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SEC Football Preview 2014: The Heart of Ole Miss' Schedule Decides the Rebels' Fate

There's a five-week stretch that will decide how far Hugh Freeze and Co. will go this year

Stacy Revere

There's been a little bit of buzz about both of the Mississippi teams this year, with some of the momentum gathering behind Ole Miss. That makes the shape of the schedule, if you'll allow the term, all the more interesting. There's a five-week bulge in the middle of the season that runs from Oct. 4 to Nov. 1 that's probably going to tell us just how much of that hype is hype. By the time Ole Miss is done with its game against Auburn on Nov. 1, we'll know if the Rebels are contenders or playing for a better bowl.

But if they do well enough over those five weeks, the rest of the schedule is manageable. There's the marquee match-up to open the season, and over the last few years, the Egg Bowl has been about as hard to predict as any game in college football. But if the Rebels are good enough to win in the middle, the bookends shouldn't be too hard.

Starting out with a bang. Ole Miss gets a shot at the neutral-site opener. Boise might not be the powerhouse it was four or five years ago, but the Broncos are still very good and could be a high-profile scalp for Ole Miss if the Rebels end up getting some momentum in the polls. The trip to Vanderbilt is the only other game to commend September; Louisiana-Lafayette is expected to win the Sun Belt, but still shouldn't be much of a threat to Ole Miss this year. Yeah, there's Memphis.

The meat of the schedule. This probably isn't the most brutal month an SEC team faces in 2014, but it should at least be in the discussion. The trip to Texas A&M at a point when the Aggies might finally be jelling makes even that game more difficult than it might appear at first. And any month with games against Alabama and LSU is far from easy. Just surviving October with the team's confidence intact would be an accomplishment; if Ole Miss can hold together for a 2-2 month, a nine- or even 10-win season is not out of the question. But a severe slide could cause the wheels to come off.

Down the stretch. Why does Ole Miss get to play two FCS teams this year? Oh, that's right, Memphis is still technically an FBS team. Sorry about that. In any case, this is the month that could dictate where the Rebels end up in the bowl pecking order -- or even give them a shot at the West, if they manage to pick off Alabama or LSU. Six wins coming into November isn't going to be easy, but should be reasonable, and an upset earlier would give them seven. November should be at least a two-win month, and Ole Miss gets both Auburn and the Egg Bowl at home. Both of those games were on the road last year, and both of them were decided by a single possession. Reverse both of those outcomes, or even one, and the Rebels should be looking at a nine- or 10-win season.