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Ole Miss Comes in at No. 9 in USA Today Poll

Just hours after the confetti and streamers descended onto the floor of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Paul Myerberg of USA Today released his predictions for the 2015 college football rankings.

_CBS7709-3Following a 9-4 season and an appearance in the Peach Bowl, the Ole Miss Rebels came in at No. 9. They are the third-highest ranked team in the Southeastern Conference behind Auburn (2) and Alabama (5). Three other SEC teams made the poll: Georgia (14), Missouri (18) and LSU (19).

Myerberg cites head coach Hugh Freeze’s improved win totals, up one win annually since taking over in 2012, along with the talent on the defensive line as reasons for the high ranking.

“The defense will retool in the secondary without two all-conference picks, but the talent along the defensive line is undeniable,” he said. “Led by Robert Nkemdiche, who set the tone for the entire defense. If they can stay healthy, the Rebels might sneak up and take the SEC West Division.”

4CB_7249Identified as the “Rush Men” the Ole Miss defensive line figures to be one of the most feared units in the nation again next year. Anchored by All-Americans Robert Nkemdiche, Issac Gross and Marquis Haynes, and junior leader CJ Johnson, the Rebel line helped the defense allow a mere 16.0 points per game, tops in the nation. Most of the experience on the defensive line will return next year with 13 of 17 players coming back, including players responsible for 18.5 out of the unit’s 22.5 sacks.

There is justified speculation that it could be even better next year given the additions of four-star tackle DJ Jones from East Mississippi Community College, and highly-touted redshirts, Breeland Speaks, Garrald McDowell and Victor Evans, joining the mix.

The Rebels will need a lot of players to step up as the unforgiving 2015 schedule is not doing them any favors. Ole Miss will play ten-consecutive weeks before they are on Nov. 14. Nine of the 12 opponents played in bowl games in 2014, including daunting road trips to Alabama, Florida, Memphis, Auburn and Mississippi State.

Michael Quirk is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at michael.quirk@hottytoddy.com.

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