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Ole Miss is still a dangerous football team

Despite the 3-4 record, Ole Miss’ explosive offense makes it capable of beating any team left on the schedule.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This is an Ole Miss team that was supposed to push Bama for the SEC West.

Instead, its dreams of Atlanta are already smoking on the side of the road, burned out somewhere between Fayetteville and Baton Rouge. With games against unexpectedly stout Auburn and Texas A&M squads still on the horizon, a club that was expected to notch nine or 10 wins could very well finish the regular season 6-6.

This is also an Ole Miss team that nobody should want to see on their schedule.

For all its glaring deficiencies, Ole Miss is still fully capable of winning any game left on its slate, including this weekend’s home tilt against No. 15 Auburn and the Nov. 12 matchup at No. 9 A&M. With their backs against the humbling prospect of a .500 season (or worse), the Rebs may be more dangerous than ever.

This is an Ole Miss team that still has one of the most explosive offenses in the country.

Anyone who watched Hugh Freeze’s bunch in the first half against Alabama—a half in which it piled up 24 points and 243 yards on a unit currently ranked No. 4 in defensive S&P+—knows how dangerous this offense can be when it’s humming. Sure, a faulty O-line and a turnover problem keeps it from running smoothly all the time (46th in offensive efficiency), but this baby has some horsepower when you floor it (eighth in offensive isoPPP, an advanced measure of explosiveness). The Rebel offense still ranks 16th nationally in both yards per play and points per play.

This is an Ole Miss team that still has the SEC’s most talented quarterback.

Chad Kelly hasn’t thrown as many touchdowns as Arkansas’ Austin Allen (15 touchdowns to 18) or been as efficient as Auburn’s Sean White (8.4 yards per attempt to 8.8), but the Rebel signal caller still leads the league in passing yards per game and is easily the best 2017 pro prospect among SEC QBs (CBS projects him to be drafted in the second round). His deep ball accuracy hasn’t been the same as it was last season and his decision-making has regressed, but the raw physical ability is still there, and he’s fully capable of torching any defense in the country given the time to make plays.

This is an Ole Miss team that still has a loaded stable of receivers.

They dropped some balls in Fayetteville, but Kelly’s pass catchers haven’t gotten any worse since we made the argument four weeks ago that they were the deepest receiving corps in the country. Tight end Evan Engram had notched at least 80 receiving yards and one touchdown in five of seven games this season. Of the Rebels’ top six receivers, five of them have caught at least 63 percent of passes thrown their way. Auburn and A&M have talented secondaries, but Ole Miss’ receivers will have the one-on-one advantage in both of those games.

This an Ole Miss team with a defense that’s not as bad as you probably think.

There’s no way to twist the numbers to suggest this unit is great. It ranks 61st in defensive S&P+ and no higher than 44 in any of Bill C.’s Five Factors. Still, judging this defense by the last two games is a bit unfair when you consider the unwieldy burden put on it by the offense’s incompetence. Four three-and-outs in the second half in Baton Rouge meant the defense was on the field a lot against one of the country’s top five rushing offenses. When Chad Kelly’s crew is scoring and putting pressure on the opposing offense, the Rebel defense has the raw talent on the defensive line and in the young secondary to make plays.

This is an Ole Miss team that probably won’t beat Auburn and A&M (the S&P+ projections give it just a 10 percent chance), but it has the firepower to knock off either.