Ole Miss returns 16 starters and 58 lettermen on a team that was better than its 9-4 record from a year ago. With players like Robert Nkemdiche, Evan Engram and a healthy Laquon Treadwell returning this season, the Rebels look to improve on that record.
Ole Miss will replace a three-year starter at quarterback in Bo Wallace with junior college transfer Chad Kelly. Kelly was once a highly recruited quarterback who began his career at Clemson. The Rebels hope Kelly can repeat the success he had at East Mississippi Community College where he led his team to a national championship.
The Rebels will open up the season on back-to-back home games, but road games at Alabama, Florida, Auburn and at Egg Bowl rival Mississippi State will be the defining points in their quest for their first SEC West title since the creation of the SEC Championship Game.
Here are Ole Miss’s 12 regular season games, ranked from easiest to most difficult.
12. Sept. 5 vs UT Martin
This will be the first meeting between the Skyhawks and Rebels. The last time Ole Miss lost a home opener was in 2010 to another Ohio Valley conference member in Jacksonville State. Don’t look for that to happen again. Ole Miss wins big.
11. Oct. 10 vs New Mexico State
In 2014, Ole Miss defeated SunBelt conference member UL Lafayette 56-15. UL Lafayette then turned around and defeated New Mexico State 44-16. Ole Miss wins easily.
10. Sept. 12 vs Fresno State
This will be the first meeting between these two since 2011 when Ole Miss had to fight back in the fourth quarter to win 38-28. The Bulldogs have played in three straight Mountain West title games but they lost a lot of players last year and only return 11 starters. Rebels should start the 2015 season 2-0.
9. Sept. 26 vs. Vanderbilt
Ole Miss defeated Vanderbilt last year in Nashville 41-3. I can’t imagine a scenario where Ole Miss gets worse at home this season. Rebels win big.
8. Oct. 17 at Memphis
The Rebels defeated Memphis 24-3 at home last year. Memphis went on to win 10 games last year and have a very successful season and bowl win. This year, Memphis gets Ole Miss at home and the Tigers will be coming off a bye week. This game could be close early, but I look for the Rebels to pull away and win in the second half.
7. Oct. 3 at Florida
I usually rank away games as tougher games to win, but in this case Florida is a rebuilding SEC East team. The Swamp just isn’t what it used to be. Rebels also have a warm up game in Vanderbilt the week before so everyone should be rested and healthy.
6. Oct. 24 vs. Texas A&M
The Rebels finally beat the Aggies for the first time in seven tries and did it on the road. A&M will be a better defensive team with the addition of coordinator John Chavis and we all know Coach Sumlin will bring the offense. This should be a very fun game to watch.
5. Nov. 7 vs. Arkansas
No Rebel fan will forget the blunder that came against Arkansas last year. The Razorbacks blanketed the Rebels 30-0 in a game the Rebels were favored in. Hugh Freeze will certainly have this game circled as the Razorbacks are looking to have a breakout season. The Rebels would love to put a damper on that goal.
4. Nov. 28 at Mississippi State
Since 2000, Ole Miss and Miss. State have split a road win in the series, Ole Miss in 2003 and Miss. State in 2010. The Rebels will have the numbers as far as returning starters go, but rivalry games are tricky and it’s the last week of the regular season. All bets are off when it comes to standings.
3. Nov. 21 vs LSU
This rivalry has turned into one of the closest games year in and out. Five of the last six meetings have been decided by a seven points or less. Last year was a defensive battle as the Tigers outlasted the Rebels 10-7. I look for this year’s game to be much more of a scoring affair.
2. Sept. 19 at Alabama
Ole Miss is 1-26 in Tuscaloosa. Last year, The Rebels defeated Alabama for the first time since 2003. If Ole Miss wants to win the West, this is a must-win game. History is not on their side. But new history can be made.
1. Oct. 31 at Auburn
October will be a tough month for the Rebels, as they will go on the road in three of their five games during the month. Waiting for them at the end will be a Halloween date with Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Ole Miss will be coming off of a road game at Memphis, followed by a home game with Texas A&M. The Rebels have defeated Auburn five times since 1971 with one of those wins coming in Hugh Freeze’s first year in 2012.
— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails