OPINION: Football offers relief for fans, and from personal tough times

Will this be the year Ole Miss finally goes to Atlanta to play in the Southeastern Conference championship game?
That’s right sports fans, it’s football season. High school games on Friday and college games on Saturday. And then the NFL will be along in another week for you pigskin gluttons.
Ole Miss is shattering records for the number of season tickets sold. There is talk of expanding Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The excitement level has never been higher in Oxford. This is the first time since the 70s that the Rebels have been ranked in the pre-season top 10.
Rebel fans don’t need to be reminded that Ole Miss is the only school in the SEC West that has yet to make the championship game. Mississippi State has been one time. Just in case you were wondering, since the SEC instituted a game in 1992 to decide the league title between the respective winners of the east and west divisions, Florida has been nine times and won seven titles, Alabama has been six times and won twice, Tennessee has been five times and won two, LSU has been four times and won three, Auburn has been three times and won once, Georgia has been three times and won twice and Arkansas has been three times and has come up empty all three times.
In fact, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt was the head coach of the Razorbacks for two of the three visits they made to Atlanta.
I say this is the year one side of the Georgia Dome will be wearing red and blue on Saturday, Dec. 5. Talent wise, Ole Miss, Alabama and LSU seem equal going into the season. At least the starting 22 players. But here there are a couple of reasons I see Ole Miss winning the west.
One is the comparative schedules. Ole Miss does not have to play defending national champion Florida or Georgia. LSU has to play both with the Georgia game between the hedges in Athens. Alabama, like Ole Miss, misses Florida and Georgia this time which brings me to the deciding game for western division supremacy. Alabama travels to Oxford on Oct. 10. The matchup will be on national television and will be the talk of college football leading up to game time. The winner will go to Atlanta. And I feel so certain about that, you can write that in your newspaper. Well, forget that last part because I am writing it in the newspaper now. But I am taking Ole Miss in Oxford here.
Let me hasten to add, if quarterback Jevan Snead goes down to an injury all bets are off. Snead is not attracting much pre-season attention nationally because of Tim Tebow (Florida), Colt McCoy (Texas) and Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), but he is more important to the success of his team than any of those guys are to theirs …
As for my Mississippi State Bulldogs, I am trying to find five or six wins in the schedule but it’s very hard to do. Looking down the Saturdays in September, October and November the only games State will be favored to win are the Jackson State and Middle Tennessee games. Houston comes to Starkville but they will be good. I am going to say they win all three of those, upset Georgia Tech, and go 2-2 with Auburn, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Arkansas. That gets Dan Mullen to six wins and a likely bowl invitation. Florida, Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss are just too talented for us this season.
What I have given you here Bulldog fans is a “best case scenario.” More likely is a three or four win season. But, hey, it’s a new system, a new coach, some new players and some new uniforms. We are building again. Happens every five years. But this time will be different …
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On a personal note, on behalf of our family, I want to thank all of you who have expressed your concern and offered up prayers for my dad, Don Wildmon. Dad contracted St. Louis encephalitis three weeks ago and has been in the hospital for two weeks. All this is from a mosquito bite. There is no cure for encephalitis, which is a virus that attacks the brain. You just have to make the patient as comfortable as possible and wait it out. It’s sometimes weeks, sometimes months, according to people we have talked to who have had loved ones go through this. Only when it passes are you able to see what, if any, neurological damage has been done.
I want to specifically thank the doctors, nurses and staff at North Mississippi Medical Center. They have been first rate.
As every one of you reading this knows, life’s highway is often a hard, bumpy road. But the Lord gives us friends and family for shock absorbers.
May His name be praised.

Tim Wildmon is a community columnist who resides in Baldwyn. Contact him at twildmon@afa.net.

Tim Wildmon