There are few who love Ole Miss as much as I do. Having gotten this out of the way and setting any bias aside, the following projections are based simply on reality, gut instincts and a 54 year history following Rebel football. Here we go…..
Game 1: South Alabama
Don’t expect an MSU upset here like the one that occurred in 2016. That being the Jaguars’ first SEC win. Having lost all their primary receivers and picked seventh in the Sun Belt, Ole Miss will flex its muscles against a run oriented squad. It will get late early for South Alabama as Ole Miss runs up a “huge” score 48-7.
Game 2: UT Martin
Expect the Rebs to end this contest 2-0, although the Skyhawks (picked third in the OVC) could be a stubborn foe returning their top five tacklers. Coming off a respectable 7-5 (6-2 conference) season, UT Martin can play with the Rebs possibly for a half. Ole Miss 35-14.
Game 3: At California
Probably the worst team in the PAC 12, the Golden Bears are looking for respectability coming off a 5-7 2016 worksheet. Their five year scorecard is 22-39, not one to lose a great deal of sleep over. Opening on the road versus NC, this should be a sound indicator of things to come. If the Rebs struggle here, expect few (if any) road wins this season. Ole Miss 27-14.
Game 4: At Alabama
Circle September 30th as the date that the season begins. Picked again by some to win the national championship, Bama opens their schedule in a state of mind with Florida State, Fresno State and Colorado State preceding their 9/23 matchup in Nashville. Ole Miss has two weeks to prepare which is always a plus. Not sensing an upset here….Bama rolls 35-17.
Game 5: At Auburn
The Tigers are forecast a Top Twenty team and meeting them on the road is anything but a welcome sight. Try adding up Reb road wins there over the last half century. The counting will end quickly! Playing MSU the week prior to the Rebels could shed some light here, but expect darkness to prevail on the Plains. Auburn 31-10.
Game 6: Vanderbilt
What an opportunity for revenge following the three TD embarrassment last season in Nashville. Picked again last in the East, Ole Miss should dominate start to finish. However, Vandy is looking to Oxford as its best chance for an SEC road win with FL; SC and TN being the other three. Ole Miss will conclude midseason 4-2 with a 35-14 victory over the Dores.
Game 7: LSU
Have NO doubt, this will be the defining game of the 2017 season for the Rebels. Facing a Top Ten preseason team, LSU will in all likelihood arrive in Oxford 7-0 although a road game Oct. 7 in Gainesville and the following week hosting Auburn will surely test the Bengals. It will take everything in the Reb arsenal plus a great deal of luck to win this one. And luck trumps skill every time. Ole Miss to go 5-2 with a 27-24 upset.
Game 8: Arkansas
Ouch! This one (once again) will be a tall order following LSU. The Hogs are deep and are usually confident against Ole Miss and why shouldn’t they be? Picked ahead of the Rebs in the West by the experts, the schedule slightly favors. Ole Miss, however, as the Hogs face AL and Auburn the two weeks prior and the contest is in Oxford. As Ringo once sang, “It Don’t Come Easy” and this one could be another OT Nailbiter. Without a bowl to anticipate, the Rebs could reach into their inner strength and take this one 31-28. (6-2 after the first 8 games, not bad by anyone’s critique.)
Game 9: At Kentucky
This game will seem like a scrimmage after the previous two and the Cats should be down somewhat having faced the TN Vols the week prior. Having scheduled Louisville as the season finale instead of Tennessee which Kentucky had as its opponent forever, the schedule now seems a little strange. The Cats were the surprise of 2016 finishing in a tie for second in the East by winning three conference road games. Expect another stressful outing with this time the opponent coming out on top 24-21. The record now stands at 6-3.
Game 10: Louisiana
The Ragin Cajuns coming off a 6-7 season are forecast to end up #6 in the Sun Belt. And having lost to USM in the New Orleans Bowl, they are suspect at best. This is a week for Ole Miss to get well, running up a big score. The Cajuns’ running game took a big hit to graduation and the QB position is unsettled beginning the season, although this will be their ninth game. Ole Miss 49-7 running the scorecard to 7-3.
Game 11: Texas A&M
Having signed the nation’s number 12 recruiting class (OM was 30th), the Rebs could be seeing a few new faces in this one. Expect the Aggies to attempt to run the ball often and long as their returning ground game is impressive. The squeaker the Rebs pulled out last year (29-28) on the road should be a confidence builder. Anticipate another barn burner with Ole Miss topping A&M 28-24 going to 8-3.
Game 12: The Egg Bowl in Starkville.
The only thing needed to inspire the Rebels is last season’s drubbing, 55-20, in Oxford. The most humiliating loss ever in Oxford in 100 years….so what else needs to be said? If Ole Miss stays focused, this should end up being the easiest conference game of the year. Looking into the crystal ball, the score 37-17 appears with the only Reb road victory coming in the league this season.
There you have it….a 9-3 final season tally with a great deal of excitement and intrigue along the way. With so many uncertainties including the NCAA, injuries and momentum (or lack thereof) by opponents, this forecast could just as easily contain 3-4 fewer wins. And I am operating under the assumption that we have SEC depth this year at each and every position which we did not possess in 2016. The four nonconference games should all be W’s; defeating Vanderbilt here is not a tall order and expect 1-2 upsets going our way. Therefore a minimum of six or seven wins is definitely in the cards. Hotty Toddy and hoping for the best!
Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at email@example.com or call him at 985-852-7745.