The season opener for the Rebels is at home against the University of Tennessee Martin at 11 a.m. central on Saturday, September 5. While the game shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for the Rebels, is does give Ole Miss a great chance to fine-tune the team against a new opponent. The Tennessee Martin game should show how the new starters are fitting into the team, give younger players a chance to get some valuable snaps early in the season and help decide any position battles that carry over from practice into the season. There’s a chance the starter at quarterback will still be undecided or that the starter will not have a firm hold on the job, in which case this game could help decide who takes the reins at quarterback for the rest of season. UT Martin also has a former SEC quarterback, Dylan Favre, so that should help prepare the defense for the rest of the schedule.
Prediction: Ole Miss should have a pretty easy victory in store for their opener, Ole Miss 51 – University of Tennessee Martin 6.
The second game of the season still doesn’t present a huge challenge for the Rebels, but should field a much more competitive game than the opener. The game will take place at 2:30 p.m. central on Saturday, September 12. Fresno State went 6-6 in the regular season last year, with quarterback Brian Burrell passing for 2,620 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, along with 18 interceptions. The team’s leading rusher is senior Marteze Waller, who ran for 1,368 yards on 225 carries for 11 touchdowns on 6.1 yards-per-carry. The strength of the offense is definitely Waller and the rushing attack, as they averaged 182 rushing yards per game last season. The defense struggled last season, however, giving up 32 points per game. This game should once again help prepare the Rebels for a tough SEC schedule, one that is full of excellent rushing offenses. With UT Martin and this game, the Rebels should have plenty of time to prepare for the SEC schedule, which starts the next week against Alabama, and have a final decision at the quarterback position.
Prediction: Fresno State has fielded a solid team in years past, but the team looks to be down this year and Ole Miss should take full advantage of that. Ole Miss 43 – Fresno State 9.
Perhaps the biggest game of the season falls third on the Rebels’ schedule, with Ole Miss traveling to Bryant Denny stadium to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, September 19 at 8:30 p.m. central time. Last season, new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin revitalized a Crimson Tide offense that many criticized for being too old fashioned. Kiffin was able to open up the passing offense with quarterback Blake Sims and set the school single season passing record while keeping the rushing offense effective with the combo of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. In addition to this offensive improvement, the defense was again able to be one of the best in the nation, only allowing 18.4 points per game. However, the Tide lost seven players to the NFL Draft, along with nine other seniors, so the team will have to replace a number of key contributors. The passing game will not only have to replace Sims, but also star wideout Amari Cooper, who had record shattering stats of 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns. In addition to Cooper, they also lost their next two wide receivers in DeAndrew White and Christian Jones. At quarterback, senior Jake Coker should finally get the starting role he’s been fighting for since his days at Florida State. With Kiffin and a strong running game to set him up, Coker should prove to be another effective Crimson Tide quarterback, should he hold off redshirt freshman David Cornwell, who is also fighting for the job. Alabama will no longer have T.J. Yeldon in the backfield, but junior Derrick Henry should be able to make up for his loss and then some for the Tide’s rushing attack. Henry is 6’3”, 242 pounds and rushed for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns last season with an average of 5.8 yards per carry. Behind him, senior Kenyan Drake returns from a devastating leg injury suffered against Ole Miss last year, and should provide an excellent speed combo to go with Henry’s power, along with the ability to impact the passing game as well. Meanwhile, the defense should continue its usual stellar play with middle linebacker Reggie Ragland returning and junior Reuben Foster sliding into the starting spot next to him. The secondary returns four cornerbacks with starting experience, and a lot of speed at the safety and cornerback spots.
Prediction: Alabama has shown time and time again their ability to reload after losing key players, and the Tide should still have one of the best teams in the country. This ability, coupled with the loss they suffered in Oxford last season, should have them chomping at the bit to get another shot at Ole Miss. The Tide will need to hand the ball off to Henry a lot, but are predicted to win a close game against the Rebels. Alabama 27- Ole Miss 20.