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Tigers face climb to respect as college football returns

Jumbotron-1by J.R. Moorhead
Special to The New Tri-State Defender

What's the worst time of the year for sports fans? Many would say the doldrums that are post-NBA finals excitement and mid-season baseball coupled with being able to smell football in the air. This year, sports lovers were able to soothe their pain with the Summer Olympics.

Still, the wait for college football season to begin was still weighing heavy on their minds. It's like that feeling they used to get as children the night before Christmas. Now, they are all grown-up and today (Aug. 30) is their new favorite holiday. And it doesn't matter if they've been naughty or nice because FOOTBALL IS BACK!

The season is starting off with a bang, as 30 teams are set to strap it up and square off on Thursday night. The night's biggest match-up seems to be an early SEC East clash between No. 9 South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

On Friday night (Aug. 31), there is another early season game with big implications as top 25 opponents Michigan State (13) and Boise State (24) are set to do battle. And Saturday night (Sept. 1) will keep the adrenaline going as Alabama (2) looks the defend its national title with a tough first contest versus Michigan (8).

Jumbotron-2There is another game Saturday night that hasn't been receiving as much national hype. The University of Memphis Tigers are set to open their season against the UT-Martin Skyhawks.

It isn't expected that the Tigers would be receiving much publicity, as they have only won three games over the last two seasons, but this year Memphis, under the guidance of new head coach Justin Fuente, hopes to usher in a new era of Tiger football.

It isn't going to change over night and its apparent from coach Fuente's attitude and comments that he knows this program is going to have to make big strides to turn the corner.

There are two types of coaches, the kind that tell people what they want to hear and those that tell it like it is. The Tigers' first-year coach would most certainly fall into the second category. Many may interpret Fuente's comments as harsh and say he comes off negative. But anyone that has been following Memphis football for any length of time knows that there are serious problems ailing the program.

Maybe what the Tigers really need is for someone to come in and be realistic about the state of the program and make a long-term commitment to changing it for the better. Is Fuente going to be that guy? Time will tell.

The UT-Martin game this Saturday will be the first chance for the True Blue Nation to get a look at the their Tigers. Memphis should win the game, but more importantly, the fans want to see how they win. Are they going to come out sluggish or firing on all cylinders? You can only make one first impression.

The whole season will not be determined under the lights at the Liberty Bowl this weekend. Yet, the events that unfold could give us a glimpse into what the future holds for the Tigers and the 2012-13 campaign.

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