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The Rebels at one point last year looked poised to win the SEC West, having taken down Alabama on the road. But that quickly disappeared with bad road losses at Florida and Memphis. Then their defense completely fell apart in a 53-52 loss to Arkansas late in the season. But after a bowl win over OK State, Ole Miss still finished with a respectable 10-3 record, and there's no reason they can't hit that mark again.
At this early writing Ole Miss is listed at odds of 25 to 1 to win the National Championship at 5 dimes sportsbook. Odds change, so be sure to check in with 5 dimes and betonline for the lastest updates.
The main issue for the Rebels may be a tough schedule, but at the least, will have one of the best quarterbacks leading their offense in Chad Kelly, who tossed 31 touchdowns last year. He closed the season with 11 TDs and only one INT in the final four games. Kelly lost his top receiver Laquon Treadwell, but Quincy Adeboyejo (7 TDs), Damore'ea Stringfellow (5 TDs) and Evan Engram combine to form a formidable group. Running back is a question as usual with Ole Miss, but Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins should split the touches.
Offensive line may be the biggest issue for the Rebels because Kelly can't have success if he doesn't have time. But on the positive end of that, Kelly is fairly mobile so that could go a long way in helping a young line. Guard Javon Patterson will aim to hold the group down in the early going in some tough games.
The defensive side lost some talent, but this side of the ball is ready to build on the positives after multiple poor performances a year ago. Fadol Brown and Marquis Haynes are back on the edges and those two will set everything else up for the defense. Losing Robert Nkemdiche doesn't help, but they'll still have plenty of depth and speed, which will help them forget about the first-round NFL draft pick.
Ole Miss isn't expected to win the SEC West, but the Rebels can definitely challenge for that top spot. It won't be easy, though, that's for sure. They take on Florida State in their first contest and then host Alabama and Georgia in back-to-back September games. Back-to-back road games at Arkansas and LSU will decide how well their season goes. They could easily lose both of those games and be looking at four losses at that point with road games at Texas A&M and Vanderbilt remaining.
If the defense can improve on last year's levels, that may be enough to pull off a couple early upsets, most notably against Alabama again. Chad Kelly can be the difference maker at quarterback, but if their defense can't stop opponents, then that won't matter. If the Rebels can get through their early-season slate, expect them to challenge for the SEC West.
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2016 Ole Miss Rebels Football Schedule
Sept. 5 vs. Florida State (Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium)
Sept 10 vs. Wofford
Sept. 17 vs. Alabama
Sept. 24 vs. Georgia
Oct. 1 vs. Memphis
Oct. 15 at Arkansas
Oct. 22 at LSU
Oct. 29 vs. Auburn
Nov. 5 vs. Georgia Southern
Nov. 12 at Texas A&M
Nov. 19 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 26 vs. Mississippi State
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