Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze pumps up his players before last season's Sugar Bowl. The Rebels lost two standouts in offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, but should still be a contender in the SEC. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25: No. 12 Ole Miss

Posted July 19th, 2016

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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.

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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.

Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly -- the nephew of NFL Hlal of Famer Jim Kelly -- returns for his final season. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly — the nephew of NFL Hlal of Famer Jim Kelly — returns for his final season. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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)

Defense: None

FYI …

  • 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

DateOpponentLast yr's result (if played)
Sept. 5Florida State (Orlando)
Sept. 10Wofford
Sept. 17Alabama*W, 43-37
Sept. 24Georgia*
Oct. 1Memphis*L, 37-24
Oct. 15at Arkansas*L, 53-52
Oct. 22at LSU*W, 38-17
Oct. 29Auburn*W, 27-19
Nov. 5Georgia Southern
Nov. 12at Texas A&M*W, 23-3
Nov. 19at Vanderbilt*W, 27-16
Nov. 26Mississippi State*W, 38-27
* SEC game

Ole Miss: The last 5 years

YearW-L/Conf.RankBowl
201510-3 / 6-217th / 10thSugar Bowl, W
20149-4 / 5-318th / 9thPeach Bowl, L
20138-5 / 3-5— / —Music City Bowl, W
20127-6 / 3-5— / —Compass Bowl, W
20112-10 / 0-8— / —No bowl
Total36-28, 17-234 bowl games (3-1)
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking.

 

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. 25: Washington State

No. 24: Boise State

No. 23: Louisville

No. 22: Oklahoma State

No. 21: Oregon

No. 20: North Carolina

No. 19: Baylor

No. 18: Iowa

No. 17: Washington

No. 16: Georgia

No. 15: Michigan State

No. 14: USC

No. 13: TCU

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.

BY CONFERENCE

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)

 

 

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