Schedule analysis: Ole Miss


Nonconference opponents (with 2013 record)

Aug. 28: Boise State (8-5) at Georgia Dome in Atlanta

Sept. 13: Louisiana-Lafayette (9-4)

Sept. 27: Memphis (3-9)

Nov. 8: Presbyterian (3-8)

SEC home games

Oct. 4: Alabama

Oct. 18: Tennessee

Nov. 1: Auburn

Nov. 29: Mississippi State

SEC road games

Sept. 6: at Vanderbilt (LP Field in Nashville)

Oct. 11: at Texas A&M

Oct. 25: at LSU

Nov. 22: at Arkansas

Gut-check time: The last time Ole Miss beat Alabama was in 2003 when Eli Manning was at quarterback. After playing back-to-back seasons at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Rebels get Alabama at home on Oct. 4, and this might be their best shot in years to take down the mighty Crimson Tide. Nick Saban and Co. will still be in the process of breaking in a new quarterback, and if Ole Miss can get through its first four games unscathed, then it sets up for a potential Top 25 showdown. Bo Wallace played maybe his worst game against Alabama last season, and he’d love nothing more than to avenge that and pull the upset.

Trap game: Last fall’s Egg Bowl is still fresh on everybody’s mind, and you can bet that Ole Miss can’t wait to get back on the field against its in-state rival, but first it has to take care of business the week before. The Rebels travel to Fayetteville on Nov. 22 to face an Arkansas team that could be playing for its sixth win and bowl eligibility. The good news is Ole Miss will have an extra week to prepare for the Razorbacks.

Snoozer: The Rebels get a much-needed break on Nov. 8 when they host Presbyterian, an FCS school that finished 3-8 in 2013, 1-4 in the Big South Conference. The last time the Blue Hose played an SEC team was in 2012 at Vanderbilt, and they lost 58-0. The Grove will still be rocking, but not nearly as much as the week before when Auburn comes to town.

Telltale stretch: The month of October is brutal for Ole Miss. After opening with Alabama at home, the Rebels travel to Texas A&M on Oct. 11, then host what should be a much-improved Tennessee team on Oct. 18. They finish the month with a trip to LSU and Death Valley, a place where they have won only once since 2001. To come out 2-2 would be a huge accomplishment. And waiting for them on the other side is a date with Auburn, the defending SEC champion.

Final analysis: Ole Miss would love nothing more than to jump out to a hot start, just like it did last season. However, it won’t be easy with an intriguing neutral-site game against Boise State in Atlanta to open the season and a trip to Vanderbilt the very next week. The latter game will be played in LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. But if the Rebels can win those two games, there’s a good chance they’re 4-0 heading into the showdown with Alabama on Oct. 4. Win or lose, they need to compete against the Tide because confidence will be key as they embark on a stretch of five SEC games in five weeks. The key, though, will be how this team finishes the season. Despite losing three of of their final four regular-season games in 2012, the Rebels still showed improvement down the stretch and beat in-state rival Mississippi State to finish the season. That wasn’t the case in 2013. It’s important this fall for Ole Miss to continue to get better each week and finish strong against Arkansas and Mississippi State.