OXFORD, MS - OCTOBER 22: Donte Moncrief #12 of the Ole Miss Rebels catches a touchdown pass over Darius Winston #21 of the Arkansas Razorbacks at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
This is an overview. Predictions come later. Home games in CAPS.
9/1: CENTRAL ARKANSAS
9/22: at Tulane
9/29: at Alabama
The first three games of the 2012 Ole Miss season come against teams from either Arkansas or Texas, the two states that once housed the Southwestern Conference. The Rebels have five such opponents on the schedule, plus two more against teams from Louisiana (a state that borders both). I point it out only because it's uncommon for a team outside the Big 12 to be able to say that. It's also strange to see a team both host Texas while also having a road game at Tulane.
The first month is somewhat cushy, though the question with the Texas and Alabama games is not whether Ole Miss will win but whether it will even score points. Hugh Freeze should be able to start his career in Oxford 3-2 after the first month. It'll be three meaningless wins and two hellacious blowouts, but 3-2 looks better than some alternatives.
10/6: TEXAS A&M
10/27: at Arkansas
For once, an SEC's October slate doesn't look like a gauntlet. Texas A&M and Auburn don't figure to be in the top three in the division, and both play Ole Miss the week after getting torn up by the Arkansas offense. A bye week then comes before the Rebels' own tussle with the Razorbacks, one that looks like a sure loss. If the Rebels steal one of those first two games, they could head into the season's final month at .500. That would probably be a dream scenario for Freeze. There's no such thing as an October cakewalk in this league, but it certainly could be worse.
11/3: at Georgia
11/17: at LSU
11/24: MISSISSIPPI STATE
Here's the payoff for the decent October: pain in November. A trip to the SEC East division favorite comes up first, followed by a visit from the suddenly frisky Commodores of Vanderbilt. A trip to Baton Rouge completes the trifecta of road games against the division's top three teams, but it doesn't matter all that much. In a season like this one, Ole Miss isn't beating any of Alabama, LSU, or Arkansas whether at home, on the road, or on the moon. Any wins in the final month will have to come against Vandy or MSU, teams that the Rebels lost to by a combined score of 61-10 last season. It's a backloaded slate of games that will make for a long stretch run to the season.