The Ole Miss Rebels are coming off one of the worst seasons in school history. In 2011, the Rebels finished the season with just two wins and only one win over a FBS program. Houston Nutt is now departed from Oxford and new head coach Hugh Freeze has taken up residence.
The general perception is that Nutt was only drawing a paycheck at the end and he and his team checked out early. Those days are over. Freeze is not only the 37th head coach in Ole Miss history, but he is also a Mississippi native.
In other words, this is more than just a job for the former Arkansas State coach.
Freeze will have a shot not only to break the Ole Miss seven-game losing streak but also help the Rebels win their first home game since September 10th, 2011.
Ole Miss is looking to improve on its horrific offensive numbers from a year ago when they were 11th in the SEC in both points per game (16.1) and yards per game (281.3). This task will not be easy since Freeze has yet to settle on a quarterback with both Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti fighting for playing time.
The Rebels should improve dramatically in the running game this season but will be without Jeff Scott for the first game of the year. Randall Mackey will get the start and if needed could be the focus of a trick play or two with his experience at wide receiver and quarterback.
While most have Ole Miss winning this game, Central Arkansas can not be overlooked. The Bears return 15 starters from a team that won nine games in 2011. Failure to play focused football could lead to another disaster like the Jacksonville State fiasco in 2010.
The Bears will have to replace former quarterback Nathan Dick, who threw for 3,275 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2011. Although they do have seasoned talent returning at wide receiver and running back, the Bears are replacing four new starters on the offensive line.
The Central Arkansas defense will also be replacing key players but has some terrific talent returning with defensive end Markeith Gaines, linebacker Seth Allison and safety Jestin Love.
Prediction: Ole Miss should blitz early and often to disrupt the Bears offense. The spread of this game will be determined by how early one of the two Ole Miss quarterbacks gets into a rhythm. This season will be a rebuilding year but it should get off to a good start.
Score Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Central Arkansas 17
Stat Prediction: Randall Mackey 87 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns.