Tough openers are beneficial

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 30, 1999

College football coaches watching Miami’s upset of Ohio State and North Carolina State surprising Texas this past weekend were probably at their athletic director’s door early Monday morning saying, &uot;That’s why we need to play Little Sisters of the Poor instead of Highly Ranked U. in our first game.&uot;

(You know, Little Sisters of the Poor always seems to get picked on, but I bet they would be feisty. Especially if you gave them some of those rulers they used back when I went to school. And, no, they didn’t have Roman Numerals).

Then again, if you win, it kind of gives you a head start.

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Of course, watch out for week two after having to come down from such a high in the opening week.

Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU opted for the easy way out, although Memphis has been known to give the Rebels a hard time in Memphis on more than one occasion.

Mississippi State should have no trouble with Middle Tennessee State, while LSU should blow past San Jose State.

Southern Miss has never been reluctant to schedule anyone tough on their schedule.

The Golden Eagles open with Tulane on Labor Day.

Florida should have no trouble with Western Michigan, while Georgia has Utah State.

Tennessee opens against Wyoming, while Alabama is at Vanderbilt.

I can understand not wanting to open against a tough opponent, especially if you lost a lot of starters from last year.

Some teams need a game under their belts before getting all cylinders going.

But, if you play a ranked team in the opener and it’s on national television, it would seem to make for a livelier summer of practice and would certainly help with recruiting.

While Auburn backed out of its game with Florida State, Louisiana Tech jumped on the opportunity and made a credible effort against a team that will probably be playing for the national championship in January.

If Tech scores before the half instead of fumbling at the Seminole 3-yard line, it may have been a closer game. The Seminoles would have still won, but it would have been more respectable.

And you can bet Tech got a lot of respect from playing the Seminoles right off the bat.

If you don’t think you’re ready for a ranked team right off the bat, then chances are you won’t be ready later.

A sloppy effort against a patsy is still a sloppy effort, win or lose. Gone are the days of just looking at records, or at least it should be.

I can understand teams not loading up on marquee games, especially if you play in the Southeastern Conference.

But I don’t think playing an Alabama-Birmingham is going to help you at all.

Another reason for playing a tough opener is if you lose it won’t hurt so bad.

Poll voters have short memories. Florida State lost to North Carolina State in the second game of the seaso last year after beating Texas A&M (see second game worries) and dropped to No. 11 in the polls.

But the Seminoles rebounded enough to face Tennessee for the national championship in January.

Fortunately for Arizona, in two months, most everyone will forget about how bad they looked against Penn State.

And at least they weren’t afraid of putting it on the line early.

Joey Martin is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat.

He can be reached at or by calling 446-5172 ext. 232.