The first weekend in October has the potential to be the biggest athletic weekend the state has ever seen, and no, it is not because Southern Miss has an interesting matchup on the road at Middle Tennessee State.
It’s a safe bet that College Gameday will be in Mississippi on October 4, either in Oxford or Starkville. In North Mississippi, the no. 3 ranked Crimson Tide from Alabama will take on Ole Miss. Down in Starkvegas, the no. 6 ranked Aggies from Texas A&M will stroll into town in a matchup that features the no. 4 an no. 6…….. agriculture schools in the country; go farming!
Barring some major upset this weekend, there will be three – maybe four – teams playing in the Magnolia State ranked in the top 10.
It’s a nice occasion when both Ole Miss and Mississippi State are relevant; it’s a rare occasion when both teams are ranked. According to the Clarion Ledger, so rare that it has not happened since 1999.
For some perspective, in the modern BCS era, Ole Miss has broken the “top 25” BCS rankings four times, and finished the season in it just twice, 2003 (19) and 2008 (25). Mississippi State snuck into the BCS for the first time in 2010, when they finished 21st.
Obviously, the BCS rankings have not come out for the season, but the teams have a combined 7-0 record, and are ranked no. 9 (Ole Miss) and no. 14 (MSU) respectively in the AP Poll.
The M.O. on Dan Mullen has been this: he usually beats the teams he is supposed to beat, and loses to the teams he is supposed to lose to. He starts out hot, and flames at the end of the year (sans the Egg Bowl I suppose). However, he broke the Bulldogs’ 26 game losing streak against top 10 teams, and their 14 game losing streak to LSU when he beat the Tigers in Baton Rouge for the first time since 1991 last weekend. It has been 14 years, but the maroon and white faithful now know, again, what it is like to beat a top 10 team.
I think the expectations for Hugh Freeze are still in the air. One thing is for certain: he is entertaining. It seems Ole Miss has gathered the talent, developed the players and finally has the scheme to be a major player not only in the SEC, but in the nation. However, as usually happens in the state of Mississippi, expectations may not be realistic this year.
Both of these teams have serious potential, and have had flashes throughout the early season. Ole Miss has been dominant, but how good the Boise State win was is yet to be determined – and Vandy is looking like a glorified high-school team at this point. MSU has a better argument with the quality win over LSU, but it’s also the same Bulldog team that let UAB hang around into the fourth quarter.
It would stand to reason that at least one of the two ‘Sipi schools will come away with a win from the weekend, but the question is will Mississippi State’s top 20 running game get the job done? Or, will it be the top 10 passing attack of Ole Miss? In a perfect world for everyone outside the state, Kevin Sumlin and Nick Saban walk away winners.
All that stands in the way of the historical weekend is a pesky Memphis Tigers team for the Rebels, and the improved Arkansas Razorbacks for the Aggies – assuming State doesn’t lose the bye weekend.
*Photo credits to OleMissPix