'Tis the first week of May, and you know what that means. C'mon, guess. Hint: August football camp starts in about 13 weeks.
You got it: Time for my annual Premature Previews feature, where I take a look at each opponent on MSU's schedule. I give myself 13 weeks because I do get a week off for vacation. So every Friday (except for that one where I'm chillin' by a pool) from here through the end of July, I will be taking an up-close look at who the Bulldogs play in 2011.
Wait, what? Today's Thursday, you say? Right, so the feature won't actually start until tomorrow. But to whet your appetite, I've put together a general overview of MSU's schedule, offering up some semi-relevant commentary and pseudo-insight about each matchup. So, enjoy, and don't forget to check back tomorrow for my look at the Memphis Tigers.
Sept. 1: at Memphis
• Besides the fact that this game is being played at the Liberty Bowl at night (bring your licensed firearms), there's not much that should scare MSU about this matchup. The Tigers went 1-11 under first-year coach Larry Porter, who has a bit of a Nick Saban vibe, except without the wins or cachet.
Sept. 10: at Auburn
• Oh, won't this be fun. Auburn fans have been working on signs and chants since December, and that national championship will, I'm sure, only embolden them further. Dan Mullen, of course, will will embrace the hostility because HE LIVES OFF YOUR HATE. AND DIET COKE. And he'll win this game.<===This is the only real prediction I'm making in this entry, so you degenerate gamblers can go ahead and place your bets on Auburn.
Sept. 15: vs. LSU
• Another Thursday night game to appease the ESPN gods, and this one should be a doozy. LSU is still pretending Jordan Jefferson is an SEC quarterback – I'll believe it when I see it – while Chris Relf truly has become legit. And Relf probably feels the need for some payback.
Sept. 24: vs. Louisiana Tech
• Quickie quiz: How many current Bulldogs played in these teams' last meeting? La. Tech won that game, 22-14, and it was the beginning of the end for Sylvester Croom. So I guess, in a way, that loss was a good thing in the big picture. Still, I'm sure revenge is on the mind of players who were involved in that game – and the answer is seven. Two started: offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry and defensive end Sean Ferguson.
Oct. 1: at Georgia
• Relf could arguably be called the second-best QB in the league, and the man most people would put him behind is Georgia sophomore Aaron Murray. You know it's not easy winning between the hedges, even when UGA is down – and I have a feeling Mark Richt is going to have his Bulldogs up this season.<===Kind of a prediction but not really.
Oct. 8: at UAB
• The second "blah" road trip of the year, but you gotta do what you gotta do. UAB gave the Bulldogs a scare last year in Starkville. The following tidbit won't help the Blazers this year, but they're apparently being considered by cornerback Justin Combs, son of the guy I still call Puff Daddy. Sorry, man, I'm stuck in the mid-90s.
Oct. 15: South Carolina
• Will Stephen Garcia be the quarterback for South Carolina? Will he even be on the team? If you listen to Steve Spurrier, who's a big believer in sixth chances, Garcia probably will be under center. Just look at the post-spring depth chart. I'm thinking Spurrier looks at Garcia and sees a lot of himself.
Oct. 22: Idle
• A much-welcome break during a stretch in which MSU will play three of four games on the road.
Oct. 29: at Kentucky
• Time for a visit to MSU's permanent Eastern Division opponent. State is better than Kentucky, but this is one of those games that will make fans really nervous, until Vick Ballard runs for 200 yards and four touchdowns (or something like that). If things are going well, this could be win No. 5 or 6 for MSU.<===Hypothetical prediction. Wait, what?
Nov. 5: UT-Martin
• I've heard the line about the league portion of the SEC schedule being tough enough, but I don't see how that justifies playing a team like UT-Martin, especially in light of the rest of the non-conference schedule. Sure, every SEC team plays a I-AA foe like this, and at least the Skyhawks have had success – under coach Jason Simpson, they've gone 33-25, including 25-14 in Ohio Valley Conference games. Still, this caps off one ugly non-SEC slate.
Nov. 12: Alabama
• Word is, the Crimson Tide will be a national title favorite, which should surprise nobody. Don't know who their quarterback is going to be, but they've got plenty of running backs and linemen and linebackers, etc., plus that Saban guy. This could very well end up being the most important home game of the year for MSU.
Nov. 19: at Arkansas (Little Rock)
• I suspect the Razorbacks won't miss a beat without Ryan Mallett. Tyler Wilson is pretty good, and he's got all those really good receivers coming back, plus underrated tailback Knile Davis. Also, MSU never wins in Little Rock. No, really: State is 0-5-1 at War Memorial Stadium.
Nov. 26: Ole Miss
• Mullen has talked so much smack about the Egg Bowl – which I love, because it makes for good copy – that I truly wonder what he will say the first time he loses one of these games. I don't know that it'll happen this year, but this is the Egg Bowl, and nobody coaches in this series long without getting humbled.