Ole Miss football 2024 schedule: Is slate for Lane Kiffin's team easier than past years?

OXFORD — The 2024 Ole Miss football schedule does not feature an iron-reinforced roadblock with Nick Saban's face on it. In fact, it doesn't include Alabama at all.

For the first time since 1991, the Rebels won't meet the Crimson Tide, owing to the SEC quashing its divisional format following the admission of Texas and Oklahoma.

That fact, in part, drives the notion among some that the Rebels have an easy — in relative terms — 2024 slate, further fueling the optimism surrounding coach Lane Kiffin's group as it looks to push for the College Football Playoff.

Eyeballing the schedule, it does seem like less of a gauntlet than what the Rebels have sometimes faced in the recent past. There is no real nonconference test — a road game against a Wake Forest team picked by the bookmakers to win 4.5 games looks like the most threatening obstacle. Likewise, the bookies have set preseason win totals below six games for four of Ole Miss' eight SEC foes: South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Florida.

But let's examine the schedule with a more empirical lens.

ESPN's SP+ metric is a "tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency." The metric's creator, Bill Connelly, intends it to be a predictive tool measuring team strength, not an evaluator of past results. It's not a perfect barometer for the strength of the Rebels' 2024 schedule because, like every form of preseason power rating, it has no game data to work with. But at this time of year, it's among the strongest available tools to make educated guesses.

Here's how the first preseason edition of SP+ ranked Ole Miss' 2024 opponents (the higher the number, the weaker the team):

  • Furman: N/A (SP+ doesn't rank FCS teams)

  • Middle Tennessee: 108

  • Wake Forest: 72

  • Georgia Southern: 106

  • Kentucky: 40

  • South Carolina: 42

  • LSU: 10

  • Oklahoma: 14

  • Arkansas: 56

  • Georgia: 1

  • Florida: 33

  • Mississippi State: 74

Using those numbers, the average Ole Miss 2024 opponent carries an SP+ ranking of about 50.5.

Here's a look at the end-of-season SP+ rankings for the Rebels' 2023 regular-season foes:

  • Mercer: N/A

  • Tulane: 56

  • Georgia Tech: 65

  • Alabama: 7

  • LSU: 11

  • Arkansas: 54

  • Auburn: 36

  • Vanderbilt: 110

  • Texas A&M: 16

  • Georgia: 2

  • Louisiana-Monroe: 131

  • Mississippi State: 62

The average SP+ rating of the Rebels' opponents in 2023 was exactly 50.

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By that metric, perhaps the Rebels aren't facing a much easier path to their 2024 goals. There are, of course, other factors to consider.

Ole Miss played two of its three best opponents in 2023 on the road, losing both of those games. In 2024, Georgia and Oklahoma must visit Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, though the Rebels face a challenging trip to Baton Rouge to play LSU. They will benefit from an open week before Oklahoma comes to town.

The strongest data in support of the idea that Kiffin's team has an easier path than usual in 2024 comes from analyzing schedules deeper in the past.

The average SP+ rating of Ole Miss' opponents in 2022 was 43.2. In 2021, it was 43.7. In the pandemic-impacted season of 2020, in which the Rebels played only SEC opposition in the regular season, it was 45.9.

Among the driving forces behind that conclusion? Mississippi State. In 2022, the Bulldogs were ranked by SP+ as the No. 12 team in the country. In 2021, they were No. 34. Amid an ugly 2023 season led by Zach Arnett, they came in at 62, and they project at No. 74 leading into their first season under new coach Jeff Lebby.

Plug in the 2022 Mississippi State team's numbers for 2023 and 2024, and the average strength of Ole Miss' schedules for those two years looks closer to the first three years of Kiffin's tenure.

So, does Ole Miss' 2024 schedule look easier on paper than in 2023? Only marginally. But compared to 2022 and 2021, it projects as a significantly lighter load.

David Eckert covers Ole Miss for the Clarion Ledger. Email him at or reach him on Twitter @davideckert98.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Some numbers to look at evaluating 2024 Ole Miss football schedule