The Preseason AP Top 25 poll won’t come out until later this month, but here at BangTheBook.com, we’re giving you a Top 25 from a betting perspective. Using power ratings to determine the top 25 teams in college football, readers will have the opportunity to look at what the preseason Top 25 might look like if designed by a bettor. Each article will feature a preview of that team with a write-up for each position and an explanation of why the position group was rated that way and some further insight into the methodology of creating power ratings.
The Methodology: Each team is rated up to 100 with eight different position groups considered. Quarterbacks, offensive and defensive lines, and coaching are graded on a scale of 4 to 15, while running backs, wide receivers, linebackers, and defensive backs are graded on a scale of 4 to 10 in half-point increments.
Groups are rated on returning production, potential, previous performance, and a handful of other variables. Information was gathered from all corners of the college football world, including preseason magazines, websites dedicated to specific teams, national college football websites, and more.
The #21 team on the BangTheBook.com Preseason Top 25 is the Mississippi Rebels.
Bo Wallace had a fine year for the Rebels last season as he threw for over 3,300 yards and 18 touchdowns. Six of the team’s passing touchdowns were hawked by Barry Brunetti, who is no longer in the program, so expect Wallace to put together even better numbers this season. Wallace also managed to scramble for 355 yards and six touchdowns as well, putting him on the fringes of being considered a dual-threat quarterback. With that running ability comes concerns and there’s little depth behind Wallace.
Running Backs (7.5/10)
If one were to combine I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, he or she would get a back that rushed for nearly 1,100 yards on 208 carries. Walton showcased as a receiving back as well with 29 receptions for 322 yards. The Rebels like to run a lot of plays and tempo is the key to this offense. It worked for them and led to 4.7 yards per carry last season and the third year of Hugh Freeze’s tenure could lead to even better numbers.
Wide Receivers (7.5/10)
Even though he wasn’t fed enough, Donte Moncrief departed the program as the third-leading receiver in school history in just three seasons. Ja-Mes Logan also left, taking his 44 receptions and 583 yards with him. But, Laquon Treadwell returns and the true sophomore had a fine freshman season and should progress even more this season. There’s some athleticism here and lanky freshman Markell Pack could start as a true freshman.
Offensive Line (12.5/15)
The Rebels lost three starters from last season’s offensive line, but former #1 offensive lineman recruit Laremy Tunsil will protect Wallace’s blind side. Tunsil was a freshman All-American last season and will be the highlight of an offensive line that features some promising JUCO transfers and some depth to be proud of. It’s not a polished unit yet, but it certainly could be.
Defensive Line (13.5/15)
Three starters, including #1 defensive line recruit Robert Nkemdiche, are back in the lineup for the Rebels. The Rebels were outstanding in stopping the run out of conference and allowed 4.8 yards per carry out of conference, but the depth is really impressive here. Injuries are inevitable and the Rebels are in a much better position than most teams in the event of a major injury to the front four.
Like the defensive line, depth is the most impressive part of this group. Freeze and defensive coordinator Dave Womack had no issue letting their promising freshman play last season and that should pay dividends over the next couple of years. That includes the linebacking corps, where some young players can have a major impact.
Defensive Backs (7.5/10)
The key to the secondary might be JUCO transfer Tee Shepard, originally a Notre Dame recruit. The secondary returns all four starters, but Shepard may play his way into a starting role with his huge upside. The defense for the Rebels didn’t put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, which put a lot of pressure on the secondary to perform. What was impressive about this group is that they didn’t allow many big plays and that generally means a sound tackling team and a team that recovers well.
Hugh Freeze, who moved into Division-I FBS prominence via his relationship with Michael Oher, paid his dues through the coaching ranks, starting at NAIA Lambuth College before moving to Arkansas State as the offensive coordinator. He’s an impressive head coach and his defensive coordinator has 33 years of experience. The Rebels showed some dominance in non-conference play, but that didn’t translate to SEC play. The jury should still be out on Freeze, but he certainly has a high ceiling.
The Mississippi Rebels are one of two teams tied with a rating of 80, but their balance places them ahead of the other team. Ultimately, the Rebels are a very talented team in the SEC this season. There are some unknowns with some JUCO transfers, but Freeze has done a magnificent job of recruiting and the Rebels should be a consistent team on a week to week basis because of the quality depth that has been assembled. Laquon Treadwell has star potential, as do Laremy Tunsil and Robert Nkemdiche. That gives the Rebels a high ceiling if they can navigate a fairly tough schedule with the Big Three in the SEC West. This is a team capable of an upset or two.
Nobody’s going to pencil the Rebels in for nine or 10 wins given their schedule, but there’s some star power on this roster and Wallace showed signs of greatness and signs of incompetence last season. More consistency out of him and some further development in the back seven on defense can make the Rebels a darkhorse team to finish second in the SEC West.
With talent, depth, and a lot of athleticism, the Mississippi Rebels are certainly deserving of a spot in the Top 25, checking in at #21.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.