The Ole Miss Rebels are eager to begin year two of the Hugh Freeze era.
After a remarkable turnaround campaign last year that included both Egg Bowl and BBVA Compass Bowl victories, Rebel Nation hopes to continue the momentum this season.
If starting QB Bo Wallace can stay healthy in 2013, the Johnny Rebs could have a very special year.
On the other hand, unless a true reserve candidate emerges this summer, Ole Miss could struggle mightily if Wallace is forced to the sideline for any reason this fall.
Nevertheless, there's an abundance of talent headed to Oxford by way of the Rebels' No. 5 recruiting class (ESPN). The freshman corps will join forces with a squad that returns the vast majority of starters from last season's 7-6 Ole Miss Rebels.
Working under the assumption that Freeze doesn't sustain any major injuries on his team, let's take a look at game-by-game predictions for the Rebels in 2013.
The Rebels best be prepared when they travel to Nashville for ESPN's College Football Thursday Primetime, because the Commodores have simply had Ole Miss' number over the past few years.
Since 2005, the Rebs are only 1-3 in road games against Vanderbilt. Further, the Commodores have won the past three games in the series and six of the last eight overall. It's certainly a trend Hugh Freeze would like to put an end to on August 29.
Ole Miss will be out for revenge after James Franklin's club climbed back from a 16-point deficit at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to win in the final minutes of the contest.
While both clubs finished the 2012 season with bowl wins, Vandy has more holes to fill this season than do the Rebels. If this game were a few weeks later in the season, it would be a very close call.
However, the Commodores will be adjusting at a few positions to begin the season. Franklin is replacing a quarterback, running back, two offensive guards and three defensive linemen this fall.
The nation will be tuning in to watch some of Freeze's top recruits on August 29, but it'll be the play of veterans on both sides of the ball that sends Ole Miss back to Oxford with a win.
Ole Miss 34 - Vanderbilt 24
Overall Record 1-0 (SEC 1-0)
In the lone home game in their first five ballgames, the Rebels will be off to a 1-0 start when they take on Southeast Missouri State (SEMO) in Oxford.
It should be no contest, instead more of a coming-out party for some of "the recruiting class" at Ole Miss.
Traveling to Ole Miss from the Ohio Valley Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision (FBS), SEMO barely managed three wins over the course of the entire season in 2012.
Who exactly did the Redhawks defeat last year?
Mars Hill, Tennessee Tech and Austin Peay.
The highly coveted top reserve spot behind Bo Wallace should finally be cemented by a player in this game (if not in summer practice), as Wallace shouldn't see much action past halftime.
Expect the young talent in Oxford to be put on display the second half of this contest.
Ole Miss 63 - SEMO 14
Overall Record 2-0 (SEC 1-0)
Bevo will get to stay in Austin this year, as Ole Miss travels to the Lone Star state this time.
In front of a packed house at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium last season, Texas routed the Rebels 66-31. While the 35-point loss was bad enough, it could have actually been much worse had the Longhorns not let off the gas late in the fourth quarter.
Mack Brown's kids struggled in general last season, but he played an incredible number of freshmen throughout the year. It may not have translated into wins in 2012, but the Hook 'em Horns will be much better in 2013.
At 2-0 after knocking off Vandy on the road, this matchup presents the Ole Miss program with a chance to truly put itself back on the national map with a win.
Texas traveled fans by the thousands to Oxford last season, and the Rebels will do the same in Austin.
In my "way too early predictions" back in February, I went with the Longhorns.
Despite being even more impressed with the Rebel defense this spring, I still have Texas in a close one.
Ole Miss just has a very poor history in true road games against the Big XII.
Texas 37 - Ole Miss 31
Overall Record 2-1 (SEC 1-0)
There's Alabama again, taking pictures with the President after another national title.
While Nick Saban saw three Tide players taken in the first 11 picks of the 2013 NFL draft, he's not worried. Saban's built a dynasty at Alabama by signing top recruit after top recruit after top recruit. The Tide are deep and there should relatively little drop-off in talent this season.
Bama will have already geared up for games against Virginia Tech and Texas A&M, while Ole Miss will travel to Tuscaloosa fresh off an open week. Arriving at Bryant-Denny Stadium 2-1, Hugh Freeze's kids won't be intimidated by the Crimson Tide faithful. In fact, they'll be more than ready.
On September 28, the Rebels will secure the first marquee win of the Hugh Freeze era.
It's a monster trap game for the defending national champs, and Ole Miss will immediately become the talk of the college football world after downing Saban's club in T-Town for the first time since 1988.
Expect Hugh Freeze to receive some new commitments to the class of 2014 in the days after this one.
Ole Miss 31 - Alabama 27
Overall Record 3-1 (SEC 2-0)
Alabama had the trap game last week, but it's Ole Miss that could face a trap on October 5.
The Rebels don't historically play well on the plains, and if they're not careful, this one has upset written all over it.
Auburn will be coming off an open week before hosting the rising Rebs, while Hugh Freeze's club will be playing on the road for the second consecutive week. Having played the likes of Texas and Alabama in its last two outings, Ole Miss will be spent physically and mentally.
Further, the Rebels will be looking ahead to a rematch with Johnny Football and the Aggies the very next week in Oxford. It'll be a hard contest to get up for couched between Alabama and Texas A&M.
Gus Malzahn will have War Eagle fans hopping at Jordan-Hare Stadium, as he looks for the upset win over his good friend Freeze.
It'll be closer than expected, but Ole Miss is just more talented at this point.
Ole Miss 37 - Auburn 30
Overall Record 4-1 (SEC 3-0)
On a cold and rainy night last fall in Oxford, the Rebels nearly knocked off SEC newcomer Texas A&M.
Alas, the Rebs gave up a 10-point second-half lead to eventually fall 30-27 behind what would become a very typical weekly performance by Johnny Manziel. He won the Heisman for a reason.
One thing is for sure: Ole Miss will have this game circled before the season even begins.
SEC scheduling issues made the Rebels take a second consecutive trip to Alabama, but Kevin Sumlin's Aggies also have to make another trip to Oxford. Aggie fans won't complain about tailgating in the Grove two years in a row, but they're probably not wild about playing in Oxford again after last season.
Texas A&M will have rested up during an open week ahead of traveling to Oxford. On the other hand, the Rebels will be facing powers Texas A&M and LSU in back-to-back weeks.
Expect Johnny Football to be contained much better this time around, just not quite enough.
It'll be heartache again for the Rebel faithful, and they'll be glad to never see Manziel in Oxford again.
Texas A&M 43 - Ole Miss 33
Overall Record 4-2 (SEC 3-1)
Don't look now, Rebel fans, but here come those LSU Tigers.
Wait just a minute, though—this one actually sets up perfectly for Hugh Freeze's Rebels.
The week prior on October 12, the Bayou Bengals play a monster home game against the Florida Gators. In what should be one of the best SEC matchups of 2013, both teams will be jockeying for the lead in their respective conference divisions.
What does Ole Miss need to happen in Baton Rouge?
Pray that the Mad Hatter pulls off the win against Will Muschamp.
It's important LSU wins because Miles is 18-1 over his Tiger career the week after a loss.
It's certainly just a statistic, but it's one hell of a convincing one.
Also working in the Rebels' favor is the fact that 11 LSU players departed for the NFL at the end of 2012. Even for a squad as talented as LSU, that's a ton of quality talent to replace in one year.
The Grove will be absolutely electric and the atmosphere will carry over to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Freeze is very particular about when he brings in recruits, and there will be loads of prospective talent on the sidelines for this classic.
One year after losing on an Odell Beckham punt-return touchdown, the Rebels find revenge at home.
The Grove may never close on October 19.
Ole Miss 45 - LSU 33
Overall Record 5-2 (SEC 4-1)
About the only thing Rebel fans will know about the Vandals when they take the field is that they're from somewhere in Idaho. That's actually all Ole Miss fans will need to know, as Idaho posted an implausible 0-12 record last season.
Having already beaten the likes of Alabama and LSU, Hugh Freeze may just want to rest his starters the entire game. No, seriously.
It'll be a quick trip to God's Country for the boys from the land of french fries.
Ole Miss becomes bowl-eligible, but they're not close stopping at six wins.
Ole Miss 66 - Idaho 17
Overall Record 6-2 (SEC 4-1)
With a 6-2 record when Bret Bielema makes his maiden voyage to Oxford, excitement around the Rebel program will be at an all-time high. The Rebels should be ranked around No. 15 and looking to avoid a derailing loss.
Coming off an open week before playing Arkansas, the question becomes, can Ole Miss avoid a letdown?
Bielema takes over a Razorback program much better than their 4-8 record would indicate from 2012. Don't forget that Arkansas played in the Sugar Bowl and posted an 11-2 record in 2011. It's fair to say, minus John L. Smith, Arkansas would have been bowling last season.
The new head Hog had an extremely successful career at Wisconsin, and there's no reason to think he won't have a similar career in Fayetteville. That's something folks in Fayetteville would love to know.
After a home tilt with the War Eagles, Arkansas heads to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Last season in Little Rock, AR, Ole Miss stole a win away from the Hogs on a last-second Bryson Rose field goal. It's a loss that Bielema won't have to remind his players about, as they'll head to Oxford with revenge on their minds.
In the end, Freeze's Rebels will be playing with far too much at stake to look past the Hogs.
Ole Miss 38 - Arkansas 24
Overall Record 7-2 (SEC 5-1)
Troy can flat-out catch the Rebs looking if they're not careful, so Ole Miss best be focused for this late-season non-conference game.
The Trojans' 5-7 record last season doesn't do them justice, as Larry Blakeney's club nearly beat both Mississippi State and Tennessee in 2012. A win in one of those contests and Troy would have gone bowling.
The Rebels will quickly understand Troy is no SEMO or Idaho, as will patrons in Vaught-Hemingway.
After hanging around into the third quarter, a young Troy team falls late in the second half in a game closer than many expected.
Those skeptical of the recruiting success Ole Miss pulled off back in February will surely be scratching their heads at this point. An 8-2 Rebel club will actually have a chance at an SEC West title over the final weeks of the season.
Ole Miss 44 - Troy 24
Overall Record 8-2 (SEC 5-1)
Watch out for the Missouri Tigers in 2013. Remember that, as they look to rebound from 2012.
After an incredibly disappointing inaugural year in the SEC, Gary Pinkel and the Tigers will look like the Missouri of old this season.
While Mizzou only notched five wins in 2012, they played admirably in close losses against Vanderbilt (19-15), Florida (14-7) and Syracuse (31-27). Had even one of those games turned out the opposite way, the Tigers would have been bowling.
After seven consecutive winning seasons and bowl bids prior to last season, the folks in Columbia simply expect more from their beloved Tigers. In fact, so does the rest of the SEC.
As odd as it may sound, Ole Miss has really struggled against the former Big XII member over time. Missouri leads the all-time series 5-1 over the Rebels. Unfortunately, the losing trend continues as the boys in red and blue get caught looking ahead to the all-important Egg Bowl.
With the loss, Texas A&M moves into sole possession of first in the SEC West.
Mizzou 31 - Ole Miss 23
Overall Record 8-3 (SEC 5-2)
Mississippi State enjoyed three straight years of Egg Bowl success prior to a crushing 41-24 defeat in Oxford last season. In one short year, the state of momentum has shifted back to Ole Miss.
After a hot start in 2012, the Bulldogs ultimately went on to lose five of their final six games.
As the upcoming football season gets underway, the Rebels and Bulldogs are two teams heading in opposite directions. Not only did Ole Miss claim the Golden Egg in convincing fashion, but they also took care of business against Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
While Dan Mullen was able to convince highly touted DE Chris Jones to sign with the Bullies, it was the Ole Miss coaching staff that stole the national spotlight on national signing day.
The Rebels will enter the 2013 Egg Bowl looking to maintain the momentum gained last November in Oxford, while Mississippi State will be looking to reclaim what they used to claim as "their state."
Bulldog fans should say what they're thankful for prior to the Thanksgiving night kickoff, because the Rebels will be the team giving thanks as they walk off Scott Field with another big win.
Ole Miss 45 - Mississippi State 34
Overall Record 9-3 (SEC 6-2)
At 6-2 in the SEC West, Ole Miss will come damn close to having a shot at the SEC Championship.
Unfortunately, the difference in representing the West in Atlanta is likely the loss to Texas. Even with Ole Miss's wins over Alabama and LSU, the Aggies would hold the tiebreaker over the Rebels if both teams finish 6-2.
As the wealth has spread to yet another SEC West team this year, Ole Miss, there's a good chance the division winner ends the season with two conference losses. Of course, Alabama and LSU will also be in the hunt with Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
Working under the aforementioned assumption, look for the Rebels to receive a bid their first-ever Chick-fil-a Bowl, where they'll take on Frank Beamer's Virginia Tech Hokies.
Ironically, Hugh Freeze will take his club back to the Georgia Dome for their first game in 2014. On August 28, 2014, Ole Miss takes on Boise State in the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game.
Boasting a 9-1 record in their past 10 bowl games, Ole Miss won't just show up happy to be at the Georgia Dome. Instead, they'll look to finish a solid season on a great note in front of 30,000-plus Rebel fans on New Year's Eve.
Ole Miss 37 - Virgina Tech 33
Overall Record 10-3 (SEC 6-2)