PARRISH ALFORD: Never overlook a ‘lesser’ team on the schedule

Parrish AlfordOXFORD – Things you won’t hear from the Ole Miss football program this week. “Whew, a breather.”

“As a freshman, this will be a great chance to get a lot more playing time in crucial situations with my new teammates.”

Actually, you won’t hear that last statement, because the freshman gag order remains in place.

Those statements, collectively, are something you should never hear from any program, but that doesn’t mean that a dangerous inflated confidence doesn’t often permeate larger programs in matchups against I-AA programs.

(And for the sake of clarity let’s call Southeast Missouri State a I-AA program, because that’s far easier to understand than Football Championship Subdivision.)

There are numerous of examples of Goliaths getting their noses bloodied, including several during opening week. Eastern Washington winning at No. 25 Oregon State and North Dakota State winning at Kansas State.

It was only three years ago that Jacksonville State won 49-48 at Ole Miss in double overtime.

Here’s the catch.

Eastern Washington was ranked No. 2 in FCS going into the weekend. It won’t have a chance to move up, because North Dakota State was ranked No. 1. NDSU, having won the last two FCS championships, returns 18 starters and has now defeated an FBS opponent for the fourth time in the last three years.

It’s a different type of team that will drive to Oxford this weekend and pick up a $375,000 check.

Southeast Missouri went 6-16 over the 2011 and 2012 seasons then lost 45-7 at Southeastern Louisiana in its opener.

The Redhawks went to Hammond, La., with 11 players making their first start at SEMO State and five of those playing in their first college game. In addition the Redhawks, like Ole Miss, lost a starting offensive lineman to injury during the game.

“The one thing I see from last year is they control the football, and they eat the clock. It’s never fun preparing for an option type team,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.

Freeze added that he has seen a focused and business-like team in the days since the Vanderbilt game. He believes heads are screwed on straight.

In a perfect world this game would have been the season opener allowing more time for healing and for the Rebels to likely conquer and advance without the drama Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews provided for the secondary. Saturday is not an open date. It’s the first home game, and there won’t be another one for more than a month.

But with an emotional season-opening win – an SEC one – now in their back pockets and a road game at Texas around the corner this is a good time for a I-AA foe to appear on the schedule.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.