Dantzler Smith

Which SEC Team Is Most Likely To Disappoint?

Created on Jun. 25, 2013 2:05 PM EST

Prior to each season experts come up with expectations for teams. Fans then evaluate those predictions and come up with their own interpretations of what constitutes success or failure.

In some ways this is unfair given that preseason expectations are almost entirely subjective. Still, that early guesswork provides a narrative for the season. So it’s worth wondering: Which SEC will be the biggest disappointment of 2013?

No team has been the recipient of more offseason accolades than Ole Miss. The Rebels hauled in an impressive recruiting class. Scout.com ranked the incoming class 10th in the nation. Rivals.com ranked the Rebels seventh. Forget splitting hairs over their ranking, everyone can agree that Hugh Freeze brought in some of the country’s best high school talent.

Robert Nkemdiche and Laremy Tunsil highlight the incoming freshman class. They are the No. 1-ranked defensive end and offensive tackle respectively (via Scout). Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and safety Antonio Conner are also among the country’s best at their positions. Overall, the entire class is littered with top prospects that project to be stars in the SEC and possibly the NFL.

That highly-touted recruiting haul has made Ole Miss a sexy pick as a team on the rise. The future may be bright for the Rebels, but for 2013 the hype may be misplaced.

Last year the team went 6-6 in the regular season. Although a bowl win versus Pitt hot on the heels of an Egg Bowl victory over rival Mississippi State saw the season end with back-to-back wins, the year as a whole wasn’t altogether impressive.

Three of the team’s seven wins came against non-conference opponents Central Arkansas, UTEP and Tulane. There were a couple of close loses, but overall Ole Miss was decidedly average in 2012.

In 2013, Ole Miss won’t be helped by the schedule. Four of the first five games are away from home for the Rebels. The game against Texas in Austin will be a real challenge and it’s followed by a game at Alabama 14 days later. The Rebels’ schedule is back-loaded with home dates, but bouts against Texas A&M and LSU will be uphill battles even in Oxford.

The good news for Ole Miss is that the team retained the services of quarterback Bo Wallace and running back Jeff Scott. Both Wallace and Scott did serviceable work last season. If those two players have improved and a playmaker emerges from the crop of recent recruits, then the Ole Miss offense ought to be capable of putting up points against even stout SEC defenses.

Most of the Ole Miss defense from last season also returns. Adding Nkemdiche should improve an already-aggressive and effective pass rush. So it seems fair to think that the Rebels will go from average to above average on defense just as they’ll be improved on offense.

Though they’ll be better, it’s hard to see Ole Miss making the leap from an average team to a team that can compete in the SEC West. Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU remain the cream of the crop. While an upset isn’t impossible against those top teams, it’s an unlikely event.

The Rebels should take care of business against the likes of Auburn, Arkansas and Vanderbilt, but a misstep against a lesser team is more likely than an upset against the big boys. Again, the future is bright in Oxford, but Hugh Freeze looks to have more of a long-term project on his hands rather than a quick turnaround.

Preseason prognosticators will be tempted to put Ole Miss inside the Top 25. At the least, the Rebels will be a team that pundits pick to seem like they’re thinking outside of the box. While Ole Miss will be better in 2013, it’s a big ask to think that they’ll live up to the snowballing hype that recruiting success has garnered.

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