Ole Miss put together a nice 7-6 campaign in Hugh Freeze's first season as head coach, and the quick improvement, combined with a talented roster, have fans in Oxford dreaming of bigger success. Can the Rebels be the surprise of the conference and win nine or 10 games? Yes, but it won't be easy against a brutal schedule.
2013 Ole Miss schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
The Rebs start conference play right out of the gate with a season-opening Thursday night game at Vanderbilt. The Commodores are on the rise under head coach James Franklin, coming off their best season in decades. Combine that with the fact that Vandy has often given Ole Miss trouble, even when the Rebels have been the clearly superior team, and it's obvious that Week 1 will provide a stiff challenge. A little bit of a break comes in the form of a home game against Southeast Missouri on Sept. 7. But after that, things get rough.
After the first two weeks, four of the Rebels' next five games are against Texas, Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU, with road dates at the Longhorns and Crimson Tide. Yikes. No matter what happens during the rest of the season, those games could easily put four losses on the final record. Really, a 2-2 mark against the 'Horns, Tide, Ags and Tigers would be considered a big win.
Outside that rough mid-season stretch, the Rebs should be able to rack up some wins. They didn't draw Florida, Georgia or South Carolina from the East. While games at Auburn and home against Arkansas won't be easy, they're both winnable. The season-ending Egg Bowl against Mississippi State is in Starkville, but Ole Miss probably has the better team.