4 MISSISSIPPI STATE AT 19 OLE MISS
Mississippi State and Ole Miss may rest under the same flag, but like Lawrence Fishburne and Samuel L. Jackson, they may look alike to casual observers, but they’d take offense to anyone confusing the two.
At its inception, Mississippi State was sired as the industrial class' alternative to Ole Miss' bourgeois student body.
Ole Miss is actually derived from a name slaves used when referring to the plantation owner’s wife.
The class war craned over to the gridiron over a century later when Jackie Sherrill inserted himself into the Magnolia State’s intercollegiate strife. Known for his dubious recruiting tactics, and his refusal to say Ole Miss Sherrill would pick at the scab of Ole Miss’ segregated past by telling prospects ''When the National Guard was on the doorsteps of ((the universities of)) Alabama and Mississippi, black were being admitted here.''
The quote wasn’t entirely based in reality given how Mississippi State wasn’t desegregated until 1965 while James Meredith bolted through Ole Miss’ doors in ’62.
Louisville (derisively called the Black Birds for a period) and Kentucky (which was the antagonist to Don Haskins’ Texas Western squad in the 1966 national title game) had a similar racial dynamic on the hardwood for decades, but in Mississippi the animosity runs deeper beneath the epidermis.
However, Mississippi State’s murky past gets a pass because of the university’s decision to shatter the SEC’s glass ceiling for African-American head coaches by hiring Sylvester Croom in 2004. Retiring SEC Commissioner Mike Slive still calls it the watershed moment of his tenure over college football’s most dominant conference.
Ole Miss’ reverence for the Confederacy is partly to blame for the stigma they are so closely linked to.
Following one particularly disheartening 17-0 loss to Mississippi State during the ’96 season, Mississippi chancellor Robert Khayat recalls a pivotal moment that occurred after he visited the Rebels locker room.
“The mood was not just somber, it was morose,” he writes in his new book, “The Education of a Lifetime.” “Assistant coaches stared at the wall. Others had their heads in their hands. Tommy looked like he’d been kicked in the stomach.”
When Khayat ask why he seemed so troubled, Tuberville reposted “We can’t recruit against the Confederate flag.”
A year later, Khayat banned sticks from athletic events as a means to prevent fans from waving Confederate flags during home games.
Ole Miss has taken measures to expel the sinister elements of its past from campus.
Six years after Mississippi State hired a black head coach, Ole Miss finally phased out its antebellum mascot, Colonel Reb.
However, there are more recent illustrations of the sociological factors that have painted Ole Miss in such an unfavorable light.
The video of Ole Miss students chanting racial slurs during a protest on the night of President Obama’s re-election.
Mississippi State’s extensive history of black quarterbacks, from William “Sleepy” Robinson to Tyler Russell and the midseason Heisman frontrunner Dak Prescott only exasperates the divide in perceptions between Mississippi State’s proletariats and the elitism of Ole Miss.
Stylistically, the two teams are polar opposites.
Mississippi State is the SEC’s most electric offense. Ole Miss is the old school defensive EMP. However, their respective imperfections are the inverse of one another. Mississippi State plays matador pass defense and even before Laquon Treadwell’s horrific leg injury bought their national championship aspirations to a halt, Ole Miss could be narcoleptic on offense while Bo Wallace has a little Rex Grossman in him.
Ole Miss has always been the state’s flagship university and as a result has been endowed with a natural in-state and out-of-state recruiting advantage. The 2014 Egg Bowl is Mississippi State’s chance for an interregnum in the Napoleon Complex that’s been instilled in them since their last SEC championship 63 years ago.
An Ole Miss loss would be a crushing blow to Mississippi State, especially after the Rebels have been reduced to Rubble.
Which is why this is so hard to do. Home field is an elixir for the nation’s No. 1 defense if the offense doesn’t turn it over six times.
University of Mississippi wins.
15 AUBURN at 1 ALABAMA
The Stars Wars Force Reawakens trailer won’t be replayed over the next year as often as Chris Davis’ 109-yard field goal return has through the minds of Alabama’s returning players. Alabama was one play away from a date with Florida State and a shot at the first three-peat in modern college football.
Auburn’s turned in another 1,500 yard back, this time Cameron Artis-Payne is coupled with Nick Marshall in Malzahn’s backfield. Unfortunately, Auburn’s defense is still getting pancaked by SEC offenses even before starting defensive end DaVonte Lambert suffered a leg injury.
Jonathon Mincy is Auburn’s most reliable corner—which is like saying you’re the toughest knockout Iron Mike ever had.
FLORIDA AT 3 FLORIDA STATE
The Gators strategy for covering the Seminoles career leader in receptions and reception yardage is indicative of the type of stubbornness that’s resulted in his delayed dismissal as the Gators head coach.
Vernon Hargreaves III covers opposing wide outs like a jockstrap. There is no escape.
Instead of gluing Hargreaves III to Amari Cooper when they faced Alabama in September, Muschamp stuck with the zone that has been the staple of his Gator defenses. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but as a result Cooper permanently occupied his boots in the end zone like it was FDR in the White House.
However, Florida is committed to staying the course and are refusing to compromise their defensive integrity by stitching him to Greene.
“Obviously, he’s a great receiver and he’s the guy they go to. We feel good about Vernon as a cover guy, but we don’t want to sacrifice the whole integrity of what we do defensively to say that’s the matchup,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin explained this week.
Jameis Winston and Greene are about to slice and dice.
Florida State wins
2 OREGON at OREGON STATE
Of all the playoff contenders facing unranked rivals this weekend, this one looks to be the easiest win. The Ducks are flying at a high altitude, but Oregon State’s already downed a playoff contender this month when they made Arizona State bite the bullet two weeks ago. Oregon State is vying for bowl eligibility and it give them no greater joy than to cap off a disappointing 2014 campaign by thrusting Oregon out of the playoff.
Sean Mannion has dropped off without Brandin Cook as a target, but he remains a threat from the pocket. However, Marcus Mariota, is more efficient than ever—at least when his offensive line is steady.
MICHIGAN at 6 OHIO STATE
Like Muschamp, Brady Hoke can either go quietly, or kicking and screaming into the night. Michigan isn’t much worse than last year’s 7-6 Brady Bunch.
However, that team nearly upset the establishment by knocking off Ohio State. They lost 42-41 while Devin Gardner threw for a surreal 451 yards, but it was proof that rivalry games have a way of evening out talent and coaching disparities.
If Michigan is going to win, their defense will be the X-factor. Michigan's defense is more similar to Virginia Tech or Penn Stte's than Indiana or Illinois.
Unfortunately, Michigan has never recovered from the season-ending injury to sophomore Derrick Green, Ohio State’s secondary has shored up its craters and this one isn’t in The Big House.
Ohio State prevails.
BAYLOR vs TEXAS TECH (from AT&T Stadium)
If Cowboy fans could have their way, this is the stadium Art Briles would coach in on Sundays. Briles would rather return here for the national championship final n January.
It would take a performance for the ages or some serious out of body experience for the Red Raiders to topple Baylor on neutral ground. Astroprojection aside, the name of the game for Baylor here is style points.
Kliff Kingsbury has shrugged off Texas Tech's dumpster fire of a season as a byproduct of growing pains, but he hasn't seen a hurting yet. TCU’s unrelenting attack dropped 82 points on Texas Tech on Oct. 25 in a win that snatched the nation’s attention. To top it and impress the committee, Baylor may have to become the first FBS team in nearly 50 years to hit a triple digit high score.
After TCU turned the Longhorns into steak, they could use a dominant showing of their own against the nation’s scoring defense. This is part of the Big 12’s perception problem. While the SEC stages the Iron Bowl and Egg Bowl, Florida gets up for Florida State, Michigan gets personal with Ohio State, Baylor’s penultimate matchup of the season is Texas Tech.
Baylor Bears down on Texas Tech.