Egg Bowl winner can claim No. 2 spot in SEC pecking order
Ole Miss could still win the SEC West.
That qualifier out of the way, let’s deal with reality. Alabama won’t lose to Auburn.
The winner of Saturday’s Egg Bowl game will be the second-best team in the SEC this season.
That would be an impressive claim for either of the two Magnolia State teams, which have smaller resources — financial, home-state recruiting and stadium size — to draw from than their West counterparts.
On a day when Florida plays Florida State, Georgia plays Georgia Tech and Alabama plays Auburn, the game of the day in the SEC is Ole Miss-Mississippi State, despite CBS choosing to televise the Iron Bowl.
The Rebels (8-3, 5-2 SEC) enters the Egg Bowl ranked No. 19 in the two major polls. The Bulldogs (8-3, 4-3) are No. 22 in the Coaches Poll and No. 23 in AP.
Listing either Ole Miss or Mississippi No. 2 in the SEC pecking order is an easy argument to make.
Let’s start with Ole Miss. With a victory, the Rebels will finish second alone in the West at 6-2 with a victory over Alabama, the favorite to win the national championship. They will have beaten Mississippi State, Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn as well.
Yes, the Rebels were dominated in losses to Memphis and Florida. But Memphis shouldn’t figure into an SEC comparison in which teams play a round-robin. The early loss to Florida was an aberration. Besides, the Gators were a much better team with Will Grier at quarterback.
The Rebels’ loss to Arkansas was a fluke. They win if Hunter Henry’s blind lateral doesn’t bounce right into the hands of Alex Collins, who picks up the 25 yards needed on fourth down.
Mississippi State would also have a solid claim with a victory. The Bulldogs would have victories over Ole Miss, Auburn and Arkansas — interrupting the Razorbacks’ late-season surge.
Plus, the Bulldogs’ three losses would be to teams with a combined one loss — Alabama’s defeat by Ole Miss — when the game was played. The Bulldogs also lost by two points to LSU early in the season while the Tigers were climbing the polls and to Texas A&M when the Aggies were ranked No. 14.
With a victory, Mississippi State would be 5-3 in the standings, probably resulting in a four-way tie for second in the West with Ole Miss, Arkansas and the winner of LSU-Texas A&M. The Bulldogs would be 2-1 against the teams involved in the tie and playing much better than either LSU and A&M, who beat them.
It should be a great game between two equally teams relying heavily on the passing game. Last week, the teams were tied for 25th in the Coaches Poll.
For bowl purposes, the Rebels and Bulldogs are two of the SEC’s most attractive teams.
The Rebels have an exciting offense with Chad Kelly and Laquon Treadwell, plus linemen Robert Nkemdiche and Laremy Tunsil, who should join Treadwell as a first-round NFL draft choice. Plus, they beat Alabama.
The Bulldogs have Dak Prescott, arguably the SEC’s most valuable player, and outstanding receivers De’Runnya Wilson, Fred Ross, Donald Gray and Fred Brown.
What about Florida, the 7-1 East champion? The Gators just haven’t been the same with Treon Harris at quarterback. Their offense is miserable. They managed just 9 points against Vanderbilt and followed with 24 against reeling South Carolina and only 14 in regulation time against Florida Atlantic.