Will Auburn repeat as SEC champions? What team will emerge as a division darkhorse no one’s talking about? It’s time for Year 2 of our two-week, daily ‘Crystal Ball’ series on how each of the SEC’s 14 teams will finish this fall.

We hit a couple big-time upsets last fall including Tennessee’s win over South Carolina, but didn’t expect 12 wins out of Mizzou, a BCS title-game run from Auburn or Florida’s faceplant in Will Muschamp’s third season.


2013 Crystal Ball Projection: 7-5, 4-4
2013 Actual: 8-5, 3-5


Aug. 28 vs. Boise St., Atlanta (W): Ole Miss has had the entire offseason to get up for this game, a nationally-televised opening night battle in Atlanta that will show just how far the Rebels have come in Hugh Freeze’s third season. Losing isn’t an option if Ole Miss wants to remain relevant across the national landscape.

Sept. 6 at Vanderbilt (W): Avoid the letdown. Here’s an early-season must-win, a road game that won’t be a walk in the park despite the talent differential on both sides of the ball.

Sept. 13 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (W): Bo Wallace has two career 400-yard passing games. He’ll be gunning for his third against the Rajin’ Cajuns.

Sept. 27 vs. Memphis (W): Ole Miss would rather its first bye week come before the next game, but an easy victory over the Tigers after a 14-day layoff works too and pushed the Rebels to their first 4-0 start in more than 40 years.

Oct. 4 vs. Alabama (W): Here’s our potential upset of the year in the SEC West, the most important home of the season for the Rebels and arguably biggest during Freeze’s tenure. Ole Miss takes on the unbeaten and Top 5-ranked Crimson Tide with all eyes — including for the first time ever College Gameday (another prediction) glued to the action in Oxford. Alabama has two weeks to prepare for its first true road game of the season and that could be the difference in a hard-fought game. We’re picking the upset anyway since the conditions are ripe.

Oct. 11 at Texas A&M (L): Splitting games against the Crimson Tide and Aggies is a necessity, but after a 5-0 start, College Football Playoff buzz is beginning in Oxford. Here’s where the once-a-season letdown comes into play after an emotional upset victory over Alabama. Kyle Field’s a challenging environment and if Texas A&M’s defense can make Ole Miss one-dimensional, the pressure of playing with an unbeaten record will start to weigh on the Rebels.

Oct. 18 vs. Tennessee (W): Ole Miss bounces back from its first SEC loss with a win over the Vols who still haven’t figured out their quarterback situation.

Oct. 25 at LSU (L): Since 2000, the Magnolia Bowl’s been decided by a touchdown or less eight times. LSU has posted nine wins in 13 games and grabs another since the Tigers are playing at home.

Nov. 1 vs. Auburn (L): With two conference losses to this point, another setback all but eliminates the Rebels from Western Division title contention. Here’s a case of two contenders beating up on one another in game decided by a touchdown. The Tigers still have national title hopes and need the win.

Nov. 8 vs. Presbyterian (W): Laquon Treadwell abuses the Presbyterian secondary early and sits for the second half of a 45-point victory.

Nov. 22 at Arkansas (W): Here’s one Ole Miss won’t take lightly since a loss would derail an otherwise impressive season, ending the program’s recent boost in momentum.

Nov. 29 vs. Mississippi St. (W): Wallace erases the painful fumble from memory and delivers for the Rebels in a rivalry pitting nationally-ranked 8-3 teams.

2014 PROJECTED FINISH: 9-3, 5-3

THE LOWDOWN: A nine-win regular season featuring a landmark victory over Alabama and losses to projected Top 10s Auburn and LSU may fall short of conference championship aspirations, but would still be an achievement considering the program suffered 10 losses just three years prior. If the Rebels continue to recruit at an elite-level nationally in college football’s toughest division, they’re going to be contenders for many years to come under Freeze.