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We’re picking Ole Miss to go 7-5 this season

Let’s break down every game on the Rebels’ 2018 schedule.

There’s really only one thing we know about the 2018 Ole Miss football season: it won’t end in a bowl game (because of, ya know, that whole NCAA ban thing).

Outside of that, who knows what the hell this team will look like. On one hand, a defense that was atrocious last season lost half of its sack production to the NFL and still doesn’t seem to have an answer at linebacker. On the other, a proven quarterback and the country’s most talented receiving corps leads an offense that has the potential to be the most explosive in school history. The dichotomy between the two sides of the ball will make the Rebels one of the most interesting teams in college football.

It also makes predicting their record damn near impossible.

We did it anyway. While we’re not optimistic about defensive improvement, we think the offense piles up enough points to give Matt Luke a 7-5 record in his second season at the helm. With a couple bounces and some injury luck, this team could sneak away with eight or nine wins.

Texas Tech: Win

S&P+ win probability: 70%
S&P+ projected margin: +9.3 points

This’ll be a shootout in Houston, but Tech won’t bring the same firepower it has in years past. Kliff Kingsbury’s offense took a step backward in 2017 and an immediate turnaround isn’t likely with a new starting quarterback and running back. The Red Raiders secondary improved last season, but it won’t be ready for an Ole Miss attack that ranked fourth in explosiveness and returns three NFL-bound wideouts.

Southern Illinois: Win

S&P+ win probability: 97%
S&P+ projected margin: +33 points

Did you know NBA Hall of Famer Walt Frazier went to Southern Illinois? That was the only interesting information I could find. Southern Illinois will not win this football game.

Alabama: Loss

S&P+ win probability: 22%
S&P+ projected margin: -13.6 points

Ole Miss will not win this football game.

Kent State: Win

S&P+ win probability: 95%
S&P+ projected margin: +28.7 points

Kent State, which has just one winning season in the past three decades, isn’t just 0-13 all-time against the SEC—it’s been outscored 605-112 in those games. An offense that averaged less than two touchdowns per outing last year is the type of awful that could make the Rebel defense look... (gulp) decent.

at LSU: Loss

S&P+ win probability: 37%
S&P+ projected margin: -5.6 points

There are a lot of legit concerns in Baton Rouge about the ability of Coach O and new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger to find the offensive creativity that was lacking at the end of the Les Miles era. Thing is, they won’t need creativity against the Rebels’ porous defensive front: the Tigers ran for 704 yards and averaged 7.7 yards per carry in their last two games against Ole Miss.

Louisiana-Monroe: Win

S&P+ win probability: 90%
S&P+ projected margin: +22.5 points

The ULM offense over the past several years has been one of the best in the Sun Belt and provided some of college football’s most entertaining plays. That won’t be enough for an upset in Oxford, particularly with a defense projected to rank 128th by S&P+.

at Arkansas: Win

S&P+ win probability: 61%
S&P+ projected margin: +4.7 points

This game has been a nightmare for Ole Miss recently: fourth-and-25 in 2015, a game-ending fumble in 2016, a blown 24-point lead last year. But with the Hogs caught in an awkward transition from Bret Bielema’s prehistoric offense to Chad Morris’ hurry-up, we think the Rebs finally run out of ways to lose.

Auburn: Loss

S&P+ win probability: 30%
S&P+ projected margin: -9 points

See above notes on the LSU game re: not stopping the dang run.

South Carolina: Win

S&P+ win probability: 64%
S&P+ projected margin: +6.2 points

This might be the most fascinating game on the schedule. Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks will try to shorten the game with methodical pace and conservative D. Phil Longo’s Ole Miss offense will run as many plays as humanly possible and look to take the top off the defense. It’s the type of schematic matchup that football nerds dream of. We’re picking the Rebels’ attack to eventually get the upper hand at home.

at Texas A&M: Loss

S&P+ win probability: 44%
S&P+ projected margin: -2.6 points

The Aggies finally got Jimbo, and while we love laughing at his hilariously awkward attempts to acclimate to Central Texas, we’re also worried about what he’ll do with a talented young offense. The good news for Ole Miss is that last year’s A&M team fielded one of the worst rushing attacks in the country and a defense susceptible to big plays. We’re defaulting to the home team, but the Rebs have a real shot to win in College Station.

at Vanderbilt: Win

S&P+ win probability: 71%
S&P+ projected margin: +9.4 points

Derek Mason’s offense is heading in the right direction but his defense is sliding. Ole Miss ran laps around them in Oxford last season and there’s no reason to think things’ll go differently in Nashville.

Mississippi State: Loss

S&P+ win probability: 45%
S&P+ projected margin: -2.3 points

You probably jumped to the bottom of the page to get here. Sorry to disappoint.

This game will be, as always, a coin flip. The Rebs have the explosiveness to sprint by State’s defense (Ole Miss scored TDs of 22, 46, 63 and 77 yards in last year’s upset), while the Bulldogs have the ground attack to bludgeon their way to a win (you have to question whether they lose last season with a healthy Nick Fitzgerald).

Working in the Rebels’ favor: the Vegas favorite has won the Egg Bowl just once in the past five years.