Best advice - Change the radio station

It's Tuesday, so no doubt the words have been flowing for a few days from the victors and those who would taunt us both in person and through the airwaves.

The Rebels' tough-to-take season opening loss at home before 61,112, the third largest crowd in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium history, left us once again defenseless and vulnerable to verbal attack.

In my opinion and I've expressed this before, now is the time, Ole Miss fans and sports radio talk show listeners, to do yourself a huge favor. Change the station on that car radio. You just thought it was bad leading up to the contest. You know it's going to be much worse this week, this month, this season. It was last year.

Ten wins for Ole Miss and still the Memphis folks never let you forget last year's 44-34 loss to the Tigers at the Liberty Bowl.

But it's all up to you. If you want to punish yourself and beat yourself up even more, then tune in today and Wednesday, and the rest of the week, month, or year.

I just know you can find better things to do with your time than to listen to folks over and over put down your Rebels and Ole Miss. And that's what they're going to do. We'll get little credit. You know it's going to happen. It already is.

Two exceptions: You can tune in to some friends. You could have listened to Chuck and Stan from 6-7 Monday night (and every Monday night). At least you know these two hosts have Ole Miss' best interests at heart.

And there is the new show on Sunday nights from 6-8 that is carried on several Mid-South and Mississippi stations called The Grove Report, an Ole Miss friendly show.

But it's your call.

So the 2004 Rebels find themselves backed into a bit of a corner already. Since we heard practically the whole world before kickoff proclaiming a Tiger victory, I don't know why we're surprised.

Even though we were slightly favored, everybody from ESPN to sports websites was picking Memphis. The Tigers heard the talk, talked the talk themselves, came to Oxford, walked the walk and backed it up, to the surprise of many, myself included.

Over time I'd even begun to buy into the argument that if you've faced Joe Lee Dunn's defense a few times, it's not that big a deal. You finally get used to what he's doing and can adjust to it – no problem.

We're 3-7 against teams with Joe Lee as defensive coordinator since he left here after the 1994 season.

I don't believe the Ole Miss-Memphis rivalry now is what our athletic scheduling folks are looking for when they plan for our future. But I do believe we will continue to play Memphis on an annual basis for the foreseeable future.

There's no way schedule makers can look four, six, eight years in advance and predict this or that foe will be an easy or difficult win. Certainly more times than not, Memphis has been a win. Otherwise we wouldn't still lead the series 42-10-2.

But this is not the type game those in charge of scheduling are looking for when they line up teams for the Rebs to play down the road in football – if I am hearing them correctly.

For the most part, it appears they look for "sure" wins in the non-conference. Memphis over the years has been a win, although the past two years that's changed as the Tigers have grown some claws.

Wyoming – don't really know yet if it's a sure win or not, given the Rebels' first performance of the season, the elevation out there, the unusual and new surroundings for a game, the distance of travel involved – and the fact that the Cowboys beat outmatched Appalachian State 53-7 Saturday to open the season.

Arkansas State. OK, there's your gimme.

But I couldn't help thinking after another loss to Memphis that this just isn't what we're all looking for in this era of Ole Miss football when it comes to non-conference contests.

Sure, Ole Miss-Memphis is a traditional Mid-South game which often opens the season. But there was no TV for it, so the nation didn't care. The Tigers always get up for this one more than the Rebels – on the field and in the stands.

I can only conclude the main reason we continue to play them is money, and the fact that it seems easy to schedule them because you know they need us and will play us – or basically go broke athletically and financially. Hmmmm.

Before you think I have just come to some conclusion that maybe we should consider not playing Memphis since we've lost two in a row, I wrote a column much like this one the week BEFORE the loss to them last year. I thought it was time to look in other directions for non-conference opponents.

Came in that Sunday morning after the loss last season, ripped it up, and wrote a different one.

Since one is a fluke but two is more of a trend, I thought I'd go ahead, write it, and run it this time.

We dumped Southern Mississippi 20 years ago when they'd gotten about as good as we wanted them to get – and actually better than we believed they could. That series got ugly on and off the field. We aren't really thinking of doing that with Memphis though, it appears.

Many say it looks bad if you drop a team you've been playing for a long time when they beat you a couple of times. That wouldn't bother me. Who really cares what others think on that kind of deal, as long as you have the best interests of your own people and athletics program in mind. Nobody else is looking out for us, so we'd better.

Mississippi State followed the same path as Ole Miss concerning USM and hasn't played the Golden Eagles in football in 14 years. Like Ole Miss had already figured out, it wasn't a good thing for their program either, and they knew it. Both of us were helping to keep USM in business, and finally the light bulb came on – first for us, then for State.

The Bulldogs and Tennessee play Memphis in football, but both appear to have decided they aren't going to play the Tigers every season since neither do this year. The Vols have had an on again, off again series with the Tigers for years.

In the 1990s, Arkansas cancelled a long contract with Memphis after playing four of eight games scheduled between the two neighbors.

Unlike USM, Memphis most likely won't sustain a seven-or-more-wins-a-year type program for long. They never have. But you never know.

Still I couldn't help thinking as I made the long, long drive of two miles from the stadium to the house Saturday night after the traffic had cleared, "Man, I wish we'd have played somebody like Missouri or Georgia Tech or Illinois or Arizona or Virginia tonight instead of Memphis."

That way the loss wouldn't appear quite as damaging, especially nationally, other than the obvious stat of being 0-1 to start the season.

Of course we lost to Texas Tech of the Big 12 home and away the past two years, so go figure.

You make your schedule, you take your chances, I guess, no matter who you line up against.

Maybe it would be best to try to start with an easy foe, like we did in 2001 with Murray State or the year after that with Louisiana-Monroe, especially with an inexperienced quarterback.

Or maybe this year Tulane.

The best thing is obviously to line up and beat whatever team shows up on the schedule. Of course, sometimes that's easier said than done.

In the meantime, changing stations on your radio is once again my best advice as the new season moves on to game two at Alabama.

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