It starts tonight: Big games galore
Where Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss are concerned, I cannot remember a time when football openers were more important than what the three face on opening week, 2013.
All three games are important for so many different reasons.
Ole Miss opens at Vandy tonight. It’s important, No. 1, because it is a conference game and No. 2 because Vandy has owned Ole Miss lately, winning four of the last five. But then you look down the Ole Miss schedule and you see next week’s home game with SE Missouri, followed by a murderers’ row of Texas, Alabama, Auburn, Texas A & M and LSU. Lose this game and the possibility of 1-6 is staring you right in the face.
As one Ole Miss coach told me this week, “Now I know why the salaries are so much higher in this league. If you ain’t really good, you ain’t gonna have your job long.”
There was once a time, not long ago, Vandy was a pushover. No more. The Commodores own a seven-game winning streak, longest in the SEC currently. I repeat: Vanderbilt has the longest winning streak in the SEC. And then there’s this: Over the past two seasons, Vandy has won more SEC games than Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee.
It’s almost enough to make you wonder why Ole Miss is favored.
Mississippi State’s opener with Oklahoma State at Houston is equally important — and even more difficult. With Ole Miss, the opener is so important because of what’s ahead. With State, it’s so important because of what’s behind.
The Bulldogs won their first seven last year, then lost five of their last six. It was not pretty. All five losses were by 14 or more.
This State team needs a confidence boost. The Bulldogs need to play well against a really good Oklahoma State. Once again, State’s schedule is back-loaded. The Dogs need to make some hay early; they finish against South Carolina, Texas A & M, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss in that order.
USM’s home opener with Texas State is important because of what’s behind and what’s ahead.
Ahead: Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State, all on the road. Man. . .
You don’t want to start 0-4 the season after 0-12.
USM breaks in a new quarterback, a new head coach, a brand new staff, a new offense, and does so without by far its best defensive player from a year ago, Jamie Collins.
Important? You bet.
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