Spring football is long gone. Stump Mitchell is still here. What’s left? Only baseball season, followed by a long, warm and — hey, let’s be honest — flat-out boring summer.
Thankfully, we’ve got a little something to break down. Southern has finalized dates and kickoff times for football season (except, of course, for the opener at New Mexico, which is out of SU’s hands), and that gives us all an excuse to scan the menu.
Mitchell, of course, is living in Make-Or-Break Land this season. There’s not much sense in belaboring the oft-reported facts, but here’s the nutshell: In two seasons, Mitchell owns a 6-16 record, and now, he enters the third and final guaranteed year of his contract.
Make-Or-Break Land? You bet. Mitchell himself has said he needs to win big in 2012.
Here lies his path to success (or failure), along with some noteworthy nuggets:
Sept. 1: at New Mexico (University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.), TBA
This is Bob Davie’s debut with the Lobos. Worth noting: New Mexico lost at home to FCS opponent Sam Houston State last season. Probably won’t happen again, but who knows?
Sept. 13: Mississippi Valley State (A.W. Mumford Stadium), 6 p.m.
Southern has confirmed that this will be Thursday night game on one of the ESPN platforms. The Jaguars’ only other Thursday game was in 2009 against Prairie View — Pete Richardson’s home finale.
Sept. 22: at Jackson State (Veterans Memorial, Jackson, Miss.), 4 p.m.
One of the best atmospheres in black college football. The 2010 game in Jackson was a 49-45 stunner, one of the most exiting in SWAC history. By the way, JSU has won three straight in this series.
Sept. 29 vs. Florida A&M (Georgia Dome, Atlanta), 2:30 p.m.
This, of course, is one of SU’s oldest most heated rivalries. And boy did the Jaguars flub last year’s meeting. Feel free to cringe as you recall how SU blew a 16-point lead and lost, 38-33. Yikes.
Oct. 6: at Alcorn State (Casem-Spinks Stadium, Lorman, Miss.), 2 p.m.
The Country Classic. This is the Jaguars’ first game in Lorman since Alcorn altered the stadium’s name to honor Marino Casem. Also … the Braves still don’t have a replacement for Melvin Spears.
Oct. 13: Texas Southern (homecoming), 5:30 p.m.
Two eye-openers here: 1) This will be Southern’s first Saturday home game. It has to be the latest in school history. 2) TSU has won three straight in this series. For different reasons, all three were SU stinkers.
Oct. 20: Arkansas-Pine Bluff (A.W. Mumford Stadium), 6 p.m.
Boy, oh, boy. Anyone remember last year’s game? The thrilling finish … the blocked extra-point attempt … SU’s one-point loss … the massive brawl … pepper spray … suspensions … ah, memories.
Oct. 27: vs. Prairie View (Independence Stadium, Shreveport), 4 p.m.
This is a designated home game for Prairie View. The teams played in Shreveport in ’07, when the Panthers won, 30-16. Another eye-opener: SU has lost five of the last six in this series. Say what?
Nov. 3: at Alabama A&M (Louis Crews Stadium, Huntsville, Ala.), 1 p.m.
Southern’s past two games against A&M were very, very different. The Bulldogs won at home in a romp in 2010. The Jaguars ambushed A&M, 21-3, last season. A&M went on to win the SWAC East.
Nov. 10: Alabama State (A.W. Mumford Stadium), 6 p.m.
Last year, when the Jaguars mounted a game-winning touchdown drive in the last minute at ASU, Mitchell had his first signature victory at Southern — and seemingly, the team had momentum going into the Bayou Classic. Whoops!
Nov. 24: vs. Grambling (Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans), 1:30 p.m.
If Stump Mitchell wins his first 10 games this season, but then loses the Bayou Classic, he might hold on to his job. Key word: might. SU has dropped four straight to Grambling, and here’s a little newsflash: To the Jaguar Nation, that goes over about as well as a right hook to the jaw.