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Are You Ready, Rebel Fans?  Yes We Are — and Magazine Rankings Agree

Photo by Seph Anderson
Anticipationis running at a fever pitch for Rebel fans and the pre-season prognosticators seem to back up the optimism. Photo by Seph Anderson

Phil Steele claims to have compiled the most accurate college football magazine “16” straight years.
Let’s hope it is 17 straight. Here’s why: To start with, he has ranked the Top 128 teams in the nation calling this his “Power Poll”.
This exclusively considers the strength of each team and does not factor in the schedule. Ole Miss is No.13 in the Power Poll. Our opponents are ranked as follows (in order of strength): 
Alabama 2
Auburn 6
LSU 14
Mississippi State 21
Texas A&M 22
Arkansas 39
 Tennessee 45
Boise State 50
UL-Lafayette 66
Memphis 75
Vanderbilt 76
Presbyterian NR. 
Projecting a won-loss season conclusion on this factor alone, he would have us at 10-2 with the two opponents ranked ahead of us both coming to Oxford!
Our schedule is problematic as Steele ranks it the 20th most difficult in the nation. On the other hand, Alabama has the 61st most difficult and Mississippi State is No. 56! Tennessee comes in at No. 2 and Auburn No. 5. Texas A&M is No. 12.
Our defense is projected by Steele to be the strength of our team, however, the offensive unit is anything but weak. The magazine has our total defense as ranking 7th-best in the country! Alabama’s unit is ranked 2nd, LSU 9th, and MSU 12th. If these numbers are  accurate, and one could believe they are at this juncture, these three games should be low-scoring and could be decided by a field goal.
Last years game between Ole Miss and Alabama. Photo courtesy of Seph Anderson
Last year’s game between Ole Miss and Alabama. We hope for a different outcome this year at the Vaught. Photo courtesy of Seph Anderson

Now, to his ranking of the top surprise teams to watch for 2014. This is what got my attention. Ole Miss is No. 6 on this list with LSU No. 8. Wisconsin (LSU’s opening opponent) is No. 3. This will be a game to watch. Georgia is No. 1 in this grouping. Thankfully, we will not face the Bulldogs until possibly the SEC title game!
As to returning starters for the 14 SEC teams, we have 15 coming back compared to only 10 for Vanderbilt, which is the second lowest only to Missouri with 8. MSU has the most with 16. Alabama and LSU  have 12 and Auburn 14 as does A&M and Arkansas. Tennessee (like Vandy) also has only 10 starters returning.
The Grove Bowl showed off the Rebel talent coming into this promising season.

Summary — Ole Miss should be VERY competitive this year to say the least. There are so many factors out of the control of the team and coaches. These include injuries, weather, officiating and luck. This is why it’s next to impossible to predict the final outcome.
What is most encouraging is that our five leading tacklers from 2013 all are back! Looking at our opening opponent, Boise State (according to Steele),  they are slightly weaker than  Tennessee. He does pick them to win their division in their conference with 15 returning starters. Their quarterback, Grant Hedrick, is a proven, battle-tested senior.
Let’s hope for a good start and a strong finish. Our coaches have done an incredible job placing us in this position from what they inherited following the 2011 season. And as Yogi once said — “Who woulda thunk it?”
Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communicationssubjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. In addition, he is a certified economic and community developer and currently, a highly successful leader in the real estate business with Premier Properties of Oxford. Steve’s lifelong dream has been to live in Oxford full-time. “I am now living my dream daily as is my wife Rosie, who works with the Oxford Chamber of Commerce,” Steve said. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.comor call him at 985-852-7745.

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