Ole Miss has suffered an unbearable offseason for reasons that everyone is familiar with already. Short of the death penalty, this offseason could not have gone much worse for the Ole Miss faithful. However, people seem to forget that this roster still has a tremendous amount of talent and NFL potential. And at the end of the day, talent and coaching is what wins games. While Ole Miss will not go to a bowl game due to self-enforced penalties, the Rebels will still play a full 12 game schedule. Here are my Ole Miss 2017 game predictions.
South Alabama (Sept. 2nd) W (1-0)
Matt Luke will make his debut as interim head coach against a team that many in the SEC and the state of Mississippi are familiar with. South Alabama came into Starkville during Mississippi State’s season opener in 2016 and left with a huge upset. However, don’t expect that to happen this season in Oxford. Ole Miss will be very prepared for this game knowing what USA is capable of. The Rebs will win 52-24, giving up some points in garbage time.
UT Martin (Sept. 9th) W (2-0)
The second game on the schedule is against FCS opponent, UT Martin. The Rebels defeated UT Martin 76-3 in 2015. While Ole Miss may not reach the 76 point mark, expect the ultimate result to be similar. Ole Miss will dominate them at the line of scrimmage and will be able to do whatever they want offensively. The starters could get pulled early in the 2nd half for this one. Ole Miss wins 59-6.
Cal (Sept. 16th) L (2-1)
The Rebels first away game of the 2017 season will be in Berkeley, California to take on the Cal Bears. Cal is under the instruction of first year coach, Justin Wilcox. While the Bears have a new coach, expect them to look very similar in years past. They will have an offense that can make plays and a defense that will look terrible most of the time. There will be a TON of points and yards in this one and could very well come down to who has the ball last. Ole Miss will suffer their first loss of the season with a very young defense on the road. Cal wins 48-42.
Alabama (Sept. 30th) L (2-2)
Ole Miss will have a bye week after their matchup with Cal and will have a chance to shore up their defense somewhat before they take on what is currently the best program in College Football, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama has compiled elite players at every position. If Jalen Hurts has improved in the vertical passing game, this could be another long day for the Rebels defense. Ole Miss will put up a fight but will drop their second game in a row. Alabama wins 41-27.
Auburn (Oct. 7th) L (2-3)
The Rebels will travel to Auburn for their fifth game of the season. This is a tough matchup for Ole Miss because even if Jarrett Stidham bombs for Auburn, the Tigers will still have an elite running game that will pose major problems for a young linebacker group. In all reality, Stidham may very well end up being the most dynamic quarterback to play for Auburn since Cam Newton. The Rebels defense will begin to show some real signs of improvement by this time of the season but will fall just a little short. Auburn wins 34-28.
Vanderbilt (Oct. 14th) W (3-3)
The seventh game of the season will provide Ole Miss with a chance to get a good win against a sound SEC football team in Vanderbilt. The Rebels will have them at home and after several weeks of the defense improving bit by bit. While Ole Miss won’t be shutting anyone down at this point, expect them to force a few turnovers against Vandy. The offense, which will be humming quite well by this point, will take advantage of them and will allow the Rebels to come away with a much needed victory. Ole Miss wins 41-31.
LSU (Oct. 21st) W (4-3)
Ole Miss will take on arguably their biggest rival, LSU, in Oxford on the 21st of October. The Tigers have recruited at an elite level for the past several seasons. They have elite talent at pretty much every position except quarterback. Because of that, this offense will not be a quick fix for new offensive coordinator, Matt Canada. While the Tigers have one of the best backs in the game (Derrius Guice), their offensive line is thin and they don’t have many weapons at receiver. Ole Miss will come in emotional and fired up to play while the Tigers, who I believe will only have one loss at this point, will come in conservative and playing not to lose. The Rebels will take advantage of this and steal a huge victory. Ole Miss wins 38-27.
Arkansas (Oct. 28th) L (4-4)
The Rebels will come into their eighth game coming off of two huge conference wins and will be catching Arkansas at a bad time. Arkansas returns one of the best quarterbacks in the conference in Austin Allen who knows this offense inside and out and can run it at a high level. Ole Miss hasn’t beaten Arkansas since 2013 and hasn’t had much success against them defensively at all. Expect this trend to continue. Arkansas wins 38-28.
Kentucky (Nov. 4th) L (4-5)
Ole Miss’s first matchup in the crucial month of November is a road game against the Kentucky Wildcats. The Wildcats returns a very capable offensive line along with one of the best backs in the SEC, Benjamin Snell Jr. (1,091 rush yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016). If the Wildcats can improve in their vertical passing game and in a few spots on defense, they could end up having a very good season. Kentucky’s run game proves a little too much for the Ole Miss defense. Kentucky wins 37-31.
UL Lafayette (Nov. 11th) W (5-5)
The last non-conference game of the season comes against UL Lafayette. While the Cajuns have a talented roster and should compete for a sun belt title, their level of talent does not match that of the Ole Miss roster. This should be a field day for the Ole Miss offense and could provide a huge opportunity for the defense to build some confidence going into the last two games of the season. Ole Miss wins 55-23.
Texas A&M (Nov. 18th) W (6-5)
November 18th will be senior day for the Ole Miss Rebels as they take on the Texas A&M Aggies. This season will be the year, in my opinion, that the Aggies will not be able to overcome having a reliable option at quarterback. Too much was lost from 2016 in the receiving core and the defensive line. The traditionally weak Texas A&M secondary will not be bailed out by an elite defensive line in 2017. I believe this will be the last season Kevin Sumlin will be on the sidelines in College Station so don’t be surprised if the Aggies come into this game with five or six losses. Considering the adversity the Ole Miss program has faced in the past year, the team will come out extremely motivated, determined, and disciplined to send the seniors out the right way. Ole Miss has beaten the Aggies three seasons in a row, expect that trend to continue this season. Ole Miss wins 41-24.
Mississippi State (Nov. 23rd) L (6-6)
Egg bowl week is always the biggest week for football in the state of Mississippi. This matchup is always competitive and high spirited no matter the circumstances. While the Iron Bowl may be the premiere rivalry in College Football, Ole Miss and Mississippi State dislike each other as much as any two schools in the country. This year’s Egg Bowl will be in Starkville, automatically giving the Bulldogs an upper hand. Ole Miss came into the season thin at certain spots and this will be the difference in the game. While Ole Miss fans may hate to admit it, Dan Mullen is one of the best coaches in the conference. It’s likely they will have seven wins on the year entering this game. The Rebels will fight and fight hard but will lose to a team that is playing for a better bowl bid. Mississippi State wins 38-34.
Season In Review
This season will have a huge impact on how the program will fare for the next several years. With NCAA penalties looming, the attitude and discipline of the team will show whether or not this program is imploding. Ole Miss is scheduled to appear before the NCAA on September 11th so we should expect to know an answer regarding the allegations before the end of the season. While the off-field distractions are plenty, one things that is certain is that this Ole Miss roster is littered with big time recruits and SEC caliber players. It will be interesting to see how this team reacts to adversity on the field. Contrary to what many people believe, the Rebels will not lay down and lose eight or nine games. If Ole Miss can finish .500 or better, expect Luke to get the permanent job unless an extremely good and reputable coach shows interest.