What To Watch For This Season:
After hiring offensive guru and whizkid coach Hugh Freeze (yes, that Hugh Freeze, the coach from The Blind Side), the Ole Miss program can only be described as on the up-and-up. Stellar recruiting classes, including the famous breakout recruiting class of 2013, have translated into on-field talent in a way that even the most homer of Rebel fans could have dreamed of. Robert Nkemdiche? Stud. Laremy Tunsil? Stud. Laquon Treadwell? Stud. And the 2016 recruiting class looks like it can be just as good. For a fanbase that has served as a whipping boy the rest of the SEC since Eli Manning graduated, expectations creep higher and higher by the day, and hope for the future is at an all-time high. If Freeze can deliver on some of his promise as an offensive genius a la Guz Malzhan, no program has more to be excited about than Ole Miss does, and that is a fact.
Set at 8. Hammer the over. Hammer it. Ole Miss was 8-5 last year for chrissakes, and if this year’s Rebel team hopped in a time machine and played last year’s, I guarantee the point spread would be at least -7.5. Boise State won’t be ready for them on Thursday playing at Oxford and under a new coach, and Ole Miss will have a winning record in the SEC this year. As a matter of fact, here’s the boldest preseason prediction I have made yet or will make: Ole Miss is going to beat Alabama week 5, lose 1-2 games this season, and be a serious contender to make the 4-team playoff by the end of the season. Before you laugh in my face, just remember, this squad has as many blue chip players as ANYONE in the SEC, 9 returning starters on defense, and an extremely capable quarterback in Bo Wallace. FURTHERMORE, most of the critical departures from Oxford have been at the offensive skill positions, usually the easiest positions to replace. Alabama has issues facing innovated offenses the first time they see them (Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas A&M, Malzahn’s Auburn). I say Hugh Freeze throws the fucking kitchen sink at them. Trick plays, hurry-up offenses in the first quarter, formations we haven’t seen him run since his days at Arkansas State. The Grove will be rocking, and people start seeing Ole Miss as a legitimate force to be reckoned with for years to come. I’m sure most of you think I’m crazy and have no idea what I’m talking about now, but I have put a TON of thought into this.
What To Watch For:
LSU is at the bottom of returning starters in the SEC, as usual. They have to replace about 85% of their total offensive production. Losses at wide receiver and running back mean basically the entire skill position corps will have to be replaced, and the loss of Zach Mettenberger at quarterback means uncertainty at the position that will probably persist throughout the year. Don’t worry if you’re a Tigers fan though (you know, for that huge fanbase BarstoolU has in Louisiana), LSU is going to be just fine. Teams of LSU’s caliber reload rather than rebuild, and the depth of the Tigers (probably the second-best, only eclipsed by Alabama), means plenty of the fresh legs will already be prepared to be productive. Also, incoming running back Leonard Fournette has already drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson and some already have him projected to be the best running back in the SEC his freshman year (that same conference with Todd Gurley and Alabama’s historically dominant running game). Now watch this video and start drooling.
Set at 9. In Les Miles 9 seasons at LSU, they have only been under 10 wins twice, and that was half-a-decade ago. Doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. Their two hardest games (on paper right now at least), are both at home (Alabama and Ole Miss). The Wisconsin game this weekend is looking to be the best game of Week 1, and the teams in many ways are mirror images of each other (supremely talented running back, replaces to be made in the front 7, uncertainty at quarterback). The difference is that one team has SEC speed and one doesn’t. I give the Tigers about a 60-70% chance of winning that game (even though analyst Phil Steele says he gives UW a 50/50 shot at having it). I was more confident in the Badgers ability to win a few weeks ago, but the closer and closer to game-time it gets and the more and more I see from Leonard Fournette, the less and less good I feel about it. Hope I’m wrong!
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