Ole Miss’ non-conference schedule is rather weak

Published 12:02 pm Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just looking at Ole Miss’ non-conference schedule, one thing sticks out like teetotaler at Mardi Gras.

It’s soft. Softer than Charmin, and that’s an insult to Charmin.

Mississippi State’s isn’t much better, but at least the Bulldogs will face Heisman candidate Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars, who are favorites to win Conference USA. That can’t be said about any of the patsies scheduled by the rebuilding Rebels.

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Once, the SEC loaded up on cupcakes. But now, each team in the SEC has at least one Bowl Championship Series conference opponent on its schedule — all except Ole Miss and Mississippi State, which played ACC champion Georgia Tech last season.

Alabama will host Big Ten contender Penn State. LSU faces ACC favorite North Carolina in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic for one heck of an opener. Florida will play in-state Big East foe South Florida. Georgia travels to Colorado of the Big 12. Vanderbilt plays its egghead school doppelganger in the Big Ten, Northwestern, and ACC contender Wake Forest. Clemson, likely the ACC’s best team, travels to Auburn and will play in-state archrival South Carolina. Tennessee hosts Pac-10 favorite Oregon in Week 2.

In contrast, the Rebels will feast on a home-heavy schedule that is thinner than Calista Flockhart’s waistline, much as they did last season.

Jacksonville State opens the schedule and while they are a good Football Championship Subdivision team, they’re still a FCS team and an easy victory.

Then there’s Tulane in the Superdome, a nugget thrown the way of Ole Miss alumni in the Crescent City. Tulane? What, St. Mary’s School for Girls was playing a game that week? Once upon a time, Tulane was decent in football. Of course, that was back when Tommy Bowden was running the show, Shaun King was throwing passes and Rich Rodriguez was calling plays. Now, the Green Wave are lucky to win three games a year and they should move down to FCS anyway.

Fresno State isn’t a bad program, but isn’t exactly great either. The Bulldogs finished 8-5 last year and went 6-2 in the Western Athletic Conference. They represent the highwater mark of the Rebels’ non-conference slate.

Then the Rebels close the non-conference slate with Louisiana-Lafayette, a team that has played in two bowls in 108 years of playing football. What, was Louisiana-Monroe busy that week?

Maybe it’s tough for Ole Miss to get any marquee opponents, especially after two great seasons and two Cotton Bowl victories. A lot of it can be blamed on the Ed Orgeron regime, which put together the past few schedules. And it does get tougher in the next two years, when Boise State and Texas will come to Oxford.

But at some point, the Rebels are going to have to face the facts. Loading up on cream puffs is not the way to build a contender for conference and national championships.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. You can follow him on Twitter at vpsportseditor. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or at swilson@vicksburgpost.com.