So, as the season approaches, we desparate, football-deprived souls need something to motivate our being. Luckily, EA Sports along with a slew of sports writers have us covered. With regards to said sports writers, this is the time of the year when numerous websites and magazines are published which are put together by "experts" who do their damndest to determine how the upcoming season will pan out.
Where do these professional prognosticators see our Rebels this fall?
Year 2 at Team Speed Kills has already put together the SEC as seen by the major preview magazines. Athlon, Lindy's, The Sporting News, and Phil Steele all take different approaches to the season's outcome, but reach a "conclusion" that Ole Miss will be first in the West... sorta. Here's the breakdown:
Lindy's - The same magazine which said our linebackers were the worst in the SEC even when we had Patrick Willis predicts that we will finish 3rd in the SEC West behind LSU and Alabama. The Rebels are preseason ranked #9 for fourth best in the SEC.
The Sporting News- The Sporting News has the Rebels meeting the Gators in the SEC Title game. The biggest surprise of their magazine, with regards to the Western Division race, is Auburn finishing at 4th ahead of both Arkansas (everybody else's 4th) and Mississippi State (consensus LAST PLACE LEGHUMPERS).
Athlon- The very first preseason magazine I ever bought has our Rebels at preseason #10 behind the #6 Crimson Tide in the West. Interestingly enough, they have one of the lowest ratings for LSU at preseason #17. That's a distant cry from Lindy's preseason #6.
Phil Steele- He is very firmly affixed to the Rebel "bandwagon." I put quotations around that term because to use it suggests a notion that someone is doing something because "everybody else is." Phil Steele doesn't roll that way. He's the most obsessively analytical person in the industry. That's why he, by himself, puts together an entire damned book of prognostications that has more detail than other preseason publications put together by small magazine staffs. We are Steele's preaseason #6 and he likes us to go to the Sugar Bowl to face Ohio State. That'd be fun.
Of course, when considering all of the above, I'm naturally going to side with Phil Steele. Not only am I a homer, but I also trust the guy. He was one of the only people who predicted a breakout year for Arkansas in 2006 (Darren McFadden's junior season, 10-wins) and garnered much scrutiny for that. He also predicted a big year for Bama last year, also to some scrutiny. Furthermore, he is rroutinely the most accurate prognosticator out there He does what most will not; he combines his number-crunching with gumption and hunches. Too many predictions are far too numbers-based (I'll get there in a second) or far too based on prejudices and knee-jerk reactions (anything Arkansas, LSU, or Bama fans are saying right now).
Now, the websites. There are two major prognostication websites which aren't tied into the aforementioned magazines which have released their predictions and one which hasn't.
CollegeFootballPoll.com- CFP predicts a 9-3 regular season record for our Rebels, with the losses coming to Alabama, LSU, and Vanderbilt (for the record, they predict Vandy to win 8 and finish 3rd in the East). While that is certainly within the realm of possibility and would not be terribly shocking if it were to become true, my skepticism was peaked when I first saw this. The Congrove Computer Rankings (whatever that is) system, according to the website, "plays" every game of the season (also, whatever that is... maybe like a video game?) by calculating "a number of factors that include each teams' returning talent and difficulty of schedule." Perhaps Vandy returning damn near everybody has something to do with the computer's high rating of them. The system seems suspect at best, but don't worry, they've got an argument which
proveskinda-sorta demonstrates... something:
Since its inception in 1993, the computer's preseason projections have correctly pegged the exact national title match-up three times (1993, 1998, 2005), and at least one national title contestant 11 times (1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007). The team it picked to win the title has played in the title game seven times (1993, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005), and won the title three times (1993, 1998, 1999).
When looking at their history with predicting the fate of the Ole Miss Rebels, the folly of the computer-based predictions becomes even clearer. Since 1994, the computers have underrated (meaning chose us to win fewer games than we actually did) the Rebels eight times, correctly predicted their Record five times, and only overrated them three times. Yes, eight out of the fifteen years these computers have been predicting football seasons, the Rebels have exceeded whatever prediction they set forth. That is more than half. When considering this, I really like our chances.
Also, did anybody else notice that this system predicted that we would only lose one game with Micheal Spurlock at QB. Think about that for, I dunno, four seconds and see if you don't pass out from shit-crazy confusion.
Don't get me wrong; I dig numbers and messing around with them to attempt to find some sort of pattern. But it just ain't ever going to work for college football. There are way too many factors, both quantifiable and qualifiable, which make this true.
Surefire Scouting- While it may be the most accurate publication of 2008, I'm not about to trust a website that doesn't list Jevan Snead as a top-15 Heisman candidate (Tony Pike of Cincy was listed... wow) while listing Les Miles as the fourth best coach in America. Last season be damned, Surefire Scouting.
CPA Rankings - I've linked last years. As far as I can tell, this season's list isn't out yet. Check out last year's and see how number crunching can somehow get you something far too close to what the polls are saying.
All things considered, I feel as good about the upcoming Rebel season as I could have ever felt. Sure, there is always the potential for an absolutely terrible fuck-me-sideways style meltdown a la Clemson and Arizona State last season; but how will we Rebels avoid this? Stay tuned, Cuppers. I'll fill you in soon enough.