Ole Miss Football: Way Too Early Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions for 2013

Seph AndersonCorrespondent IIIFebruary 17, 2013

Ole Miss Football: Way Too Early Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions for 2013

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    For Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss Rebels, the future is bright. Not only did Freeze resurrect an Ole Miss football program that was in the wilderness, he also brought in signatures from some of the nation's very best high school prospects in 2013.

    In 2010, Houston Nutt's Rebels posted a 4-8 overall record. The next year, the reverend posted an even worse 2-10 record at Ole Miss. Times really couldn't have been any worse for the people in Oxford. Tired of the product Nutt was putting on the field, he got canned and Hugh Freeze was hired.

    Suddenly, Hugh Freeze was stepping into a program that many across the nation thought would take years to rebuild. Well, in year one Freeze halted a 15-game SEC losing streak, defeated rival Mississippi State for the first time in three years and led the Rebels to a BBVA Compass Bowl victory over Pitt. Next, he signed the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation (per ESPN). It surprised everyone.

    All of this being said, the 2012 season is now in the past.

    In college football, it's a game of, "What have you done for me lately?"

    If QB Bo Wallace can return healthy from off-season shoulder surgery and stay healthy all year, then Ole Miss has a chance to do something very special in 2013. On the other hand, an injury to the junior would leave the Rebels likely turning to true freshman Devante Kincade or Ryan Buchanan.

    Could a trip to Atlanta be in the cards, so soon, for Hugh Freeze's Rebels?

    Let's take a look at what the future may hold for the Land of Hotty Toddy in 2013.

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt (August 29)

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    Ole Miss at Vanderbilt: It's a game that may be the most important for both clubs in 2013.

    Last season, the Rebels blew one of their many second-half leads in a loss to the Commodores.

    As the result of a 26-yard touchdown strike from Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers to WR Chris Boyd in the final minutes of the game, Ole Miss allowed Vanderbilt to come back from a 16-point deficit.

    In recent years, the series between thee two clubs has been tight with the Commodores having won six of the past eight meetings. 

    James Franklin has his work cut out for him this spring and summer as he tries to fill the voids left by a number of graduating players. In particular, Franklin must find a new starting quarterback, running back, two offensive guards and three defensive linemen.

    As for the Rebels, they return essentially every key contributor from the 2012 campaign, minus offensive weapon Randall Mackey. Freeze should be loaded on offense and defense in 2013.

    It will be imperative that Ole Miss find a couple of guys to fill the dynamic role Mackey provided last season. Offensive coordinator Dan Werner should have no trouble finding his men.

    Having been on the losing side of this rivalry in recent years, look for the Rebels to win this one.

    It's simply too big of a game for the Rebels to drop, and they won't.

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Ole Miss 31, Vandy 17

    Overall Record 1-0 (1-0 SEC)

Southeast Missouri at Ole Miss (September 7)

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    Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) travels to Oxford on Sept. 7 for what will surely be a blowout in front of the home crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. SEMO, reigning from the Ohio Valley Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision (FBS), struggled to post a mere three wins in 2012. It wasn't pretty, folks.

    The three wins by the Redhawks last season came against Mars Hill, Tennessee Tech and Austin Peay.

    It's simply a financial visit for SEMO, as this one will be over before the Ole Miss students even get to the stadium.

    Will the Rebel faithful be back in the Grove before halftime?

    Not if Ole Miss Athletics Director (AD) Ross Bjork can find a way to keep them in the stands.

    Michael Thompson, Senior Associate AD over Marketing and Communications, you now have several months to develop a marketing plan for this thriller. I wouldn't bet against you, either.

    Freeze will be able get a lot of young players quality playing time, which should pay dividends.

    Way Too Early Prediciton:

    Ole Miss 59, SEMO 13

    Overall Record 2-0 (1-0 SEC)

Ole Miss at Texas (September 14)

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    In a rare home-and-away series between Ole Miss and Texas (9-4), the Rebels will travel to Austin in 2013 for a rematch against the Longhorns.

    Last season, in one of the biggest non-conference games ever in Oxford, Mack Brown's team routed the Rebels 66-31. The bigger game was probably in the Grove before kickoff, as an estimated 15,000-plus Longhorn fans traveled to experience the tailgating mecca that is the Grove.

    Mack Brown played a tremendous amount of true freshmen last season, a decision that should help Texas immensely this season. At the end of 2013, the Longhorns should find themselves playing in a much better bowl than the Alamo Bowl.

    For Ole Miss, the tilt in Austin will provide Hugh Freeze with a chance to truly show the nation what he's building at Ole Miss. It's a game sure to receive a prime slot on national television.

    A win on the road at Texas would quiet many skeptics about what Ole Miss is capable of doing. On the other hand, a loss would only add fuel to the fire that Ole Miss is always going to be Ole Miss.

    Will key Rebel freshmen in the 2013 signing class be prepared, so early in the season, for such an intense atmosphere on the road? Is a win at Texas too much to expect of Hugh Freeze's Rebels so soon?

    It will be interesting to find out, either way.

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Texas 38, Ole Miss 27

    Overall Record 2-1 (1-0 SEC)

Ole Miss at Alabama (September 28)

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    Thanks to scheduling chaos caused by the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, Ole Miss will be making a return trip to Tuscaloosa in as many years.

    Last season, the Rebels played pretty well on the road at Alabama. Actually leading for a small window in the game, Ole Miss eventually fell 33-14 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

    Leaving early for the NFL will be Alabama CB Dee Milner, OT D.J. Fluker and RB Eddie Lacy. Additionally, Saban loses a handful of senior starters from the championship roster including Barrett Jones.

    Needless to say, there are younger stars in queue for Alabama ready to make names for themselves in 2013. Death, taxes and star Alabama recruits are all things you can count on in life.

    Coming off the game at Texas on Sept. 14, the Rebels will have an open week to prepare for their trip to Tuscaloosa.

    While Alabama opens in the Georgia Dome against Virginia Tech on Aug. 31, they then have an open week before traveling to Texas A&M for an all-important rematch with the Aggies.

    However, the Tide host Ole Miss in the middle of a three-game homestand after Texas A&M. Before playing the Rebels, Alabama hosts Colorado State. After taking on Ole Miss, Georgia State is on tap.

    If that schedule doesn't spell letdown I don't know what does.

    Nick Saban is a master motivator, but he'll have his work cut out for him this time around.

    Despite every motivational effort possible by Saban, Ole Miss will to travel to Tuscaloosa and go toe-to-toe with Alabama for four quarters.

    Win or lose at Texas on Sept. 14, Hugh Freeze will have an off week to get his players some rest and stir them up for a rematch with the Crimson Tide. It should be one of the best games of the season.

    That's right. You heard it here first: the Crimson Tide will fall at home on Sept. 28.

    Ole Miss beats Alabama in Tuscaloosa for the first time since 1988.

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Ole Miss 27, Alabama 24

    Overall Record 3-1 (2-0 SEC)

Ole Miss at Auburn (October 5)

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    Taking the Hugh Freeze route to a head coaching gig in the SEC, Gus Malzahn takes over at Auburn following a one-year stint at Arkansas State.

    In 2012, Auburn football suffered through arguably their worst year in history. The folks on the plains simply won't put up with a winless SEC record.

    Gene Chisik is out. Gus Malzahn is in.

    Having been the Auburn offensive coordinator from 2009 to 2011, Malzahn rejoins a program he is quite familiar with in recent years. Considered one of the next up-and-coming coaches, Malzahn was the perfect hire by Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs.

    Last season, a 41-20 victory over the Tigers halted a 16-game SEC skid for the Ole Miss Rebels.

    Granted the 2012 Tigers weren't your usual Auburn Tigers. Hugh Freeze's win in Oxford October 13, 2012 signaled a change in the direction of the Ole Miss program. Things suddenly didn't look so dreary.

    How much of a turnaround can Auburn fans expect in year one of the Malzahn era?

    That's an excellent question, and one we won't know the answer to for a while.

    The Rebels don't historically play well on the plains, and if they're not careful this one has upset all over it. Auburn will be coming off an open week before hosting Ole Miss, while Hugh Freeze's club will be playing on the road for the second consecutive week following a trip to Tuscaloosa.

    Good friends off the field, it will be strictly business for the two head coaches on October 5.

    Success in the State of Alabama continues for a second week in a row.

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Ole Miss 35, Auburn 23

    Overall Record 4-1 (3-0 SEC)

Texas A&M at Ole Miss (October 12)

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    The one that got away.

    That's how Ole Miss fans describe the 30-27 loss to Texas A&M last season. It hurt, and still does.

    While the Rebels must make a trip to Alabama two years in a row, thanks to SEC scheduling issues Texas A&M will once again be forced to travel to Oxford in 2013.

    It was yet another second-half letdown for Freeze's squad, as the boys in red and blue gave up a 10-point second-half lead behind the heroic efforts of QB Johnny Manziel.

    For two offensive-minded coaches, Hugh Freeze and Kevin Sumlin, the outcome in Oxford will be largely determined by which team plays better defense for four quarters. Four quarters, not three.

    Despite forcing six turnovers against the Aggies last season, the Rebels couldn't fully capitalize. If they want to hang around long enough for a chance this season, turning turnovers into points will be key.

    For the second consecutive week, the Rebels will take the field against a team coming off an open week.

    Will Texas A&M come out flat or fired up following the open week?

    Can Johnny Heisman have the same type of season he did in 2012 or will SEC defensive coordinators have better game plans to try and contain the escape artist in 2013?

    It slipped away last season at home for the Rebels, what will happen this time around?

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Texas A&M 44, Ole Miss 37

    Overall Record 4-2 (3-1 SEC)

LSU at Ole Miss (October 19)

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    In a classic SEC rivalry, LSU and Ole Miss will square off much earlier in the season than usual.

    Typically played in late November, SEC scheduling issues with the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M will move this nasty rivalry up much earlier in 2013.

    Les Miles and the Tigers will travel to Oxford the week after a monster showdown with the Florida Gators in Baton Rouge. It's a game that should be great, as long as Florida rebounds from their Sugar Bowl hangover. Will Muschamp will have the Gators prepared.

    Will LSU travel to Ole Miss riding high after a win over Florida, or will they be looking to bounce back in typical Les Miles fashion following a loss? Interesting note, Miles is 18-1 in games at LSU the week after suffering a loss. Love him or hate him, the man simply doesn't lose two in a row very often.

    Last season, Hugh Freeze nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the entire season at LSU. Unfortunately for the Rebels, they gave up a 28-20 fourth quarter lead to eventually fall 41-35. October 19 will be a date the Rebels will have marked on their schedule before the season even begins.

    Can Ole Miss slay multiple SEC West giants in the same season?

    LSU lost 11 players to the 2013 NFL Draft. There's simply no denying the impact it will have. If this one were later in the season, LSU would have time for younger players to gain experience.

    It's not, and Ole Miss defeats the Tigers in Oxford. The Grove may stay open for a week.

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Ole Miss 42, LSU 33

    Overall Record 5-2 (4-1 SEC)

Idaho at Ole Miss (October 26)

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    Idaho, yes Idaho, will travel to Oxford for a late-season game against Ole Miss.

    The Vandals were absolutely horrid in 2012, only notching a single win against New Mexico State on their way to a 1-11 finish. It really couldn't have been any worse. Well, I guess they could have been 0-12.

    If the folks in Oxford think the game against Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 7 will be a mismatch, the Idaho game will be anything but a real game.

    Do Rebel fans even serve french fries in the Grove?

    The Vandals fell 63-14 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge last season. Expect much of the same on October 26, as Idaho makes the trip south to Oxford.

    Keep the bus warm, Idaho, or better yet maybe never get off?

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Ole Miss 57, Idaho 17

    Overall Record 6-2 (4-1 SEC)

Arkansas at Ole Miss (November 9)

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    Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long may have made a mistake hiring interim coach John L. Smith after the Bobby Petrino fiasco, but hiring Bret Bielema was a home run. Many thought Arkansas would go after a coach familiar to the SEC, but surprisingly they went to the Big 10 to steal Bret Bielema away from the Wisconsin Badgers.

    What did Bielema do at Wisconsin?

    In seven seasons with the Badgers, the head coach complied a 68-24 overall record, posted four seasons of 10 or more wins, led Wisconsin to three straight Big 10 titles and three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances.

    Bielema is a proven winner. The only question will be how long before he is successful at Arkansas?

    Thanks to a last-second field goal in Little Rock last season, Ole Miss escaped with a 30-27 road win against John L. Smith and the Razorbacks. Arkansas players will be looking for revenge.

    The Hogs will make the short trip over to Oxford following a home game with the Auburn Tigers, featuring two first-year SEC head coaches. The winner should take away a great deal of momentum.

    Arkansas went 4-8 last season, but they're much better than their 2012 record. A team that went 11-2 on their way to a Sugar Bowl berth in 2011, Arkansas is a talented club.

    However, it's a home game for the Rebels in 2013.

    Rolling at 6-2 by this point and receiving a great deal of national attention, Ole Miss won't suffer a letdown against the Hogs at home.

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Ole Miss 38, Arkansas 24

    Overall Record 7-2 (5-1 SEC)

Troy at Ole Miss (November 16)

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    Finishing just shy of earning a bowl trip at 5-7, Troy did nearly beat both Mississippi State (MSU) and Tennessee (UT) during the 2012 campaign.

    No, MSU and UT aren't the cream of the crop in the SEC, but they are nonetheless SEC competition.

    Trojan head coach Larry Blakeney has played plenty of SEC foes in his career at Troy, and he'll have his team mentally prepared for their date with the Rebels on Nov. 16.

    On the heels of an SEC game against Arkansas, Troy won't be overlooked by Ole Miss.

    As long as Hugh Freeze has his team focused for the non-conference opponent, Ole Miss should get past Troy. However, the game is sure to be much closer than outings against Southeast Missouri State and Idaho.

    Troy loses far too many senior starters from the 2012 roster and struggles to stay close in Oxford. 

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Ole Miss 47, Troy 23

    Overall Record 8-2 (5-1 SEC)

Missouri at Ole Miss (November 23)

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    The Missouri game will bring an end to six consecutive home games for Ole Miss.

    The only reprieve for the Rebels in that stretch will be an open week sandwiched in the middle after playing Texas A&M, Idaho and LSU and before taking on Arkansas, Troy and Missouri.

    It has to mark one of only a handful of times in college football history that a school has gone seven consecutive weeks without playing a single road or neutral-site game.

    The Missouri Tigers certainly didn't have the same level of success Texas A&M did in their inaugural SEC season. In fact, Missouri really looked out of place at times in the SEC.

    While Gary Pinkel's Tigers only notched five wins in 2012, they played admirably in close losses against Vanderbilt (19-15), Florida (14-7) and Syracuse (31-27). Had the Tigers pulled out even one of those games, they would have ended up in a bowl game with six wins.

    After seven consecutive winning seasons and bowl bids prior to last season, the folks in Columbia simply expect more from their beloved Tigers. SEC fans do, too. In 2013, expect Missouri to look more like the Tigers of old when they travel to Oxford. 

    Once again, Hugh Freeze will play a team coming off an open week. It's Missouri this time.

    A week before the all-important Egg Bowl against rival Mississippi State, it will be paramount that Ole Miss doesn't overlook the Tigers. Already 1-5 all-time against Missouri, Hugh Freeze hopes to not add another Rebel loss to the record.

    It will be a close one, but Ole Miss gets caught looking ahead to the Egg Bowl.

    Missouri is much improved in 2013, and will be looking to improve their bowl location in Oxford.

    This will be the game to make Rebel fans wonder what truly could have been in 2013.

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Missouri 34, Ole Miss 30

    Overall Record 8-3 (5-2 SEC)

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (November 30)

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    In a series dating back to 1901, Ole Miss and Mississippi State will meet in Starkville on November 30.

    Prior to Ole Miss' 41-24 victory in Oxford last season, the Bulldogs had taken three straight Egg Bowls from the Rebels behind renewed series hype from Dan Mullen. 

    Following a 2011 Egg Bowl victory, Mullen proudly told his coaches and players that "we're never losing to this team (Ole Miss) again."

    Someone must have forgotten to tell Mullen that social media is pretty big in the 21st century.

    As an Ole Miss victory became apparent last season, the clip of Mullen's speech after the 2011 Egg Bowl was played on a loop over and over again while the final minutes ticked off the clock in Oxford.

    It was a moment neither Ole Miss fans nor Dan Mullen will soon forget.

    When asked what he thought about the clip being played at the game, Mullen simply said,"They love me here." He said about all he could on the heels of a 41-24 defeat.

    The 2013 Egg Bowl in Starkville will mark the sixth consecutive SEC game for the Bulldogs in as many weeks, while the Rebels will have the luxury of an open week Nov. 2. There's no love lost between these two schools, coaching staffs, players, fans or alumni. It's nasty.

    Honestly, I expect both teams to enter the Egg Bowl on opposite paths than they were on last year.

    Mississippi State may very well find themselves fighting Ole Miss for a bowl berth, while Ole Miss should be jockeying for a bowl much more prestigous than the BBVA Compass.

    There's a new sheriff in town, and it's not Dan Mullen.

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Ole Miss 45, Mississippi State 30

    Overall Record 9-3 (6-2 SEC)

Trip to Atlanta Awaits Rebels, but to Play Virginia Tech

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    Ole Miss will finish the regular season 9-3 (6-2 SEC) and earn a trip to Atlanta. Could the Rebels sneak into a conference championship in Atlanta at 6-2 in the SEC?

    With wins over Alabama and LSU, it would seem plausible. However, Kevin Sumlin's Aggies will be looking at a BCS title run in 2013 and will represent the SEC West in the conference championship.

    Hugh Freeze will lead his team to their first-ever appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. A trip to Atlanta for a conference championship appearance is just a little early for Freeze in year two.

    Normally taking an SEC East team, minus LSU last season, the chicken folks will be more than happy to host a school that traveled an estimated 40,000 fans to the BBVA Compass Bowl in 2012.

    Regardless, a 9-3 season with wins over Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State is something to be extremely proud Rebel fans. How many other teams in the country have beaten each of these teams in the same season? 

    If Freeze can pull together another quality recruiting class in 2014, there is absolutely no reason to believe the Rebels will not find themselves competing for an SEC championship as early as 2014.

    Ole Miss is 9-1 in their last 10 bowl games dating back to 1994.

    How can you pick against them in 2013?

    With a 10-win season a year after signing the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation, Hugh Freeze should see similar recruiting success in 2014. We'll find out in 2014 just how good the Rebels can be.

    Way Too Early Prediction:

    Ole Miss 42, Virginia Tech 31 

    Overall Record 10-3 (6-2 SEC)