By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
Phil Steele, arguably the nation’s leading college football expert, is high on the Ole Miss Rebels heading into the 2014 football season. Steele has the Rebels ranked No. 16 in his Top 40 countdown and he feels like they have a chance to win 10 games this season.
With his rankings based on the amount of Very High Rated players Ole Miss has on its roster, Steele feels like this team is better than the 2009 edition that, at one time, was ranked No. 4 in the country.
“I’m going to compare it to 2009 when Ole Miss entered the season No. 8 in the AP poll and ended up with a little bit of a disappointing year losing four games,” Steele said. “I look at the 2009 roster and that had nowhere near the amount of what I call VHT’s that this 2014 roster has. When you look at the job Hugh Freeze has been doing, this roster is loaded with VHTs and almost comparable to an Alabama or LSU.”
Steele has the Rebels as a favorite in all but two games, against Alabama and at LSU. He called the home game with Auburn a “push.”
Boise State is more than a respectable opener, but Steele still had the Rebels close to a 10-point favorite, mainly because the game is in Atlanta and that the Rebels’ should almost certainly have the crowd firmly in their favor. When it comes to trap games, Steele pointed to road games at Arkansas and Texas A&M.
“At Arkansas is a sneaky one. The Arkansas game this past year was a nice, 10-point win for Ole Miss, but I like the way Arkansas played down the stretch,” Steele said. “I think (Bret) Bielema is in his second year. (Quarterback) Brandon Allen wasn’t really 100 percent last year, and I think he will be a much improved passer. You’ve got (running backs) Alex Collins, Korliss Marshall, and they catch Ole Miss the week before Ole Miss plays Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Arkansas will be at home in their final home game, so I think that could be a potentially tricky one.”
For more from Steele, see Thursday’s print edition of the Oxford Citizen or visit www.oxfordcitizen.com