OLE MISS REBELS
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga., Nov. 3
Coach: Hugh Freeze, first season at Ole Miss; 10-2 overall.
Last year: 2-10 (0-8 SEC), finished last in SEC West.
Best win: A 38-28 win at Fresno State, who would finish the season 4-9.
Worst loss: A 52-3 loss to LSU in which the home crowd had to endure the humiliation of watching Les Miles call four straight kneeldowns inside the Rebel 10 -- with five minutes left in the game.
Returning starters: 17 (eight offense, seven defense, two special teams).
Stock watch for 2012: Up, but only because the Rebels can't go any further down. The 2012 Rebs finished 80th or worse in Division I-A in every major offensive and defensive category save for pass defense -- and that was primarily because most of their opponents ran up such huge early leads that they just didn't have to pass much. And while 17 returning starters would provide a glimmer of optimism for most programs, how excited can you really get about returning that many players off such a terrible team? Hugh Freeze's talents as an offensive strategist, which helped turn a moribund Arkansas State program into a winner, may yet pay dividends in Oxford, but it's unlikely to happen this season with the roster he's got.
Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): The Dawgs display no hangover from the previous week's trip to Jacksonville, energizing the Homecoming crowd with a blowout of the Rebels. The Georgia defense should do just fine against an Ole Miss offense devoid of proven talent at any of the skill positions; the offense might have a bit more to prove after its ultraconservative game plan netted only 27 points in last year's trip to Oxford, but either way, Georgia will be a heavy favorite in this matchup.
Worst-case scenario: Smarting from a loss in Jacksonville (or, alternatively, hung over from a big win), the Dawgs lose focus and let the Rebels hang around until late in the game. With Ole Miss falling between the Cocktail Party trip and the annual grudge match with Auburn, this game would be a perfect opportunity to let an overmatched opponent look way better than it ought to. It took Georgia a while to truly put Ole Miss away last season, and if the Dawgs are looking ahead to an SEC title shot when the Rebels come to town this year -- entirely possible, given the schedule -- Freeze could find an opening to make this one close.