Ole Miss Season Win Total Prediction
Between former left tackle Laremy Tunsil’s questionable taste in gas masks and Robert Nkemdiche’s trouble with hotel balconies, the past few months have made it somewhat easy to forget that Ole Miss registered 10 victories in 2015. With those gifted, combustible players off to the pros, though, how does Hugh Freeze’s program respond this fall?
The Rebels still bring back one of the SEC’s deepest rosters, and oddsmakers recognize as much. Online sports book Bovada.lv sets the squad’s win total at eight. In order to reach such a lofty number, however, Freeze’s troops must navigate a murderer’s row of early-season foes.
Said matchups against Alabama, Florida State and Georgia will be slightly more tolerable on account of Chad Kelly’s continued presence on campus. The quarterback paced the conference last year with 4,042 yards through the air and 31 touchdowns. He also embraced pressure situations, racking up 341 yards and three scores in that 43-37 upset of the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 19. In short, the Buffalo native has future NFL stud written all over him.
Laquon Treadwell’s departure concerns fans who take stock of Kelly’s returning receivers and discern a lack of big weapons. Yet, give the gunslinger a bit of time to develop chemistry with the likes of Damore’ea Stringfellow (36 catches as a sophomore) and Quincy Adeboyejo. Senior tight end Evan Engram represents more than a token safety valve underneath, too, as evidenced by his 97 career receptions.
With a guy of Kelly’s ilk, the ground attack assumes second billing. The physical Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins might gouge opposing D-lines on occasion, but the real question probably boils down to how well Ole Miss protects the trigger man. Asking true freshman Greg Little to replace the NFL-bound Tunsil seems absurd at first blush. Even so, consider that the ship remained afloat during the premier blind-side guardian’s seven-game suspension a season ago. Position coach Matt Luke understands the nuances of cultivating a strong group up front that prioritizes communication and interconnectedness.
On the other side of the ball, Nkemdiche’s exit hurts. Waiting in the wings, though, is Marquis Haynes. The junior end could conceivably approach 12 sacks, particularly if Fadol Brown (6-foot-4, 280 pounds) draws a decent amount of attention elsewhere on the front four. Imagine the possibilities for disruption if senior Isaac Gross recovers from neck surgery.
There’s a smaller margin for error in terms of the back seven. Rommel Mageo arrives from Oregon State to stabilize matters at the second level, but depth worries abound. Perhaps JUCO transfer Detric Bing-Dukes exceeds expectations, or outside linebacker DeMarquis Gates realizes his star potential sooner rather than later. That would surely help alleviate stress on the secondary, where the Rebels need to identify a pair of new starting safeties.
The sheer talent in Oxford can go toe-to-toe with any adversary in the SEC West. Is Ole Miss tough enough from a mental standpoint, however, to weather the gauntlet of Alabama, LSU, et al? September’s the undeniable meat of the schedule. We’ll learn quickly if Freeze should begin prepping a little College Football Playoff itinerary.
FRIDAY COLLEGE FOOTBALL FREE PICK: OLE MISS REBELS OVER 8 WINS