Ole Miss will kick off the 2013 football season on the road against Vanderbilt on a Thursday night in a game that will set the tone for the rest of the season. It is the most important game on the 2013 schedule.
Last season ended with three booms. Ole Miss trounced Mississippi State in the second half of the Egg Bowl to finally beat Dan Mullen, then the Rebels made the short trip to Birmingham and easily dispatched of the Pittsburgh Panthers. In early February came the boom no one expected, Ole Miss reeled in a top 10 recruiting class.
All of the momentum brewing from the end of last season hinges on the opening matchup in Nashville.
A loss and all of that momentum would disappear, a win and Ole Miss may very well be in a position to surprise the SEC this season.
The game against Vanderbilt is critical because of the horrendous schedule Ole Miss has to play. After Vanderbilt, the Rebels get a mega cupcake in Southeast Missouri State at home, but then giants come knocking.
Texas, Alabama, Auburn, all on the road, then Texas A&M and LSU at home. Those schools have combined to win seven of the last 10 national championships. The only teams to have won a title in the last decade that aren’t on the Rebels schedule are Florida and USC.
Texas A&M, the only school in that stretch that didn’t win a national title in the last decade, returns the Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel. The Aggies are considered one of the favorites to win this year’s championship.
And don’t think Auburn will be an easy win for Ole Miss. Auburn had one of its worst seasons ever and Ole Miss didn’t put them away until the fourth quarter. Now Ole Miss will travel to Auburn and face a team likely to be improved under new head coach Gus Malzahn. Auburn has pulled in three recruiting classes ranked in the top 10 by scout.com in the last four years. The only class outside the top 10 was ranked 14th. There is serious talent at Auburn and they will be a threat.
If Ole Miss falters against the Commodores to open the season, they could be looking 1-6 in the face. A win over Vanderbilt, and an assumed win over the vaunted Redhawks of Southeast Missouri State, would put Ole Miss into a 2-0 start and have the momentum swinging in high gear for the brutal five game stretch.
Knocking off Vanderbilt would put an end to a Commodore streak. Vanderbilt has beaten Ole Miss three straight years and in the last six meetings, Vanderbilt has won five.
From 1993-2004 Ole Miss was 11-1 against Vanderbilt. Most Ole Miss fans don’t think of Vanderbilt as an equal rival, but a fortunate crossover game, one Ole Miss should win, but Vanderbilt has been handing it to Ole Miss recently.
If Ole Miss wants to step up and really challenge the powers of the SEC, then beating Vanderbilt is a must. The Commodores put together a nine win season last year, but they failed to beat a ranked team. Ole Miss may have been their best win from last season.
The season starts at 8:15 p.m. on Aug. 29 airing on national television and Ole Miss will know by the end of the night if they will keep riding Freeze’s wave of success or if they will be halted open waters by a black and gold anchor.