Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.
Today’s team: No. 12 Ole Miss (Related coverage: Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly — ‘I’ve got to make a name for myself’)
The Rebels will contend if … they can survive a truly brutal schedule while breaking in the most new starters in the SEC. It seems ridiculous that a team from the SEC West, which every year is committed to facing Alabama, LSU and Auburn, would also draw Georgia from the East and play non-conference games against Florida State and Memphis. According to ESPN’s power index, Ole Miss trails only USC in preseason strength of schedule.
INSIDE THE REBELS
Coach: Hugh Freeze (fifth year, 34-18)
2015: 10-3, 6-2 in the SEC; beat Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl, 48-20
Returning starters: 4 offense, 5 defense
The key game: Sept. 17, Alabama
Hello: OT Gregory Little, S Deontay Anderson
Goodbye: OT Laremy Tunsil (Miami Dolphins), WR Laquon Treadwell (Minnesota Vikings)
Spring cleaning: Frankly, it was an offseason the Rebels would just sooner forget. The NCAA released a notice of violations accusing Ole Miss and its boosters of, among other things, loaning cars to athletes, providing free lodging to players and giving cash to students and their families. The allegations became public just days before national signing day, yet the Rebels still managed to land the nation’s No. 6-ranked class with three five-star players, including Allen offensive tackle Gregory Little. Acknowledging mistakes were made, Ole Miss self-imposed penalties which include forfeiting 11 football scholarships over four years. Another offseason low point was the NFL Draft. Though the Rebels had three players taken in the first round, the evening was hijacked by a leaked video showing Laremy Tunsil, the No. 13 pick, smoking marijuana from a gas mask, as well as a social media post where Tunsil was shown sending a text message asking an Ole Miss coach for money.
Passing: Chad Kelly, 298-458-4,042 yards, 31/13 (1st)
Rushing: Chad Kelly (QB), 107-500-10 (2nd); Akeem Judd (RB), 434-421-3 (3rd)
Receiving: Quincy Adeboyejo, 38-604-7 (2nd); Evan Engram, 38-464-2 (3rd)
Tackles: LB DeMarquis Gates, 76 (1st)
Sacks: DE Marquis Haynes, 10 (1st)
RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (2)
Offense: QB Chad Kelly (2nd team), TE Evan Engram (2nd)
- Ole Miss raided Texas for five recruits, including the state’s top-ranked player — Gregory Little, an offensive tackle from Allen. Additionally, Manvel safety Deontay Anderson, the fifth-ranked recruit in the state, picked the Rebels on signing day by publishing a video in which he skydived in Rebels gear.
- Who’s the most underrated quarterback in the country? Try Chad Kelly. In his first year starting, Kelly authored wins over Alabama, LSU and Auburn and was named the Sugar Bowl MVP. By most measurements, he’s the best quarterback coming back in the SEC.
- Freshman quarterback Shea Patterson, a five-star recruit from IMG Academy, was the MVP of the Elite 11 last summer after passing Texas’ Shane Buechele on the final day of the competition.
Ole Miss' 2016 schedule
|Date||Opponent||Last yr's result (if played)|
|Sept. 5||Florida State (Orlando)|
|Sept. 17||Alabama*||W, 43-37|
|Oct. 1||Memphis*||L, 37-24|
|Oct. 15||at Arkansas*||L, 53-52|
|Oct. 22||at LSU*||W, 38-17|
|Oct. 29||Auburn*||W, 27-19|
|Nov. 5||Georgia Southern|
|Nov. 12||at Texas A&M*||W, 23-3|
|Nov. 19||at Vanderbilt*||W, 27-16|
|Nov. 26||Mississippi State*||W, 38-27|
|* SEC game|
Ole Miss: The last 5 years
|2015||10-3 / 6-2||17th / 10th||Sugar Bowl, W|
|2014||9-4 / 5-3||18th / 9th||Peach Bowl, L|
|2013||8-5 / 3-5||— / —||Music City Bowl, W|
|2012||7-6 / 3-5||— / —||Compass Bowl, W|
|2011||2-10 / 0-8||— / —||No bowl|
|Total||36-28, 17-23||4 bowl games (3-1)|
2015 NATIONAL RANKS
Scoring: 8th (40.8 ppg)
Scoring defense: 32nd (22.6 ppg)
Passing yards: 10th (334.7 ypg)
Rushing yards: 45th (183.0 ypg)
TOP 25 SO FAR …
No. 12: Coming Wednesday. Want a hint? This school is the highest-ranked school from Texas in our Top 25 — and it’s not in the Big 12.
4 schools: Pac-12 (14-USC, 17-Washington, 21-Oregon, 25-Washington State)
3 schools: Big 12 (13-TCU, 19-Baylor, 22-Oklahoma State)
2 schools: ACC (20-North Carolina, 23-Louisville); Big Ten (15-Michigan State, 18-Iowa); SEC (12-Ole Miss, 16-Georgia)
1 school: Mountain West (24-Boise State)