Ole Miss comes into this season trying to become what they essentially were under David Cutcliffe: a perennial bowl team. The ceiling on the Rebels this year isn't expected to be as high as it was last year, when they were seen as one of the strongest challenges to Alabama's repeat SEC West championship. Winning two out of three key games could decide whether the bowling dreams come true; Houston Nutt's attempt to live up to his reputation as a surprise coach by doing even better hinges on three other games.
THIRD STRAIGHT BOWL?
KENTUCKY | Oct. 2
A team that has almost as many question marks as Ole Miss in 2010 -- maybe more -- marks the first potentially challenging SEC game of the season. In fact, aside from possibly Fresno State, this could be our first chance to see how the Rebels will do against a decent opponent. This is a series with one of the most lopsidedly pro-Ole Miss records, who have a two-to-one advantage in the win column (26-13-1). The two haven't met since 2006.
at TENNESSEE | Nov. 13
This could actually be a more dangerous game that it appears at first. Consider: Tennessee's next game is against Vanderbilt, which is a rivalry game but not the kind of thing you look ahead to. Ole Miss has a matchup with LSU on the calendar next. And if Derek Dooley and the Vols are going to get something figured out this year, mid-November seems like the kind of time they'll be warming up. Last year's Rebels win was the first since 1983 -- which was also the last time Ole Miss won in Knoxville.
MISSISSIPPI STATE | Nov. 27
41-27 is really all that needs to be said about this one, no? This shapes up as one of the more intriguing late-season rivalry games of the year. Depending on what happens before now, the Egg Bowl could decide who goes to a real bowl, or if one team or the other makes the postseason. And, of course, there is the added benefit of being the best team in Mississippi. For whatever that's worth.
at ARKANSAS | Oct. 23
Last year's would-be challenger to the Alabama dynasty meets this year's would-be challenger to the Alabama dynasty. Footnote that might not be worth anything: The win against the Razorbacks last year was the first of three times that
Arkansas Ole Miss won its way back into the AP Top 25. The two times that there was a game the following week, Ole Miss lost both of them and were excised from the poll. (The third was against Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl.) I feel like there's something else notable I'm forgetting, some shared coaching history or something ...
AUBURN | Oct. 30
No longer the Pine Box Bowl, last year marked the fifth time in six years that Ole Miss lost to the Tigers. Which is pretty much par for the course; Auburn has a 24-9 record against Ole Miss all-time. This is actually the youngest series against an SEC West opponent (1928 was the first meeting). The loss to Auburn was the counterpart to last year's win against Arkansas. So if there's any revenge to be exacted ...
at LSU | Nov. 20
The Rebels are on a two-game winning streak against LSU, but 2008 marked the first time Ole Miss won the game since 2001. This is Ole Miss' third-oldest series against a current member of the SEC; Alabama faced Ole Miss a bit more than a month earlier in the Rebel's second season (1894) and Vanderbilt played a little less than a month earlier. In any case, any game with Houston Nutt on one sideline and Les Miles on the other is must-see TV.
9.4.10 | JACKSONVILLE STATE Ah, the FCS tune-up. Moving on.
9.11.10 | at TULANE This game has already been selected for ESPN2, apparently because no one else is playing college football this week.
9.18.10 | VANDERBILT This is actually a relatively even series; the Rebels are 46-35-2 overall, and last year marked the first time Ole Miss has won by more than a touchdown (and only the second time either team has won by more than eight) since 2010.
9.26.10 | FRESNO STATE The WAC comes to Oxford in a showdown between the coaching world's craziest mind and its craziest mustache.
10.16.10 | at ALABAMA Can you two try to score more than one combined touchdown in this one? Mkay, thanks.
11.6.10 | LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE Nothing drives me crazy like cupcakes in November.