As we inch closer to the start of the season, it’s time to review the schedules of every SEC team. Whether it’s home vs. road, nonconference matchups or potential trap games, there’s a lot to get into.
We continue the series with the Ole Miss Rebels.
Nonconference opponents (with 2015 record)
Sept. 5: Florida State (10-3) (in Orlando, Florida)
Sept. 10: Wofford (5-6)
Oct. 1: Memphis (9-4)
Nov. 5: Georgia Southern (9-4)
SEC home games
Sept. 17: Alabama (14-1)
Sept. 24: Georgia (10-3)
Oct. 29: Auburn (7-6)
Nov. 26: Mississippi State (9-4)
SEC road games
Oct. 15: at Arkansas (8-5)
Oct. 22: at LSU (9-3)
Nov. 12: at Texas A&M (8-5)
Nov. 19: at Vanderbilt (4-8)
Gut-check time: We are going to know exactly what the Rebels are made of right out of the gate. Ole Miss starts the season in Orlando, Florida, against a popular playoff pick in Florida State. This should be a great clash between two 10-win teams from a year ago. There are electric players on both offenses and both defensive fronts will be menacing in that Florida heat. After a delicious cupcake in Wofford, the Rebels host Alabama and Georgia. The Rebels have won back-to-back games against the defending champs, but something tells me the Crimson Tide will be more than fired up to beat the team that has stymied it of late. Ole Miss will likely limp back to the Grove to face a Georgia team that we have questions about, but should still have a pretty solid defense -- especially in the back end. If the Rebels are going to make a run to the College Football Playoff, they have to come out of this with no more than one loss, which will be a very tall task.
Trap game: Look all the way down to Nov. 19 and you'll find the Vanderbilt Commodores. For years, the Commodores frustrated the Rebels. Even though Ole Miss has won three straight in this series, the Rebels can't overlook what should be an improved Vandy team. Before Ole Miss' three-game winning streak over the Dores, the Rebels had lost five of six games to Vandy. Last season, Derek Mason took over defensive coordinator duties and Vandy's defense improved from 70th in total defense (402. 1 ypg) in 2014 to 27th (350.5). Mason also thinks he'll have improved offense play because of the emergence of sophomore quarterback Kyle Shurmur. Coming off a trip to Texas A&M, the Rebels will host rival Mississippi State right after that trip to Nashville.
Final analysis: This is a tough schedule. There's just no way around that. While the first month features four home games, the opener in Orlando against the Noles is a real punch to the gut. Two weeks later, Alabama, a national championship favorite, comes to town. A week later, it's Georgia. After last season's loss to Memphis, the Rebels should be pretty hot for that game, but then it's two road games against Arkansas, which has won two straight over the Rebels, and LSU, which is always a dogfight. Two of the final three games in November are on the road before the regular season ends with a Mississippi State team looking to erase a two-game losing streak to the Rebels. To be a playoff team, Ole Miss must get out of that first month with no more than one loss ... and that's before he has to get into the last two brutal months.