Is Ole Miss getting too much respect on the college football futures odds? Join us as we take a look at the Rebels and how they might fare this year in the tough SEC.
One might think that beating the Alabama Crimson Tide two years in a row would get you more than 30/1 respect on the college football odds. Then again, that accomplishment by the Mississippi Rebels might be the only reason they're getting that much respect.
Okay, settle down Ole Miss, I'm not dissin' your guys or just getting nasty because y'all have beaten my beloved Texas A&M Aggies two years running. It's just that 30/1 might be a little bit of a stretch considering the holes Mississippi has to fill, and yes, I do realize the Rebels landed a strong recruiting class, including the cream of the crop at three positions.
Those odds are at least better than the respect the sportsbooks are giving to USC (35/1), Oregon (40/1) and Auburn (45/1) right now. We're still looking at a team that is on 8½ (U -120) for a win total, and well back in the middle of the SEC pack at 12/1 to win that conference, behind the likes of LSU (3/1), Tennessee (7/2), Georgia (13/2) and Florida (8/1), not to mention the Tide who lead them all (3/2).
Tunsil Situation Still Hangs Over Ole Miss
The defense wasn't exactly null and void last year, but the Rebels were a team that practically met you for the coin toss and dared you to outscore them. Ole Miss finished 10th in the country churning out nearly 518 yards per game and eighth in scoring with a 40+ PPG average, topping the 40 plateau six times including a 48-20 busting of the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Sugar Bowl.
The Rebs lost a lot of key personnel at the skill positions, however, and let's start on the left side of the line where OT Laremy Tunsil concluded his career down south in rather ignominious fashion, and is now blocking for the Miami Dolphins. It is imperative assistant OC and line coach Matt Luke get his new front going if the Rebels are going to be a force in the SEC and go back to a New Year's 6 bowl.
Under center is also a bit of a question, though Chad Kelly does return. He's coming back from a sports hernia, making line play all the more important. I'm curious to see if Kelly doesn't lean on senior tight end Evan Engram early on, and whether or not the big kid up front, Gregory Little, can step into Tunsil's position immediately as a true freshman after being rated the top OT in the Class of '16.
The defense did rank 54th overall in total yards and 32nd in scoring, but it may not be as physical up front or in the secondary. Speed and quickness could make up for some of that, Marquis Haynes being the one to watch on both fronts, along with experience with five seniors coming back.
Little wasn't the only 5-star recruit Hugh Freeze and the Rebels landed, another being defensive tackle Benito Jones, ranked No. 4 at his position. The last is QB Shea Patterson who might be the biggest signing of them all, especially if Kelly struggles early. Patterson is projected to put up Manziel-esque numbers when he gets a chance, but will that be this season?
'Noles & Tide Are 2 of First 3 opponents
Ole Miss will get the chance to beat Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide a 3rd-straight year very early on the schedule. That game takes place on the third Saturday of September in Oxford, and is the conference opener for both sides.
Of course, if the Rebels are thinking too much about that game, they could be in for a rude season-opener in Orlando vs. Florida State Seminoles. They do get to stay at home the next four weeks after that with two of the games vs. Wooford and Memphis, but treks to Arkansas and LSU on back-to-back October Saturdays could find Ole Miss trying to bounce back from a 3-3 or 2-4 start.
No. I don't like the Rebels to be part of either the SEC title game or CFP, and the 8½ wins might be iffy as well. We'll see how summer camp goes, so keep your eyes and ears here for updates and free college football picks.