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Ranking the Toughest Games on Ole Miss Football's Schedule

Ole Miss Rebels QB Jordan Ta'amu

Ole Miss Rebels QB Jordan Ta'amu

There won't be any tune-up for Ole Miss this season as the Rebels open the year in Houston against Texas Tech in an intriguing SEC vs. Big 12 matchup. This year's schedule features seven homes games, including contests against Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State.

Ole Miss Rebels head coach Matt Luke

As interim head coach last year, Matt Luke guided Ole Miss to a 6-6 record amid less-than-ideal circumstances. School officials rewarded him by removing the interim tag shortly after leading the Rebels to a win in the Egg Bowl. Luke will now attempt to hold the program steady while dealing with NCAA sanctions and the transfer of several key players.

12. Sept. 22 vs. Kent State

Kent State has won just 14 games over the last five seasons and parted ways with head coach Paul Haynes this past November. New head coach Sean Lewis was lured away from his position as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Syracuse and takes over a Golden Flashes program that went 2-10 in 2017.

College Football Rankings: Kent State

11. Sept. 8 vs. Southern Illinois

Ole Miss draws FCS member Southern Illinois for its home opener, which occurs a week after the Rebels travel to Houston for their season opener against Texas Tech. The Salukis were a formidable opponent for Memphis last year, leading 21-17 at halftime before ultimately falling 44-31. Ole Miss is 2-0 all-time against Southern Illinois.

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10. Oct. 6 vs. ULM

The Warhawks and Rebels haven't played since 2008, when Ole Miss picked up a 59-0 victory, which also was the largest margin of victory in the schools' three total meetings. ULM heads to Oxford for the Rebels' homecoming.

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9. Nov. 17 at Vanderbilt

A week after a trip to Texas A&M, Ole Miss travels to Nashville, Tennessee, for its next-to-last game of the regular season. Defensive woes plagued the Commodores last year, as a 5-7 finish included a 57-35 loss to the Rebels in Oxford. Vanderbilt defeated Ole Miss 38-17 in 2016, which also was the last time the Rebels visited Nashville.

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8. Oct. 13 at Arkansas

Former SMU head coach Chad Morris makes his debut as Arkansas' head man this season, and he has the challenging task of reviving the Razorback program. While Morris, who went 14-22 at SMU, is known for his wizardry with offenses, it will take a couple of seasons before his impact is felt in Fayetteville. Ole Miss has dropped its last three against Arkansas by a combined six points, as the Hogs have won four in a row against the Rebels.

College football rankings: Arkansas

7. Sept. 1 vs. Texas Tech (in Houston)

It's been eight years since Ole Miss and Texas Tech met in the Cotton Bowl, a game the Rebels won 47-34. Red Raiders' head coach Kliff Kingsbury was Texas Tech's quarterback in 2002 when he led his team to a 42-28 victory against Ole Miss. His counterpart, Matt Luke, was a member of the 1998 Rebels team that beat the Red Raiders 35-18 in the Independence Bowl. Texas Tech will trot out a new quarterback in addition to a number of new defensive faces in both teams' season openers.

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6. Nov. 10 at Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher is one of six new SEC head coaches in 2018. After the Aggies went 7-6 last season, the former Florida State head coach's hire was met with excitement and optimism. While quarterbacks Kellen Mond and Nick Starkel remained gridlocked in their competition, whoever emerges with the job is in good hands with proven quarterback guru Fisher. The Aggies also have talented running back Trayveon Williams in the backfield for another year. Texas A&M beat Ole Miss 31-24 last year to snap a three-game slide against the Rebels.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Texas A&M

5. Nov. 22 vs. Mississippi State

The Rebels won't soon forget their 31-28 win at Mississippi State in last year's Egg Bowl. Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who was injured early in the game, surely hasn't forgotten either. Ole Miss welcomes new  MSU head coach Joe Moorhead to Oxford for the regular-season finale, which is sure to be a good one.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Mississippi State

4. Sept. 29 at LSU

Ole Miss is 2-6 against LSU over the last eight years, but this year's Tigers team won't feature Leonard Fournette or Derrius Guice, who both ran over and through the Rebels the past few meetings. LSU will deal with a depleted roster on offense and a new offensive coordinator in Steve Ensminger, but the defense still has plenty of talent.

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3. Nov. 3 vs. South Carolina

South Carolina visits Oxford in between a home date against Tennessee and a road date at Florida. Will Muschamp's Gamecocks went 9-4 with an Outback Bowl win last year, and quarterback Jake Bentley and wide receiver Deebo Samuel should be one of the SEC's best playmaking duos. The South Carolina defense is in good hands with Muschamp.

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2. Oct. 20 vs. Auburn

History hasn't been kind to Ole Miss in games against Auburn, as evidenced by the Tigers' 31-11 series advantage. Auburn was electric from September to November last year, going 10-2 during that span, but then proceeded to go 0-2 in December and January. The Tigers return quarterback Jarrett Stidham, along with a bevy of talented pass catchers as well as six starters on defense.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Auburn

1. Sept. 15 vs. Alabama

It seems like eons ago that Ole Miss enjoyed back-to-back wins against Alabama. If there's any source for optimism for this year's contest, it's that the last time these two teams played in Oxford the Rebels built up a 24-3 first-half lead. However, the excitement in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium that afternoon was short-lived, as Alabama came back to win 48-43. The Crimson Tide were dominant in last season's 66-3 home victory against the Rebels.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Alabama

-- Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star, Hayes also has been an invited guest on "The Paul Finebaum Show." Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.