In case you don’t have Twitter, Facebook, cable TV, didn’t attend church Sunday basically, if you live at the bottom of the sea you may not know that the MSU Bulldogs are now the No. 1 team in the country in the AP Poll and the old school BCS Coaches Poll. The Bulldogs are the first team in the AP Poll’s history to start the season unranked and go to the top.
The Bulldogs on Saturday played their biggest game in school history as they beat number two Auburn very con- vincingly 38-23 in front of the largest crowd Starkville has ever seen. ESPN’s College GameDay was on campus for the event and Coach Lee Corso even picked MSU to win, which could have been the kiss of death, but, alas, it was not.
The only minor complaint one could have about the event was that the “guest picker” was former MSU base- ball standout and current Phillies pitcher Jonathan Papelbon and not Will Ferrell or Christopher Walken or even Katy Perry. But he was still effective in his mission.
With the City of Starkville whipped into a frenzy, this was a huge deal forMSU fans, and it’s way past time for the program to have a marquee win.
I remember when my father would take me to State games when I was a child. He was a big MSU fan and I loved college football. I will never forget driv- ing to Jackson in 1980 to watch MSU play Alabama at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium. The game is legendary among MSU fans and hundreds of thousands of people now say they were at the game, but we were actually there. I’ll never forget seeing Bear Bryant on the sideline, how uncomfortable the sta- dium was and the MSU win. Yes, MSU defeated Bryant and the Crimson Tide by a score of 6-3. Alabama was ranked No. 1 and were something like 20 point favorites heading into Jackson. The game was played on Nov. 1. Almost 34 years later, the Bulldogs have another signature win for their program. Sure, beating No. 3 Florida in Starkville in 2000 was huge, but it’s not the equivalent of being ranked No. 3 in the nation for the first time in school history and beating the No. 2 team in a smash-up victory.
David Wade Stadium is now on course to be one the of loudest, most dangerous places for visiting teams.
And this could not have come at a better time. It’s time for MSU fans to eye the bigger prize and not be content with winning eight or nine games and going to the Captain D’s Crunchy Battered Cod Bowl in Casper, Wyo. No, the Bulldogs are serious contenders for the National Championship. You can still hear the cowbells ringing after the vic- tory over Auburn.
Meanwhile, Back At The Grove
The Ole Miss Rebels also spent a week at No. 3 after defeating Alabama at home last Saturday. And although they went into College Station as ranked un- derdogs, the Rebels proved they are legit after beating Texas A&M 35-20 in front of the largest crowd in the history of the Aggies. There was no doubt that Ole Miss is a contender in the SEC West and the nation after Saturday’s huge win over A&M.
But the win wasn’t enough to move the Rebels up the polls and that’s a shame. Ole Miss should be ranked No. 2. But, they remain at No. 3.
The Rebels’ win in front of a record crowd in College Station is a more im- portant win than the victory over Ala- bama. This isn’t to take anything away from that win, not at all. But a lot of teams have a huge win and then go so caught up in their own press and hype that they stumble the following week. This is not the case with Ole Miss. Of the many things Coach Hugh Freeze has brought to the program, he has his team focused and ready to complete the weekly task. Plus, Ole Miss was able to avoid the “Sports Illustrated curse,” which former SI cover boy and Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Sneed could not do.
After throwing the touchdown pass to give the Rebels the go ahead over Ala- bama, Bo “Sunshine” Wallace played with a renewed confidence Saturday in College Station and it it worked for him and the Rebels Nation. I’m sure Coach Freeze was freaking out when Wallace ran the ball and went upwards to get the extra yards needed for the first down, But deep inside, I bet Freeze was proud of the athletic ability Wallace showed against A&M.
Is the Egg Bowl the SEC Championship game?
So what happens next for both pro- grams? MSU will get some much needed rest this week and Ole Miss will be mak- ing the final preparations to host the Tennessee Volunteers Saturday. The game will be televised on CBS, which has also televised the last two SEC up- sets when Alabama and Auburn were defeated. Then the Rebels have LSU in Baton Rouge and Auburn at home be- fore ending the season at Arkansas and hosting the Egg Bowl. They also play Presbyterian at home, but yawn.
MSU will have travel to Kentucky before playing Arkansas at home. The Bulldogs then head to Tuscaloosa to face the Crimson Tide before ending the season at Vanderbilt and Ole Miss. Both of the schedules are going to be tough.
The more important rhetorical question is how long will the goodwill between Mississippi neighbors continue? Mississippi pride aside, this is college football and there are not any friends in football, especially in the SEC West. So will both sides continue to pre- tend to support one another in public or secretly wait for the other guy to lose? Or, do they want to see both teams win on out to set up the biggest Egg Bowl ever? I’m not a betting guy, but option two seems very enticing.0