If you were considering how to run out the clock on the last week of January 2021 because [gestures at basketball], the SEC scriptwriters delivered the goods to you on Wednesday afternoon with the release of the official 2021 football schedule. While not stop-what-you’re-doing exciting, it could arguably be better than whatever VERY ONLINE content* you were going to get into that would be understood by like 0.4 of your real life friends.
*Related, just for the VERY ONLINE crowd, the only GameStop stock explanation you need.
For Ole Miss to achieve bowl eligibility status in 2021, it will have to produce six wins against a schedule that’s front-loaded with non-conferences games and a bye week, before getting into nine games in nine weeks, eight of which feature SEC teams.
While not an ideal setup, it’s not an impossible task and one that, barring an injury-filled season, Ole Miss should be able to accomplish. Obviously, it would be nice if they did so with ease, but I’ll take any form of progress.
In the latest edition of this series, we take a look at 10 things concerning Ole Miss’ 2021 schedule. As always, these may be as simple as playing in Tuscaloosa is difficult or as deep as the Lane Train is neither a lane nor a train, talk amongst yourselves.
(1) A return to Atlanta
Ole Miss goes back to Atlanta for the first time since a certain Peach Bowl that shall be ignored and compartmentalized because that’s the healthy way to deal with awful things. However, if you rewind to the beginning of that 2014 season, Ole Miss also opened in Atlanta, defeating Boise State, 35-13.
That’s the Atlanta trip we’d like to replicate in about eight months, and not one that included the saddest of all the sad field goals.
Now, I’d like to take a few moments of silence to allow our loyal Mississippi State and other SEC readers to take 10 seconds and make jokes to your computer, phone, or tablet, about Ole Miss never making it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. Just 10 seconds, I’ll watch the time.
(10 seconds of silence)
And time. I hope your jokes were clever and lol jk we all know they were not.
(2) Did you say nine straight weeks of games?
I did indeed, friends. After the bye week on September 25th, Ole Miss will have four straight SEC games, followed by a quick non-conference breather for what will surely be an annoying Liberty team led by Brother Hugh, and three straight SEC games to close out the regular season.
If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound fun, you’re right! Ole Miss has a fighting chance in all 12 games, but what it does not have is the depth and talent to handle two months with no breaks.
I know a single week off later in the year doesn’t do much to help overall physical fatigue, but it does buy time for minor injuries to heal and a few days off from the mental grind, especially if some grosser than gross, self-inflicted loss pops up.
What? No, definitely not eyeballing you, Arkansas 2020. There was just something flashy in the bushes over there.
(3) A return to T-Town
On October 2nd, Lane Kiffin will return to Tuscaloosa for the first time since he left/was told he was leaving Nick Saban’s staff prior to the national championship game for the 2017 season. As Kiffin will no doubt repeat prior to the game, he and Saban will play zero plays in the game, but the hype train ain’t care about that.
Assuming Ole Miss is undefeated and Ohio State is not playing a top 15 B1G team that will end the season 6-6, GameDay and the circus surrounding it will likely be in front of Bryant-Denny that Saturday morning.
Whether GameDay is there or not, that Saturday likely ends with an Ole Miss loss, but it would be a shame to make guest picker and lifelong Alabama fan Kenny Chesney be wrong.
(4) A return to Orange Vegas
Two weeks after the Alabama game, Lane Kiffin returns to Knoxville for the first time as the head coach of another team. While he won’t be coaching Tennessee, Vol fans will get to experience a real version of their “seeing a victorious Lane Kiffin in Neyland Stadium again” fever dream.
(5) Brother Hugh returns to the scene of the crime
“Crime, you say? I think most of that stuff took place in Tampa.”
No, no, not that stuff. I’m talking about his last game as Ole Miss head coach where he lost to Mississippi State, 55-20, in Oxford. You know, the one where his defense gave up 457 yards rushing, and he was outscored 28-0 in the second half. That crime.
And the resulting mess through 2019. And while we’re at it, let’s get him for accessory to Ole Miss hiring Matt Luke.
(6) So predictions for a final record?
Hang on just a second. We still need to recognize the Austin Peay Governors making the trip to Oxford.
(7) Anything for Tulane?
A stretch, but yes!
(8) Egg Bowl returns to the end of the season
Let me eloquently state my feelings about that:
(9) Record over the nine straight games?
In an ideal world, 7-2 or better, but as I mentioned, Ole Miss will not be operating in not an ideal world. Either 5-4 or 6-3 is probably more on the nose.
On offense, Ole Miss is replacing an NFL wide receiver, an NFL right tackle, and maybe an NFL tight end with not an NFL receiver, tackle, and tight end. While we saw in the Outback Bowl that Kiffin and Jeff Lebby can still generate offense without their top two receiving yards producers, it’s not a simple replacement procedure over 12 games for Ole Miss at this point.
Hopefully after the croots come pouring in, it will be soon enough but right now, no. The offense will be a well-oiled machine with good players and a plan of attack, but the loss of those three will be felt at some point.
Defensively, I suppose they’ll be a little better, but Ole Miss needs at least another recruiting cycle before they turn a corner on that side of the ball.
(10) Final prediction?
If everything goes smoothly and breaks are favorable, 10-2 or 9-3 isn’t out of the question. The majority of teams in the conference are in some type of a reset mode, whether it’s a new quarterback or coach, or they’re replacing a lot of offensive production. That benefits Ole Miss because, while they have a returning production problem, they do have continuity at quarterback and head coach.
However, when have smoothly and favorable breaks ever shown up in an Ole Miss football season. I suspect we’ll see something in the neighborhood of 7-5 or 8-4, which is on schedule for a rebuild. Plus, if I limit myself to that and the results are better, BONUS HOOTIN’ AND HOLLERIN’.