Ole Miss Football: The Rebels rank No. 8 in the latest ESPN Preseason FPI Rankings


Ole Miss ranks within the top ten of ESPN’s 2015 Preseason Football Power Index. What does this mean?

Now that we have wrapped up National Signing Day, there are enough stats and information to determine preseason rankings. ESPN announced on Monday their 2015 preseason Football Power Index Rankings. From a ranking of 128 teams, Ole Miss ranks No. 8 nationally, behind No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Baylor, No. 5 Oregon, No. 6 TCU, and No. 7 Notre Dame. This marks the highest preseason FPI ranking the Rebels have ever received.

According to ESPN, the following is what determines the rankings of teams in the site’s power index:

"FPI is an estimate of team strength – not a ranking of who will have the highest win total (which is dependent on schedule) and not who is most likely to make the College Football Playoff. Preseason FPI is calculated using three major components for each FBS team: prior years’ offense, defense and special teams efficiencies; returning starters and head coach information; and recruiting rankings."

Currently, the Rebels are ranked No. 29 nationally in offense by the index, No. 1 nationally in defense, and No. 10 in special teams. Yes, you read that correctly. Ole Miss is projected to have the No. 1 defense in the nation next season, and more surprisingly, a top ten special teams.

Even though the SEC notably folded as a whole in last season’s bowl season, the FPI rankings do not determine wins, it determines the overall strength of the team. The SEC showed their dominance in this category. The SEC places nine teams within the top 25 of the rankings, making it the most of any conference. Alabama leads the SEC, ranking at No. 2. The Tide are followed by No. 3 LSU, No. 8 Ole Miss, No. 9 Georgia, No. 10 Arkansas, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 14 Tennessee, No. 22 Mississippi State, and No. 24 Missouri.

What plays a huge factor of Ole Miss receiving such high rankings is their high number of returning starters, added with a deep 2015 recruiting class. The Rebels will return 11 of their 13 players who made productive starts on offense last season. This includes their entire offensive line, senior running back Jaylen Walton, and junior wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss’ leading receiver in 2015).

On defense, the Landsharks will return 11  of 16 players who made quality starts last season. This is the biggest area of depth loss for the Rebels. Ole Miss lost 2014 All-Americans, safety Cody Prewitt and cornerback Senquez Golson to the NFL. The Rebels also saw the graduations of defensive linemen Bryon Bennett, Lavon Hooks, and Carlos Thompson, who all made exceptional impacts for the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense last season. However, the biggest impact of depth loss is at linebacker as the Rebels lost D.T. Shackelford, Keith Lewis, and Serderius Bryant due to graduation.

Ole Miss lost half of the team’s top ten leading tacklers, which means 286 of 561 total tackles from 2014 will be gone next season. However, keep in mind that none of these players rated higher than a three-star prospect coming out of high school. Bryant who was arguably one of the most successful linebackers in the SEC the past two seasons, was once ranked outside the top one-thousand prospects coming out of high school. What this means is Ole Miss’ defensive coordinator Dave Wommack is doing a fantastic job of developing and getting the most out of his linebackers. So, there should be little concern of the incoming talent from the 2015 class.

Next season, Ole Miss will be deep in the secondary, deep in the defensive line, and may have the best wide-receiver core in the nation. Ole Miss hauled in two top ten rated wide receivers during National Signing Day with four-star prospect Van Jefferson and five-star Damarkus Lodge (No. 1 WR in the nation). So, there is plenty of reasons to suggest that the Ole Miss Rebels will be one of the SEC elite next season.