football

Pre-SEC Ole Miss opponent capsules

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Ole Miss opens its season this weekend against William & Mary and will play 11 of its 17 games prior to Southeastern Conference action at Swayze Field. The Rebels also head to UCF and Louisville for three and two games, respectively, and play a midweek night game at Southern Miss.
Here's a capsule-style look at the nonconference schedule prior to league play. We'll examine the SEC slate when it gets closer to that time.
William & Mary
February 13-15 - Oxford, Miss.
4 p.m./1:30 p.m./1:30 p.m.
2014 record: 34-22 (15-5 Colonial)
2014 RPI: 67
About the Tribe: William & Mary won the regular season conference title but fell to College of Charleston in the Colonial tournaments finals, while Charleston went on to win the Gainesville Regional. The Tribe beat Ole Miss twice in the 2013 Raleigh Regional, and Friday night starter Jason Inghram is still around. He beat the Rebels with an eight-inning effort two years ago and he went 10-2 last season as the Tribe's ace. W&M returns four position starters and two weekend starters from last season. The middle infield is the weak spot, and both the Saturday and Sunday starters had ERAs over four in 2014. Joseph Gaouette earned all-conference honors last year and will close. He averaged a strikeout per inning.
Arkansas State
February 17 - Oxford, Miss., May 12 - Jonesboro, Ark.
4 p.m., 6:30 p.m.
2014 record: 32-26 (18-12 Sun Belt)
2014 RPI: 66
About the Red Wolves: Arkansas State had a stellar season, and that was a nice jolt to Ole Miss' RPI in 2014. The Red Wolves return six starters including four of the five infielders who helped field .974 as a team. ASU lost 12 games by one run last season, including a 4-3 decision in Oxford. Ole Miss bombed the Red Wolves, 16-9, in Jonesboro. ASU is picked second in the Sun Belt and has been known to give the Rebels fits in the past. It's a good opening test for likely midweek starter Evan Anderson.
Wright State
February 20-22 - Oxford, Miss.
4 p.m./1:30 p.m./1:30 p.m.
2014 record: 35-22 (25-4 Horizon)
2014 RPI: 123
About the Raiders: Wright State routinely plays a tough schedule, and that made for uneven splits last season. The Raiders went just 8-16 in nonconference play but did go against Oregon State four times, Michigan State three, Kentucky two and single games against Arizona State, Long Beach and UC Irvine. WSU was upset in the Horizon tournament but gets its ace back in Robby Sexton (2.95 ERA, .222 BAA). Five position starters return as do four relievers with more than 15 innings in 2014. Wright State beat Ole Miss two out of three in 2007.
Central Arkansas
February 25 - Oxford, Miss.
4 p.m.
2014 record: 32-22 (17-13 Southland)
2014 RPI: 113
About the Bears: It doesn't blow you away, but Ole Miss has a sneaky strong schedule because of the lack of RPI bombs. UCA is another example, as the Bears made it to the regional final in Starkville in 2013 and did well in an underrated Southland last season. Central Arkansas runs a lot and makes opponents execute. There are five position starters back from a team that took two of three from Memphis and swept Sam Houston State last season.
UCF
February 27- March 1 - Orlando, Fla.
5:30 p.m./3 p.m./10:30 a.m.
2014 record: 36-24 (17-7 American)
2014 RPI: 50
About the Knights: Ole Miss needs to be ready for this weekend in Orlando. UCF was swept out of Oxford last season and didn't perform well in early-season games against power conference opponents, losing nine of 10 before mid-March. However, the Knights have everybody back - almost literally. All nine position players return as do two weekend starters and two midweek starters. A couple arms have made significant jumps, and Terry Rooney's club was beginning to find it late last year, eventually winning 36 games. UCF is better than a few SEC teams.
Southern Miss
March 4 - Hattiesburg, Miss., April 7 - Pearl, Miss.
6:30 p.m., 6 p.m.
2014 record: 35-25 (19-11 Conference USA)
2014 RPI: 69
About the Golden Eagles: I'll always believe the irritation over Ole Miss losing regional midweek games is extreme, but the Rebels do need to get some momentum back in this series. USM has beaten Ole Miss four times in a row, and the Rebels went 1-4 last year against Memphis, USM and MSU in the midweek. USM has eight starters back, but that's not necessarily a good thing, as the Eagles hit just .246 as a team and fielded under .960. It's amazing they went 19-11 in the league with those numbers. USM is picked fifth in Conference USA this season.
Stetson
March 6-8 - Oxford, Miss.
6:30 p.m./1:30 p.m./1:30 p.m.
2014 record: 26-34 (13-14 Atlantic Sun)
2014 RPI: 177
About the Hatters: This should be the closest thing to a relaxing weekly before a brutal five-week first half SEC schedule awaits the Rebels. Ole Miss rocked Stetson three times in Deland last season, and the Hatters don't bring much back on the mound. Their location indicates talent should be available, but Stetson is picked sixth in the A-Sun. Six starters and one weekend arm return, led by Tennessee transfer Vance Vizcaino and first baseman Patrick Mazeika, who hit .354 in 2014.
Louisville
March 10-11 - Louisville, Ky.
3 p.m./3 p.m.
2014 record: 50-17 (19-5 American)
2014 RPI: 18
About the Cardinals: Man, I wish this was a weekend series where we could see Christian Trent vs. Kyle Funkhouser. Nonetheless, it's a challenging midweek series for both teams and good RPI games. The Mike Bianco-Dan McDonnell storyline can chill out since both were in Omaha last year together. This series has been a bit chippy in the past, so I'm curious to follow that. The Cards have five position starters back but not a ton as far as midweek pitching. It's a week from hell for Ole Miss, as the Tuesday-Wednesday are in Louisville before a weekend series in Baton Rouge, where Ole Miss hasn't taken two of three since 1982.
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