Ole Miss Football 2013: Power Ranking the Rebels' 5 Toughest Games This Season
The Ole Miss Rebels posted a 7-6 mark in Year 1 of the Hugh Freeze era, including a 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl victory over Pitt. Undoubtedly, the Rebs were one of the surprise teams of 2012.
However, the past is the past.
All eyes now turn to the upcoming 2013 campaign.
If Ole Miss (particularly junior QB Bo Wallace) can stay healthy this season, it's a club capable of making some noise in the SEC Western Division.
In addition to facing the usual SEC suspects, the Rebels also travel to Austin, Texas, to battle the Texas Longhorns. The Rebs' schedule in 2013 is an intriguing one.
Here's a ranking of Ole Miss' five toughest games this season.
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The week after a huge home game with Texas A&M, the Rebels will host the LSU Tigers.
Typically a late November battle, this year Les Miles and company visit Oxford in October.
The Tigers will still compete atop the SEC Western Division in 2013, but there's no denying the impact of losing 11 players to the NFL draft. Miles has plenty of talent ready to pick up the slack, but the Bayou Bengals may not have the same punch they've had in recent years.
Last season the Rebels nearly pulled off the shocker in Baton Rouge before eventually falling 41-35.
The Tigers play Florida in Tiger Stadium the week before traveling to Oxford. Will LSU be coming off a huge win or will Les Miles be looking to improve upon his current 18-1 record the week after a loss?
The LSU rivalry is a nasty one to Ole Miss fans, and the Grove should be rocking.
Could Ole Miss upset Texas A&M and LSU in back-to-back weeks? It's doubtful, but if they somehow managed to do it, the Rebels would be in the driver's seat of the SEC West.
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In Oxford last season, Texas hammered the Rebels 66-31. It wasn't pretty.
This time around, Ole Miss travels to Austin for the rematch.
Hugh Freeze has the Rebels headed on a successful path, but can they take to the road so early in the season and make a statement win? Will Mack Brown have his team past a somewhat disappointing 9-4 season in 2012 and have the Longhorns on track for a BCS bid?
Texas hasn't been Texas lately, but they're still the Texas Longhorns.
While the Horns will respect an SEC opponent, Brown's club has a very important game the week after taking on the Rebels. On September 21, Kansas State rolls into Austin. Last season, Texas got thumped 42-24 in Manhattan, Kan. You better believe Burnt Orange Nation will have that one circled before the season even begins.
Will Texas get caught looking past the Rebels, the same ones they handily defeated last season?
Expect this meeting to be much, much closer than last year.
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QB A.J. McCarron and the Crimson Tide have simply been dominant.
This season, Nick Saban will look to send McCarron off with yet another national championship. If that happens, the senior would go down in college football lore. It'll be tough to accomplish.
Last season, Hugh Freeze led his club into Tuscaloosa and lost 33-14. This season, the Rebels will travel to Texas on September 14 and have an open week before playing Alabama on September 28.
As for Alabama, Ole Miss is mixed in between home games with Colorado State and Georgia State.
Everything about the game spells "trap" for Alabama, and Ole Miss should go toe-to-toe with the Tide. It won't be easy by any means, but don't be surprised if Ole Miss pulls off the stunner in T-Town.
2. Texas A&M
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Welcome back to Oxford, Johnny Manziel.
Thanks to SEC scheduling issues in 2013, Texas A&M will visit Ole Miss' Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the second consecutive season. On the flip side, the Rebels will also have to make a second straight trip to Alabama. That sounds like a fair enough trade.
While Aggie fans won't complain about visiting the Grove again so soon, they 'll likely have some flashbacks of the 2012 contest between the two clubs. On October 6, 2012, Manziel tossed two interceptions among a total of six turnovers by the Aggies. Yet, they still won.
If not for the late heroics of Manziel and some good fortune, Kevin Sumlin's Aggies would have walked out of the Vaught with heads held low. However, Manziel turned into Johnny Heisman late in the game.
Make absolutely no mistake about it, Texas A&M is playing for a BCS championship this year. Anything less than a national title would be a disappointment, as it should be. Besides traveling to Oxford after an open week, A&M gets to play eight of its 12 games at Kyle Field in 2013.
If Johnny can lead the Aggies past the Crimson Tide at home on September 14, his squad should arrive in Oxford 5-0 and ranked near No. 1. The Rebels will be out to avenge last season's loss, but Ole Miss will also be looking forward to a home tilt with LSU the very next Saturday.
Nevertheless, Ole Miss will have already faced both Texas and Alabama on the road. Freeze and the Rebs will be ready for the big stage, but will they be able to contain Sumlin's explosive offense this time around?
Look for fireworks coming from Mississippi on October 12.
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Wait a minute.
Vanderbilt is Ole Miss' toughest game in 2013, over Alabama, LSU, Texas and Texas A&M?
If for no further reason, the ESPN Thursday Night Football road game will set the tone for Hugh Freeze's Rebels for the entire season. Facing Texas and Alabama on the road in two of their next three outings after taking on the Commodores, a win in Nashville is absolutely crucial for the Rebels.
Freeze performed a miracle in 2012 by quickly turning a struggling Ole Miss club into a winner. While that feat largely went under the radar nationally, the inking of ESPN's No. 5 recruiting class didn't.
College football pundits from the East Coast to the West now have their eyes on Ole Miss.
As for James Franklin's Commodores, they're having a level of success unparalleled in program history. Not only did Vandy win seven straight to end the 2012 campaign (finishing 9-4), but the Commodores also posted more SEC wins (five) than any Vandy club since 1935. Fresh off of back-to-back bowl wins for the first time ever, Franklin's club is simply red-hot.
The August 29 opener will be Rebel QB Bo Wallace's first game back since shoulder surgery, which makes for an interesting watch in and of itself. Second, the prime-time showdown will be the first college game for young stars like the nation's No. 1 overall recruit: Ole Miss DE Robert Nkemdiche.
Will Ole Miss show up grounded, yet confident or will they play a little too confident?
How well will Vandy adjust to not having QB Jordan Rodgers and RB Zac Stacy on offense?
There couldn't be a more interesting SEC matchup to start the college football season. It's a game of utter importance for both clubs, and one that will set the tone for the year.
Who's ready for some football?