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2013 football schedule deceptively favorable for Ole Miss

The Southeastern Conference rolled out its 2013 football schedule this past Thursday. And upon first glance, it appears SEC commissioner Mike Slive had it out for the Rebels when he and his minions pieced together Ole Miss’ ’13 schedule.
Why so bad?
For starters, Ole Miss has only one home game — a Sept. 7 matchup with Southeast Missouri — during the first six weeks of the season. Then, the Rebels play six consecutive home matchups from Oct. 12 to Nov. 23 before traveling to Mississippi State to close out the season. (It must be noted that Ole Miss has two bye weeks in 2013: One Sept. 21 and another on Nov. 2.)
Additionally, the Rebels are at Alabama for a second consecutive year. That’s quite a daunting task, considering Nick Saban, the SEC’s resident miser/football genius, doesn’t believe in losing football games, especially at home.
Surely squeaky-clean Hugh Freeze didn’t do anything to deserve a schedule so laughable on the surface that it doesn’t seem out of the question that Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen didn’t draw it up himself.
And there are other implications to such an odd schedule. Oxford restaurants and businesses rely heavily on the influx of spending that occurs during home football weekends. But with only one of those during the first six weeks of the semester, those restaurants and businesses will surely take a financial hit. Likewise, during the Rebels’ six-game home stand, it’s very unlikely that many families will be able to attend all of those games during such a compact time period. Another financial hit for Oxford restaurants and businesses.
With that being said, from a football standpoint, the schedule isn’t as bad as it seems.
There key here is for Ole Miss to weather the early storm, and if they can do that, things set up well on the back end of the schedule. That means starting the season 2-2 with games at Vanderbilt, against Southeast Missouri, at Texas and at Alabama.
After that, the Rebels are at Auburn, a team that, as Ole Miss fans saw a few weeks ago, is a dumpster fire to say the least. With Gene Chizik likely done as the Tigers’ coach any day now, who knows what this team will resemble next year?
Then, conveniently, come six consecutive home games (Texas A&M, LSU, Idaho, Arkansas, Troy and Missouri). And while I’m not saying the Rebels will win them all, none of those matchups, besides LSU, are all that intimidating.
Plus, the Rebels get Texas A&M at home again. That’s the trade-off with traveling to Alabama in consecutive years, and I’m here to tell you that it’s a good one. It doesn’t matter if Ole Miss plays the Crimson Tide in Oxford or Tuscaloosa — the Rebels are significant underdogs in either place. But Texas A&M in Oxford, as opposed to in College Station, significantly increases Ole Miss’ chances at victory.
Finally, there’s the finale at Mississippi State, a game that should be interesting considering the Rebels appear to have a competent coach roaming the sidelines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
On its surface, the 2013 Ole Miss football schedule appears to be hodgepodge of games thrown together by Slive and company at the last possible moment. A closer look, however, reveals an opportunity for Freeze and the Rebels to build on what has already been an impressive start in Oxford.
Paul Katool is a first-year Integrated Marketing Communications graduate student from Madison. Follow him on Twitter @paulkatool.