J. Hampton missed a lot of time).
That gave opponents an out. If they didn't want to run, they didn't have to. Opponents ran 6 percent less frequently than the national average on standard downs and 5 percent less on passing downs. And it worked pretty well. Ole Miss allowed a 62 percent completion rate on first down and 66 percent in the first half. This put the Rebels further onto their heels than they perhaps anticipated.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Marquis Haynes||DE||6'3, 222||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8800||13||36.0||4.5%||16.5||10.0||0||2||3||0|
|D.J. Jones||NT||6'0, 321||Sr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9346||13||31.5||3.9%||5.5||4.0||0||0||1||0|
|Issac Gross (2014)||NT||6'1, 263||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8945||12||28.5||3.8%||8.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Fadol Brown||DE||6'4, 273||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7500||11||23.5||2.9%||4.5||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Breeland Speaks||DT||6'3, 310||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9194||13||23.0||2.9%||5.5||1.0||0||2||0||0|
|John Youngblood||DE||6'3, 255||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7726||13||15.5||1.9%||1.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Victor Evans||DE||6'3, 240||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8479||11||12.0||1.5%||2.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Garrald McDowell||DE||6'2, 261||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9196||9||8.0||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ross Donelly||NT||6'1, 306||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8566||7||5.0||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Herbert Moore||DT||6'1, 326||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8428|
|Austrian Robinson||DT||6'4, 288||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8609|
|Josiah Coatney||DL||6'4, 293||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8667|
|Benito Jones||DT||6'2, 308||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9842|
|Charles Wiley||DE||6'2, 253||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9036|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|MLB||6'2, 233||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||12||67.0||8.9%||2.0||2.0||2||1||2||0|
|DeMarquis Gates||MLB||6'2, 211||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8743||13||61.0||7.6%||2.0||0.0||0||4||2||0|
|Terry Caldwell||OLB||6'1, 216||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8504||13||28.5||3.5%||2.0||1.0||0||0||2||0|
|Temario Strong||MLB||6'0, 229||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8488||12||10.5||1.3%||1.5||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|Tayler Polk||OLB||5'11, 212||Jr.||NR||NR||12||10.0||1.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ray Ray Smith||OLB||6'2, 216||Jr.||NR||NR||11||5.5||0.7%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Luke Davis||LB||6'2, 215||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7952||13||4.5||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Willie Hibbler||MLB||6'3, 231||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8855|
|Detric Bing-Dukes||LB||6'1, 247||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8241|
7. Still loaded
Ole Miss has to replace three of its top seven tacklers on the line (including Robert Nkemdiche) and three of five at linebacker (including C.J. Johnson and Denzel Nkemdiche). That's quite a bit of star power and depth to replace, but last year's shuffling could pay off. All three of these players missed time, which gave opportunities to players like sophomore tackle Breeland Speaks, junior linebacker DeMarquis Gates, and JUCO transfer Terry Caldwell. And in Issac Gross' absence, D.J. Jones thrived.
Jones, Speaks, and Gross are back, as are Gates, Caldwell, and ends Marquis Haynes and Fadol Brown. Oregon State transfer Rommel Mageo and JUCOs Josiah Coatney and Detric Bing-Dukes (a one-time Georgia signee) join the mix, as do four-star freshmen Benito Jones and Charles Wiley. There are options, and while depth might not be at a level strong enough to withstand a 2015-esque run of injury, this unit still has a really high ceiling. The Land Sharks live.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|NB||6'0, 225||Sr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9837||13||53.5||7.1%||9||1||1||2||0||0|
|Ken Webster||CB||5'11, 189||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8887||13||35.5||4.4%||3||0||1||11||0||0|
|Tony Bridges||CB||6'0, 185||Sr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9131||13||32.5||4.0%||2||0||3||9||0||0|
|C.J. Hampton||FS||6'0, 186||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9534||9||25.0||3.1%||1||0||0||1||0||0|
|Zedrick Woods||ROV||5'11, 197||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8402||13||20.5||2.5%||1||0||1||0||0||0|
|A.J. Moore||NB||5'11, 199||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8386||13||19.0||2.4%||1||1||0||0||2||0|
|Carlos Davis||CB||5'8, 170||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||13||18.5||2.3%||1.5||0||0||1||0||0|
|C.J. Moore||ROV||5'11, 193||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8370||13||15.5||1.9%||0.5||0||0||2||0||0|
|Kailo Moore||CB||5'10, 188||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9302||10||7.0||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Cam Ordway||DB||5'11, 184||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8773||7||5.5||0.7%||0.5||0||0||1||0|
|Armani Linton||FS||6'2, 215||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9067|
|Jalen Julius||CB||5'10, 172||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8648|
|Montrell Custis||NB||6'0, 186||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8545|
|Deontay Anderson||DB||6'1, 217||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9732|
|Jaylon Jones||DB||5'11, 177||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9145|
|Myles Hartsfield||ROV||5'11, 199||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8584|
8. Play-makers gone, play-makers back
Ole Miss returns every cornerback from last year's secondary; the duo of Ken Webster and Tony Bridges combined for five tackles for loss and 24 passes defensed and provided a pleasant play-making surprise after the loss of the awesome Senquez Golson.
The questions come at safety. Mike Hilton was a virtually perfect nickel back, combining coverage skills (15 passes defensed) with invasive ability (12.5 tackles for loss). Trae Elston, meanwhile, provided almost the same level of havoc. The loss of these two and Chief Brown is a concern, as is the fact that new/old nickel Tony Conner might not be 100 percent yet.
If Conner eventually reaches his 2014 form, and C.J. Hampton stays in Freeze's good graces (he was suspended for nearly half of last season), then maybe the safeties will come close to the standard set in 2014 and parts of 2015. But the recent loss of backup C.J. Moore to injury made the unit even greener beyond the first string and will probably force blue-chip freshman Deontay Anderson to produce early.
There are a lot of "ifs" and "maybes" for the defense, but a better year of injuries luck would help considerably.
|Will Gleeson||6'3, 189||Jr.||43||40.7||1||15||9||55.8%|
|Gary Wunderlich||6'0, 193||Jr.||9||46.9||0||1||4||55.6%|
|Nathan Noble||6'3, 229||Sr.||94||64.1||54||1||57.4%|
|Gary Wunderlich||6'0, 193||Jr.||63-63||16-20||80.0%||3-5||60.0%|
|Carlos Davis||KR||5'8, 170||Sr.||3||13.0||0|
|Carlos Davis||PR||5'8, 170||Sr.||13||5.5||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||72|
|Field Goal Efficiency||65|
|Punt Return Success Rate||118|
|Kick Return Success Rate||123|
|Punt Success Rate||62|
|Kickoff Success Rate||3|
9. Legs: good. Returns: ehhhhhh
The areas of special teams that involve kicking a ball are fine. Gary Wunderlich is a steady place-kicker, Nathan Noble's kickoffs are usually unreturnable, and while Will Gleeson's punts aren't particularly long, they too are frequently unreturnable. (Coverage units are solid, too.)
The areas of special teams that involve returning someone else's kicks, however, are problematic. Ole Miss got almost nothing out of the return game in 2015, and while Carlos Davis' return gives the unit a little bit of experience, this could be an area in which a freshman or redshirt freshman (corner Jalen Julius, perhaps?) gives the Rebels a quick boost.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|5-Sep||vs. Florida State||5||-0.7||48%|
|12-Nov||at Texas A&M||25||3.0||57%|
|Projected wins: 7.8|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||24.3% (22)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||15 / 20|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||0 / 2.3|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||-0.9|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||64% (74%, 54%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||10.9 (-0.9)|
10. The best 1-2 team in college football
You can make the case that the Ole Miss defense will be at its best early in the season. Most injuries won't have happened yet, and the unit's overall experience will pay early dividends.
You can also make the case that the offense will take a while to come around. Maybe last year's excellent complementary receivers don't automatically take to larger roles (doubtful), or maybe the offensive line needs time to gel (likely).
How quickly the line comes together could define the season. Ole Miss plays three projected top-five teams, and two show up on the first three weeks. The Rebels take on Florida State in Orlando to start the season, then get a visit from Alabama on September 17. A visit from Georgia follows, and the Rebels visit Arkansas and LSU in mid-October.
Yikes. Per S&P+, Ole Miss has at least a 64 percent chance of winning in seven games and has a 50 percent chance of avoiding an 0-2 record against FSU and Bama. But the schedule is far more conducive to a strong finish than a fast start.
Freeze's program has committed some NCAA violations, and those chickens will come home to roost at some point. But he has also put together a deep roster. His 2016 class ranked sixth in the country per the 247Sports Composite, even better than the famed 2013 haul (eighth), and could power the Rebels into a pretty happy future unless NCAA sanctions are worse than anticipated. (The talent will be there, even if the depth is not.)
Ole Miss should once again be the opposite of boring. But volatility is entertaining, right?