Central Arkansas will look to improve on its 9-4 mark from last season in 2012-2013, but it will have to start with a matchup against Ole Miss of the SEC West, which just added head coach Hugh Freeze.
Freeze led Arkansas State to a 10-2 record last season and is sure to cause some confusion with a dual-quarterback system in the opening game.
Central Arkansas' defense will have to step up, a defense that is currently without the help of former Baylor defensive end Tevin Elliott.
Here's a look at Saturday's clash.
Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Miss.
When: Saturday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. ET
Listen: 91.3 KUCA (Little Rock), Ole Miss Radio Football Network
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Line: TBA
What's At Stake?
Coming off a 9-4 record in the Southland Conference, Division I-AA Central Arkansas finished 2011-2012 on a down note, losing to Montana, 41-14.
Ole Miss, on the other hand, finished 2-10 last season, ranked 116th and 96th in points per game and points allowed per game, respectively. Facing a brutal schedule in the SEC, the Rebels only beat Southern Illinois and Fresno State while getting blown out throughout the season (although they did play Arkansas close in a 29-24 loss).
Both teams need to get off to a fast start, particularly Ole Miss, which faces Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU down the line.
Injury Report (via Covers.com)
None to report
DB Charles Sawyer - Torn Quad Muscle - OUT until at least late September
LB D.T. Shackelford - Knee - OUT for season
What They're Saying
Former Baylor defensive end Tevin Elliott has been suspended for Central Arkansas' game on Saturday after being indicted on three counts of sexual assault on Monday.
Elliott, who recorded 63 tackles and eight sacks with Baylor in two seasons, was suspended by the university on April 27 and arrested on April 30. He later transferred to Central Arkansas.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss is already looking ahead to next season, as it pursues five-star running back Derrick Green out of Richmond, Va. Green is ranked No. 1 at his position and No. 13 overall by Rivals.com in the 2013 recruiting class.
According to ESPN, Green will announce his commitment in October. Ole Miss is in competition with Auburn, Georgia, Michigan, Oregon and Tennessee.
Central Arkansas Player to Watch: Wynrick Smothers, QB
Wynrick Smothers, a junior, won the starting job at quarterback this offseason over sophomores Ryan Howard and Jacoby Walker.
The dual-threat quarterback played in five games (one start) for the Bears last season, completing 29-of-59 pass attempts for 374 yards and one touchdown (three interceptions). He's rushed for 231 yards and three touchdowns in his career at Central Arkansas.
Smothers will be taking over for Nathan Dick, who completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for over 3,200 yards and 32 touchdowns (nine interceptions) last season. Dick also ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Ole Miss Player to Watch: QBs Barry Brunetti and Bo Wallace
Why two quarterbacks?
Because new head coach Hugh Freeze is looking to play both, at least for the first few games.
We know from Freeze's track record that he'll be employing a high-octane, up-tempo offense this season. We also know he tends to get the most out of his teams. He's gone 30-7 in his career as head coach, including a 10-2 record with Arkansas State last season.
Brunetti played in four games for the Rebels last season, going 19-of-35 for 144 yards. He also added 33 rushing yards.
Wallace, a junior college newcomer, has a lot of talent and has been impressive in his first offseason with the Rebels.
Key Matchup: Central Arkansas Defense vs. Ole Miss Spread Offense
You can bet Freeze has some tricks up his sleeves for the opener, which should see Brunetti and Wallace running and passing all over the place.
Central Arkansas, despite playing Division I-AA competition last season, gave up 28.7 points per game. That included allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 65.6 percent of their passes for 254.8 yards per game.
On the other hand, the Rebels did notch 17 interceptions on the season, so perhaps they will take advantage of Ole Miss' inexperience at quarterback.
Prediction: Ole Miss 24, Central Arkansas 13
Don't underestimate Hugh Freeze. Freeze already has some experience turning programs around and he is sure to be well-prepared for Central Arkansas come Saturday. I expect the dual-quarterback system to work, at least against a suspect Central Arkansas defense. I think Smothers still has some growing to do on the other side of the ball.
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