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Could Ole Miss upset anyone in 2017?

Matt Luke’s squad isn’t garnering much national excitement, but they could still piss off a team that is.

Alabama v Mississippi Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images

It’s a week before the Rebels’ season opener against South Alabama, and we as a food blog are no closer to firmly landing on a win-loss record prediction for 2017. Bill Connelly has the Rebs going 7-5, but even that comes with a boatload of caveats, given the mess the offseason has been.

What doesn’t necessarily change is the prospect of Ole Miss ruining someone else’s party by defying the Vegas spread and pulling off an upset. The SEC is due for a bounce-back year, and Matt Luke faces a tall task with an in-conference schedule that includes road trips to Tuscaloosa and Auburn. Nevertheless, the Rebels’ firepower is concentrated in a way that things could break right for them, even against a heavy favorite.

Using Bill’s projections going into 2016 and 2017, here are the Rebels’ chances of beating each team in the SEC West prior to any games being played.

Opponent 2016 Win Probability 2017 Win Probability
Opponent 2016 Win Probability 2017 Win Probability
Alabama 40% 7%
Auburn 72% 25%
LSU 30% 28%
Arkansas 50% 61%
Texas A&M 57% 50%
Mississippi State 70% 49%

To no one’s surprise, 2017’s Ole Miss team isn’t as hyped as the past two preseasons, having fallen in projected S&P+ from 7th in 2016 to 23rd now. The Rebels have declined since a year ago in every factor that goes into these projections: recent recruiting, weighted five-year performance, and returning production.

Taking down Alabama is a longer shot than usual.

After a scare in Oxford in Week 3 of 2016, the Tide went on a tear through the SEC, and nearly won it all with a true freshman behind center. That quarterback is seasoned now, and Saban has grown accustomed to phasing in new weapons on both sides of the ball from his wealth of blue chips. Bama enters 2017 with the top-ranked recruiting class for the seventh consecutive year, and despite having to replace some production lost to the draft, they’ve proven time and again that raw talent can make up for any lack of continuity personnel-wise.

I tend to think Ole Miss has a better than seven percent chance of winning, but it’s still looking grim, at least on paper. Then again, the talent gap between the two programs isn’t much wider than when the Rebels won back-to-back contests in 2014 and 2015.

Tier 2 of the SEC West is looking stronger.

At this point, it’s hard for some to take any preseason LSU hype seriously after years of blunders under Les Miles. There are concrete reasons things could be different, one of those being an innovative offensive coordinator in Baton Rouge. Despite the fact that Ed Orgeron is their head coach, they may be a more formidable opponent than recent years, especially if they can actually deploy that bevy of talent effectively.

Good news for the Rebels is that LSU returns just 40 percent of last year’s defensive production, 119th nationally. Shea Patterson and friends could make this home stand a squirrelly affair.

Auburn is currently projected to finish ninth in S&P+, and after a few years outside of national title contention, folks have forgotten that Gus Malzahn can sometimes be kind of a good football coach. Transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham impressed during his brief time at Baylor, and the defense should have enough bodies to not erase that backfield’s production. The Rebels’ shot at beating them has dropped by 47 percentage points in just a year’s time, and for good reason. That being said, we’ve been here before, and things could change before that October 7th match-up.

As of right now, the rest of the West is a toss-up.

Right now, I wouldn’t consider beating Mississippi State, Arkansas, or Texas A&M groundbreaking based on where they’re projected or their program status. The season may still shake out in a way that it would be a surprise for Ole Miss to beat one of them, but none of these wins should be labeled an upset in the conventional sense.

Despite the Bulldogs having the slight edge due to the game being in Starkville, the Egg Bowl has a reputation for being wonky, and weirdness is to be expected. After a few years of September hype followed by meh, A&M finishing in mediocre fashion is now the norm, but they have enough talent that a Rebel victory could come as a shock to many under the right circumstances. Meanwhile, Arkansas has beaten Ole Miss three times in a row, and breaking the streak would trigger more a sigh of relief than anything resembling an upset alert.

Anything could happen.

It’s important to remember that, as Bill C. would gladly tell you himself, these projections take in a limited amount of information, and no rating system can account for all the intricacies surrounding any given team. Ole Miss doesn’t have to be defined by recent developments within the program, and they’ve proven they can overachieve with the talent they’re given.

The crazier outcome would be for every game to fall in line with what the numbers suggest and for no upsets to occur. It’s the kind of year where it makes more sense for the Rebels to shock a team with more resources and lay a goose egg against one with less. After all, 2017 wouldn’t be considered the season of chaos without a few surprises.