OLE MISS

Statistical Look-Ahead To 2013 Ole Miss Football

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Bill Connelly from SB Nation's Football Study Hall and Football Outsiders is in the middle of his 2013 CFB preview countdown for SB Nation. This past Thursday, he previewed Ole Miss. Overall, there was a lot of optimism in the preview, and I caught up with Connelly earlier today to further discuss the upcoming season.

Here is a glossary for the terms used in the 2013 CFB preview countdown to better understand the graphs below and in the entire preview linked above.

Where Ole Miss fits in the SEC: Connelly is currently previewing the 14 SEC teams, and he offered some trends within the conference and how Ole Miss fits with the trends.

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"I think one of the trends you pick up on really quickly is everybody plays elite teams, but you're going to win a lot of games in the SEC. There are always going to be a few elite teams at the top, but you can pretty quickly get to that number five or number six spot in the SEC, and you can win a lot of games doing that, especially if you schedule in the nonconference like a lot of SEC teams do.

"It's possible to execute the type of turnaround like what Ole Miss started to do last year, and what they might really do this year. It is possible to do that in the SEC."

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Improvement on both sides of the ball: From 2011 to 2012, Ole Miss improved from 100th to 40th in overall efficiency, 78th to 34th on defense and 110th to 34th on offense. 

Notably the passing game improved from 78th to 14th in explosiveness, and Ole Miss returns quarterback Bo Wallace and five of its top six receivers, including its top three in Donte Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan and Vince Sanders. That's not to mention five-star prospect Laquon Treadwell.

"The most improvement overall was made on the offensive side of the ball," Connelly said. "That offense should not have nearly been that bad in 2011. So there was certainly a false bottom. It shouldn't have been as bad as it was, but then they improved right back into the top 40 last year."

"And it seemed like the improvement came in pretty sustainable ways, just in terms of the play-calling and putting Wallace into a position to succeed."

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Better than its 7-6 record: From 2011 to 2012, Ole Miss improved from 2-10 to 7-6 with a bowl win against Pittsburgh. However, when adjusted, Ole Miss would also wins against Alabama, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and LSU.


"The general idea of the adjusted score and the adjusted record was what if everybody played the exact same opponent each week, what if everybody played a perfectly average opponent with a perfectly average number of breaks," Connelly said. "It's just way of seeing the ups and downs of a schedule take place, adjusting it for an opponent.


"What you see from Ole Miss there is if they played an average opponent every single week, they would have gone about 10-3. What you see in that adjusted score is just the progression from week to week is that after about three weeks, the defense figured some things out... For most of the rest of the season, they played at an average to good level. That's what is probably most noticeable from that chart."


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Special Teams: Punter Tyler Campbell and kicker Andrew Ritter redshirted last year, and their return this year combined with more options in the return game and more depth in both coverage and return units provide optimism, as Ole Miss looks for marked improvement in special teams. From 2011 to 2012, Ole Miss fell from 16th to 111th in special teams efficiency. Notably absent from the below chart is Campbell, who led the nation in punting average in 2011 (46.37 yards/punt) and ranked 22nd in 2012 (43.6 yards/punt).

"A lot of these underdog teams like Kent State last year, Kansas last year, they were spectacular in special teams," Connelly said. "It's an opportunity to score some free points and get some good field position, and Ole Miss didn't take advantage of that last year.

"If Ole Miss can be improved back to average, a special teams unit that doesn't give away points or field position very often, then obviously if the offense is good again, if the defense gets better as the season goes on as the young guys get more experience, improvement in special teams could make a difference."

Final Word: I asked Connelly what are some make-or-break areas for Ole Miss in 2013, as it looks improve on last year's 7-6 record. He mentioned three areas: Health and decision-making of quarterback Bo Wallace, explosiveness and big plays in the running game and the pass defense.

"What we typically see is that when a team makes humongous gains in one year, it's kind of too much, too soon, and they regress a little bit the next year," Connelly said. "When you make humongous gains in one year, a lot of times your goal is to consolidate those gains the next year."

"Nevermind the expectations because of the recruiting class, if Ole Miss were to field another top-40 team and go to another bowl, considering where the program was in 2011, then that's fantastic. But because of the recruiting class, the late-season improvement last year and all of the young pieces that are in place, then that would kind of feel disappointing. But in terms of how it usually goes for most teams, if Ole Miss is top-40 again -- not taking a step backward -- they're taking a step forward."

Bill Connelly is the owner of SB Nation's Football Study Hall. He is also a contributor to Football Outsiders and SB Nation's Missouri Tigers site Rock M Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @SBN_BillC

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