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We take a deep dive into the 2021 Ole Miss football schedule

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[rubs crystal ball embossed with Lane’s face]

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Mississippi vs Indiana Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a history teacher.

My parents are in public education, and history was my favorite subject in school. So, 2+2=4 (see, I can do math too!), and those two things together made it make sense for me to be a history teacher.

History is focusing on past events, cultures and civilizations and helps us find out how we got to where we are today. Also, in the words of the late great William Faulkner, “The past is not dead; it’s not even past.” History lives in and through us and helps us know what paths to take with our collective future on this rock hurling through space.

Football is a lot like that in a microcosm. Since the first “football game” (I use quotes because it was really just a giant scrum with rules much different than those we employ today) between the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton) and Rutgers, we’ve learned a lot. We now can throw the ball and are knowledgeable of the fact that bigger and faster athletes give you the best chance of winning the game. We have entire days and cycles centered around nationally-televised events where high school kids essentially decide where to further their education, something that was unheard of in 1869, the year of college football’s inception.

We learn a lot from the past: its trials and tribulations as well as its successes. That’s why when Ole Miss released its 2021 football schedule last Wednesday, I took it upon myself to delve semi-deep into the Rebels’ past encounters with these opponents and pen a few words on what to expect when these teams meet on the gridiron in the fall. What follows is what I came up with. I have included some very historical facts as well as what Ole Miss’ all-time record is against each program. Enjoy.

Sept. 6 — vs. Louisville (Atlanta)

Fast fact: Mitch McConnell is a Louisville alum

All-time series: no previous meetings

The last time Ole Miss played on Labor Day to start the season, things went, shall we say, poorly as the Rebels fell to Florida State 45-34 in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando. The last time Ole Miss played in the Chick-fil-a Kickoff in Atlanta, however, things went well by comparison, picking up a 35-13 win over Boise State (a game that was later vacated by the NCAA, but it happened! I seent it!)

This go-round, the Rebels will be facing Louisville who is fresh off a 4-7 record in 2020, so hopefully we’ll see the Rebs cook. The main storyline of this game, however, (regardless of what you may read elsewhere) is that it features heated-rivals Ole Miss and Louisville, and word on the street is that if Ole Miss wins this season opener against the Cardinals, Peyton Chatagnier will fly in on an actual cardinal and spike a baseball at midfield in celebration, much like he did last season after Ole Miss baseball’s victory over Louisville on opening weekend. A rivalry was born there, and it’s only fitting its greatest historical figure be there to celebrate it.

Louisville returns Malik Cunningham and Jalen Mitchell, both who rushed for over 800 yards a season ago. Cunningham also threw for 2,617 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 picks in 2020. So, basically, he’s a mobile quarterback in Louisville, Kentucky. Sound familiar? Anyone?

Sept. 11 — vs. Austin Peay

Fast fact: pronounced “Austin Pee”

All-time series: no previous meetings

For lo, there be FCS football on the horizon! Circle the wagons!

This is the second opponent Ole Miss opens up the season with that it has never faced before, but since this is an FCS team, I’ve decided to, instead of giving a bunch of stats that you don’t care about, give you some information on what exactly an Austin Peay is.

According to Wikipedia, Austin Peay State University is a public university in Clarksville, Tennessee, and has an undergraduate enrollment of 9,835. Despite its small student body, the host city of Clarksville has a population of roughly 132,929.

The university website has Austin Peay labeled as the fastest-growing university in Tennessee, which is cool (suck it, Vols). Also, the website has this entry:

Austin Peay State University

It’s “pee,” guys. It’s pee.

Austin Peay’s mascot is the Governors, and their logo features a monocle’d man with a beard. Basically, he’s rich Colonel Reb from Tennessee, so there’s that!

Sept. 18 — vs. Tulane

Fast fact: Tulane was a founding member of the SEC, I’m told.

All-time series: 41-28-0 Ole Miss

The Rebs haven’t played Tulane since 2012 (a game where Bo Wallace’s shoulder went to hell in the Superdome, if you remember), but they’ve won nine straight dating back to 1989.

Look, I’m gonna say it - Ole Miss should schedule a permanent home-and-home with Tulane. Some of you know that I’ve been on this train for quite a while, but it would be a non-conference game that’s played every year and that you should win every year. Ole Miss fans get a home game and a trip to NOLA every other year. Pick up a win, have fun in New Orleans and come home. Who says no?

The Green Wave have a competent quarterback returning in Michael Pratt who threw for almost 2,000 yards last season, 20 touchdowns and eight picks. They also return a 700-yard rusher in Cameron Carroll, a Mississippi product from Northwest Rankin High School. Tulane is good about coming into The Sip and getting some really talented kids that don’t necessarily gain a lot of Power Five hype, so I like to watch them from time-to-time to see some of these guys in action. You’ll recall that Tulane was originally the destination for Taylorsville quarterback Ty Keyes who flipped to Southern Miss when Will Hall left NOLA for Hattiesburg, and Tulane, like Memphis, seems to build a bulk of its program on some of this talent in our state. There will be some “Mississippi vs. Mississippi” storylines coming into this one.

Sept. 25 — BYE Week

Fast fact: BYE weeks are fun and not stressful!

All-time series: idk

*inhales*

Oct. 2 — @ Alabama

Fast fact: High snap, Kelly has to collect it, makes a desperation heave into traffic, Treadwell, off his hands and into the hands of Adeboyejo a crazy carom and a touchdown for the Rebels.

All-time series: 52-10-2 Alabama [redacted]

*exhales*

This will serve as Ole Miss’ first true road game of the season, and it’s a doozy.

The pinnacle of my Ole Miss existence came in 2014 and 2015 when the Rebels knocked off the Tide in back-to-back seasons. If Ole Miss wins its first three games (it should, but WAOM), there’s a good chance College GameDay is in Title Town for this one, and there will be headlines galore.

Alabama is coming off one of the most dominant season performances in college football history, and Nick Saban has never lost a game to a former assistant (although Lane came dang close last year with a team that, talent-wise, had no business being in that game on paper). This year, the difficulty is increased due to being on the road, but most people believe the Lane Train will be rolling even faster in year two, so this will be a fun one.

Ole Miss won’t be as talented as Alabama on paper next season. Honestly, it’s hard for anyone to be year-in and year-out. But if this game has the national platform that we think it should have, this will be a recruiting tool for the Rebels if they keep it close and competitive throughout. If you win, burn everything in celebration. If you lose, meh. It’s Alabama. Take your medicine and move on to next week.

Oct. 9 — vs. Arkansas

Fast fact: Sam Pittman is a used car salesman from the greater Little Rock area who airs his commercials on the 10 o’clock local news.

All-time series: 36-28-1 Arkansas*

* this is debated by Ole Miss and Arkansas because this rivalry has everything

“Near the gates and within two cities

There will be scourges the like of which was never seen,

Famine within plague, people put out by steel,

Crying to the great immortal God for relief.”

Nostradamus prophesying on the Ole Miss-Arkansas rivalry

I’m breaking out the sage and incantations and rabbit feet and throwing salt over both shoulders. This matchup always brings unbelievable pain and anguish for one or both programs and causes mass casualties of the spiritual and mental variety. It helps that this year’s game is in Oxford, but it also means that we could have a friendly crowd witness an unbelievably painful collapse before our very eyes.

Ole Miss was the better team last year but performed in an absolute horrid fashion and still had a chance to win late. Coming into this season, they’ll probably be the better team on paper, but we’ll see if that potential hits the field.

Oct. 16 — @ Tennessee

Fast fact: Lane Kiffin is not the head coach at Tennessee, per credible sources.

All-time series: 44-19-1 Tennessee

The Rebs picked up the win over the Vols the last time out (2014), another game that was vacated because REBELBEARSHARKS CHEATIN’. Lane’s only year spent in Knoxville saw him lose to Ole Miss 42-17 as DMC ran laps around the orange-clad visitors.

Now, Tennessee is on fire in a bad way (or a good way for the rest of us), and the NCAA will surely come knocking before it’s all said and done. For a program that is ablaze and delusional about who would take their head coaching job, Lane’s return to Knoxville should be fun for the Ole Miss faithful. But, of course, how quickly we forget the power of WAOM and its never-ending hold on the program. It chooses the most inopportune times to appear, and during the trip to Knoxvegas would be a #bad time for it to appear next season.

Maybe Ole Miss will bury the Vols below Neyland Stadium. Maybe we’ll be clenching our unmentionables and chewing our fingernails. Maybe we’ll be doing both. We’ll see.

Also, lest we forget:

The Athletic

Oct. 30 Oct. 23 — vs. LSU

Fast fact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX7wzhMvbzo

All-time series: 64-40-4 LSU

H-A-L-L-O-W-E-E-N W-E-E-K-E-N-D M-A-G-N-O-L-I-A B-O-W-L

In my formative years, the now-dubbed Magnolia Bowl was held the weekend before Thanksgiving and the weeping and gnashing of teeth that is the Egg Bowl. But, I’m told this game used to be centered around Halloween, and history backs that up. So, for those of you who have wanted to see this game return to its rightful place around the end of October, congratulations.

The Rebs haven’t beaten the Tigers since 2015, so it’d be cool to finally change that this season. Ole Miss turned the ball over in the Baton Rouge rain approximately 700 times in 2020 and still had a chance to win the game late. Oh, and it was without Kenny Yeboah and Elijah Moore, so one could assume had they been donning the red and blue, things might have gone differently.

But, at the end of the day, Ole Miss had less points than LSU in December, which, I’m told, means they lost the game. The Bayou Bengals played three different quarterbacks last season, so God only knows who will be taking snaps by the time they play Ole Miss this fall.

Anyway, here’s a spooky reminder of how spooky Orgeron’s time in Oxford was because of spooky season and spookiness*. Check out this story from our very own Gray Hardison. It’d be great to give Coach O some emotional pain when he comes to Oxford this year, but here again I remind you of the historical fact that WAOM.

Okay, so, I’m an idiot who cannot read dates on a calendar. Thank you to those of you who pointed out my mistake. Ole Miss is, in fact, not playing LSU right before Halloween, which just means that this game has no historical significance tied to a particular date, and I am, once again, very dumb. Please continue.

* Coaching incompetence

Oct. 30 — @ Auburn

Fast fact: I’ve never actually seen a pine box.

All-time series: 34-10-0 Auburn

Tired: Gus Malzahn

Wired: Bryan Harsin?

Welcome to Auburn, Alabama, which held the wildest moment of this year’s coaching carousel until Tennessee did Tennessee things, so for about two weeks. After things being said like “certainly Kiffin will leave Ole Miss for Auburn and no I’m not at all a State fan despite being on EliteDawgs with my username OktibbehaGrinder69420, why do you ask,” Auburn wound up landing Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin as their head man. Harsin has a 76-24 record as a head coach, so it’s not a bad hire statistically, but he’ll certainly see a ramp up in competition having to play in the SEC West.

After the Rebs were likely robbed of a win over the Tigers last season, Kiffin & Co. will have to go to the Plains to get the job done in 2021. Ole Miss hasn’t won in Auburn since 2015 (also the last time they beat Auburn at all), so there will be some demons that need shakin’ if the Rebs plan to land this one.

Nov. 6 — vs. Liberty

Fast fact: Hugh Freeze, who, I’m told, used to coach at Ole Miss is Liberty’s head coach and absolutely does not search his own name on Twitter and slide into random people’s DMs.

All-time series: no previous meetings

There will be emotional build up to this game, sadly. It’s inevitable. The Flames finished 10-1 last season, and the talking heads on ESPN will be saying “Can Hugh Freeze knock off his former team on the road?” Ole Miss will have the more talented team coming into this one, so it should just be treated as business as usual. Easier said than done when ESPN hypes up an otherwise-unexciting game all week.

Liberty football’s website is a nightmare to try and navigate (they have their roster listed alphabetically instead of by jersey number, and their stats page looks like a Microsoft Word document from 2003), but the Flames have a good quarterback returning in 2021 in Malik Willis who was once an Auburn Tiger.

Nov. 13 — Texas A&M

Fast fact: Jimbo ducked Lane Kiffin in 2020.

All-time series: 9-1 Texas A&M

After snagging Tywone Malone in the crootin’ cycle, Ole Miss has to be feeling pretty good about facing off against Texas A&M this calendar year. Unfortunately, other players will play in this game, and A&M is expected to be good, despite losing 17-year starter Kellen Mond who exhausted his eligibility after last season.

Still, we get the Ags in Oxford this season, which has to count for something. This shouldn’t be a blowout by any means, but my gut is leaning A&M here unless they have another mid-fall collapse like they were famous for under Johnny Manziel-less Kevin Sumlin. Texas A&M was in the playoff conversation right till the very end in 2020, and they’ll likely have a successful 2021 campaign as well.

There isn’t a lot of history between Ole Miss and A&M (only 10 meetings) since A&M is a fairly-new SEC school, but the Rebels’ lone victory (that counts in the record books) in the series came in a rout in Oxford in 2015. Ole Miss also beat the Aggies in 2014 (again, I seent it!) in College Station, but the NCAA did its thing and that no longer counts, apparently.

Nov. 20 — vs. Vanderbilt

Fast fact: Elijah Moore just scored again.

All-time series: 51-40-2 Ole Miss

Derek Mason is gone. Vanderbilt is still the hardest job in SEC football. Win the game.

Nov. 27 — @ Mississippi State

Fast fact: https://southboundanddown.com/2015/04/27/ranking-the-14-sec-college-towns-fansided-poll/2/

All-time series: 63-46-6 Ole Miss

And, finally, we reach the Egg Bowl, which will again be played on a Saturday this season (praise be to God). Ole Miss never trailed in 2020’s installment of the annual rivalry, and is expected to be the better team heading into 2021. Regardless, this is the Egg Bowl, and pain was born and bred here.

State brought in the No. 23 class this past cycle according to Rivals, and Ole Miss secured the No. 18 spot. Mike Leach’s first year in Starkville wasn’t a memorable one for State fans as players departed the program en mass, leading some very intelligent people on the internet to console themselves following the Egg Bowl for some reason idk. Leach has done similar things at his previous stops, so who knows? Maybe 2021 will be the year it starts to come together for the Pirate. Even so, he’s got some work to do.