Going into the 2016 football season, the enthusiasm (though it is there) is a little bit quieter than in years past. Hearts around Oxford are heavy from the tragic events that took place the Sunday before last. In the face of this unimaginable accident, the Rebels seem to be keeping their heads up, focusing and opening their hearts (and practices) to give others a lift. Ole Miss has embraced the Farese, Perry and Poole families and given the children a place to briefly escape and form bonds with coaches and players in the middle of their pain.
Also, the daunting thoughts of a NCAA investigation are a concern of Rebel fans as they look to improve off of last year’s Sugar Bowl victory. Then the news of running back, Jordan Wilkins, being ruled academically ineligible for the season dealt another blow, but with an AP preseason ranking of 11 the Rebels have a lot to look forward to and even more to play for.
The Rebels open up against the Florida State Seminoles which is virtually an away game even though Orlando is considered a neutral site. In the past couple of weeks, we have learned that Florida State starting quarterback Sean McGuire is expected to miss at least that game with a broken foot according to Jimbo Fisher. The Seminoles also suspended quarterback Malik Henry indefinitely so it looks like it will be senior quarterback Chad Kelly against redshirt freshman Deondre Francois for FSU.
Following the Florida State game, the Rebels will then come back to Oxford for four straight home games. The stretch begins with the Wofford Terriers where the FPI gives us a 99% chance of winning that game. The week after, the Rebels will go to battle against the Alabama Crimson Tide where they will try to make it three straight over Nick Saban’s bunch. Kirby Smart and Georgia, where likely starting quarterback freshman Jacob Eason, will receive his first true test against road environment in Vaught-Hemingway. The Rebels end the home stretch with the Memphis Tigers who will be without head coach Justin Fuentes and Paxton Lynch. The Rebels will look for a big win after suffering a loss to the Tigers last year.
The Rebels will have a bye week and then head on the road to face off against the Arkansas Razorbacks where Bret Bielema and company would like to make it three straight wins against Ole Miss. Then, the Rebels will take it down to the Bayou where Chad Kelly will enter Death Valley for the first time in his career. The last time Ole Miss traveled to Death Valley the Rebels were 7-0. We won’t be able to enter at 7-0 this season, but we could leave with a 7-0 record.
Ole Miss will come back to Oxford to face off against the Auburn Tigers with Malzahn seeking an upset while his seat is warming in Auburn. The Rebels then face the option attack of Georgia Southern for their final non-conference game of the season. Kelly will hopefully be resting up in the second half of the game for a big one the next weekend.
College Station will be the next site for the Rebels as I believe we will see the two best quarterbacks in the league in Chad Kelly and Trevor Knight square off. We should see a ton of points as the quarterback play and the receiving corps are outstanding for teams. It should be a fun one against the Aggies. The Rebels then go to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt where the past few seasons, we have seen Vanderbilt at the beginning of our schedule. This year Vanderbilt will be the Rebels’ last road test. The Commodores have a stellar defense so this one will not be a coasting win.
The Grove will be packed and every seat will be filled as the Rebels come back to the Vaught for the Egg Bowl. The Rebels will look to keep the Golden Egg in their possession for the third straight year and this time the Bulldogs will be without Dak Prescott. A few years ago, Dan Mullen stated, “we’re never losing to this team again” now the question is will they ever beat this team again? In 2014 after losing the Egg Bowl, Mullen said, “I won’t be able to sleep for freakin’ 365 days until they show up at our place next year.” We showed up last year, taking them down for a second straight win. Hopefully, we will keep Dan sleepless again.
Grant Daniels, a student at Oxford High School, is a sports correspondent for HottyToddy.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org