Bill Connelly of SB Nation has developed the S&P+ ranking system for all college football teams in the FBS. The system uses analytics to rank teams based on five factors – efficiency, explosiveness, field position, finishing drives and turnovers. The system allows for ranking teams analytically on a level playing field without having to play each other.
The ranking system has Ole Miss as the 46th ranked team in all FBS, and the South Carolina Gamecocks at 52nd. The proximity would predict that this game can go either way. However, both teams are constructed in two different ways. The Gamecocks are a team without an elite side of the ball, but they are good on both on offense and defense. There is no let down when one side comes off the field and the other steps on.
S&P+ reaffirms the Jekyll and Hyde identity that the Ole Miss team has adopted. Through eight games, the Rebels have an elite offense mixed with a bottom-of-the-barrel defense.
Ole Miss ranks third in college football in offensive S&P+ with an adjusted scoring average of 41.9 points per game. This trails only Oklahoma and Alabama, teams that are favorites to win their conferences. The analytics match the eye test. Anyone who watches Ole Miss football knows the offensive firepower Phil Longo’s group operates with.
However, the Rebels’ three losses have come against three top defenses (Alabama, LSU and Auburn). Ole Miss scored 39 points total in those three games, including the seven-point output against Alabama. Those three opponents have one thing in common – all three defenses rank inside the top 19 of defensive S&P+. Alabama is the worst of the group sitting at 19th. Auburn and LSU are each inside of the top eight.
South Carolina is a clear step down from the three dominant defenses. The Gamecocks rank as the fourth- best defense that Ole Miss will have faced to this point, coming in at 53rd in defensive S&P+. The system has the Gamecocks surrendering an adjusted average of 27 points per game.
When comparing how the Ole Miss defense against fares in comparison to the South Carolina offense, the edge is in favor of the Gamecocks. Offensive S&P+ has South Carolina at 60th in the nation, scoring an adjusted average of 30 points per game.
The Ole Miss defense resides in the basement of the country, sitting at 110th in defensive S&P+. The defense has given up 21 or more points to seven of its eight opponents. This includes 41 points to Southern Illinois and 62 to an Alabama team that let its foot off the gas.
Knocking off South Carolina would be the top SEC win for Matt Luke thus far in the season. Will Muschamp’s team has experienced a similar roller coaster of play that Ole Miss has. His offense boasts a receiving corps that can rival the N.W.O. in top-level talent. Bryan Edwards and Deebo Samuel are playmakers that will look to take advantage of the porous Rebel secondary. Rico Dowdle gives the Gamecock offense balance with his ability to control the game on the ground. Ole Miss must score in the mid-30s to pull out a win.