The Ole Miss Rebels are looking to build upon last season's progress, and they'll have their chances with a loaded defense and the return of several key skill players. The presence of the latter could mitigate the lingering questions at quarterback. Nonetheless, the SEC West is an unforgiving environment. If Ole Miss hopes to improve upon last season, it has to win these games.
September 19th at Alabama
Last season's result between Alabama and Ole Miss suggested the talent gap between these two programs is negligible. Alabama largely played well in that game going for nearly 400 yards of offense, but two fourth quarter miscues, which Ole Miss took advantage of, sealed the victory for the Rebels. Ole Miss returns 16 starters from last year's campaign, and should be competitive in Tuscaloosa.
The issue for Ole Miss is their graduated quarterback's fourth quarter heroics had as much to do with the victory over the Crimson Tide as anything. Ole Miss will be breaking in a new starting quarterback, and his first road game will be against Alabama. It's not like there isn't precedent for a newly appointed quarterback to win at Alabama (e.g. Johnny Manziel), but it's a rare occurrence.
If Ole Miss wins this game, they'll go a month before playing another SEC West opponent. In that month, they will have the opportunity to improve -- and hopefully avoid injuries -- heading into the home stretch. Winning this game will reduce stress over the next 30 days.
November 21st vs LSU
LSU will probably enter this game as one of the front runners in the SEC West. They'll be motivated and dangerous. Ole Miss will be coming off consecutive games against Texas A&M, Auburn, and Arkansas (not to mention a dangerous Memphis team). Ole Miss should be forgiven if they enter this game a bit worse for wear, but they'll have the opportunity to risk the seasonal aspirations of a divisional contender, and propel themselves.
One can probably assume that LSU will have figured out their quarterback situation by November, and coupled with Leonard Fournette, the Tigers will challenge Ole Miss' defense. Likewise, Ole Miss probably will have figured out their quarterback situation too, and if a running game has been established they'll be an even more complete team. Coin flip games like these tend to be determinative.