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Derrick Henry vs Florida in 2015 SEC Championship game - Dale Zanine - USA Today Sports

College Football Playoff Preview: The Alabama Crimson Tide

Three years ago, Alabama was rolling with back-to-back beat downs of LSU and Manti Teo’s #1 Notre Dame.  With AJ McCarron coming back for his senior season in 2013 and another top recruiting class, it seemed almost a given that this Alabama team would complete the first three-peat in BCS history.

Little did they know, they would run into an Auburn “Team of Destiny, as they edged Alabama on a kick that was just not quite enough.

In the 2014 season, Alabama looked good, until they ran into a red hot Ole Miss, losing 23-17, with Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace putting the game away late.

Alabama would overcome the loss and win their way to the SEC Championship game.  Amari Cooper and the Tide would roll through Mizzou, and play another red hot Ohio State.   Alabama was up 21-3 only to see Ohio State roar back and win 42-35 with Ezekiel Elliot setting bowl records with rushing yards.

2015 Season SnapShot

The year started off with a QB controversy between Cooper Bateman and Jake Coker.  Coker would be the starter for the season opener in Dallas against Wisconsin. The Tide rolled 35-17, but two games later,  Coker couldn’t hold on to the job and Cooper Bateman started against Ole Miss.  After a terrible start, 11/14, 87 yards, a INT, with a QBR of 48.3, Coker came in to try to save the day.

In a crazy game of ups and downs, Alabama would give the ball up 4 times in the 43-37 loss to Ole Miss.  But Jake Coker solidified his role as starter and the Tide has not looked back.

Once again Bama made it to the SEC championship game, and once again Alabama would roll, this time over Florida.  Derek Henry needed multiple briefcases to carry home all of his awards.  Even winning the biggest award FBS has to offer, the Heisman Trophy.

The only blemish so far on 2015 is the loss of defensive coordinator Kirby Smart who is leaving next year to become the head coach of Georgia.

Team Strengths

The front 7 on this defense is monstrous.  They can hold up to any offensive line in the country.  The same goes for the Alabama offensive line, which of course helps the run game.  And don’t forget Derek Henry, Heisman winner, Maxwell award winner.  Need anything else?  SEC single season rushing record?

Team Weaknesses

The lack of depth at running back and on the offensive line is a concern heading into the playoffs.  Jake Coker still doesn’t look as good as he looked at Florida State.  On defense, the secondary is still susceptible to a high-speed and up-tempo offense.

Playoff Forcast

The Alabama front seven on defense is the best and deepest in the field.  If they can slow the game down, and force a defensive dual, Alabama should have the CFP locked up.

Well there ya’ll have it.  This is the first of a four-part series.  Next up, the Clemson Tigers!

Have a good day. See yall later.

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NCAA Championship Weekend Preview

What a wild football season.  We were very close to seeing some different names on the field this weekend.

We are a fourth and 25 conversion from seeing Ole Miss in the SEC championship game over Alabama.  We are one third and long stop from seeing Tennessee in the game over Florida.

One shanked field goal would give us Ohio State and two unbeaten teams in the Big Ten Game.  Or even a controversial call going the other way would still result in a battle of un-beaten’s in Lucas Oil stadium.

No matter how they got there, we are still left with some great Conference Championship Games. And here’s a quick guide in what you need to know.

SEC Championship: Alabama vs Florida

What’s On The Line?

For Florida, it’s a birth into a New Year’s Six Bowl and a shot to ruin Alabama’s and the SEC’s New Year’s celebration plans.

For Alabama, it’s to solidify the season and get a shot for the national title game.

Keys To The Game

For Florida, slow down Derek Henry, and limit turnovers.

For Alabama, DO NOT PLAY DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL like you did against Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas…

Prediction – Alabama wins a surprisingly tight game 24-21

PAC-12 Championship: Stanford vs USC

What’s On The Line?

For both teams, realistically a shot at a New Year’s Six Bowl.

Keys To The Game.

For USC, slow down Kevin Hogan and Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey.

For Stanford, play smart and execute the game plan. I know it sounds cliche but Stanford cannot assume a 8-4 team will be a bye week.

Prediction – USC will remain as the seasons most under achieving team and only score because of the talent 28-10, Stanford.

Big Ten Championship- Michigan State vs Iowa

What’s On The Line?

As of right now, this is the only game that’s a guaranteed play-in to the College Football Playoffs.

Keys To The Game.

For the Spartans, let Connor Cook tear up Iowa. Let the pass open the run game and we should get ready to watch a blowout.

For Iowa, play TEAM ball. Iowa WILL be losing this game. All that matters though is if they can respond and come up with a game plan to make Sparty pay for using Cook.

Prediction – Iowa will leave without a Big Ten Championship and the better talent will take over.  35-17 Sparty.

ACC Championship- North Carolina vs Clemson

What’s On The Line?

For Clemson this title will mean they are out of the past and finally getting to the big spotlight.

For UNC, however this is a chance to go to the CFP and win a title. Something no other college in the state of North Carolina can say. Although the only realistic chance UNC gets in is if they blow out Clemson

Keys To The Game.

For Clemson is getting those Clemson receivers open and not letting Marquise Williams get the better of them.

For UNC, it’s protecting Williams and making sure DeShaun Watson doesn’t have a career day.

Prediction – UNC and Clemson both struggled with South Carolina, but based on track record of the past two seasons and what talent is out there.  Marquise Williams is way more versatile than Deshaun Watson, but not the better QB.  I have Clemson 28-7.

Hope y’all enjoyed!

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2015: A YEAR OF LEGACY

Photo Via: Marvin Gentry – USA Today Sports

 

Another regular season is in the books and boy was it a fun one to watch unfold.

No, Ole Miss didn’t win the SEC west, but what the Rebels did do is continue a road of progress and signs of potential greatness.

Winning a second consecutive Egg Bowl and a great probability of a New Years Six Bowl is quite an accomplishment.

Morale regarding athletics is at an all time high with the fan base.

From the moment you walk into the Vaught until the moment you go home, you can honestly say Hotty Toddy Nation is nationally relevant. From the day Eli Manning left campus after the 2003 season to 2012, Ole Miss couldn’t say that.

The football program has transformed itself into a hot spot in the last 4 years, pulling in recruits generations before me would have never thought possible.

Nkemdiche,Treadwell, and Tunsil will be suiting up for what is most likely their last games as Rebels in the upcoming bowl game, right now projected to be the Sugar Bowl.

Do not expect the Rebels to go away lightly next season. Ole Miss has an array of highly touted prospects  on board to sign in February.

Don’t believe me? Just check the rankings. According to ESPN, Ole Miss at the moment has the Number 5 recruiting class in the country for 2016.

Ole Miss will forever be grateful for the impact of the 2013 recruiting class. Gone were the days of being complacent, and started the days of striving for greatness.

Sure one class doesn’t make a team, but in this case, it was the x factor. Beating the Crimson Tide in consecutive years is a feat that many Rebels will remember for a life time.

But the journey isn’t over. In fact, it is really just starting the next phase. Happy Holidays and here is to hoping for a “sweet” bowl game January 1st in New Orleans.

Hotty Toddy!

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EGGBOWL 2015: Tailgating at Starkville – A Primer for Ole Miss Fans

So you want to see Ole Miss play in Starkville this year do ya?  Are you sure?  Is it really that important?

Fine.  I won’t stop you, but here are five things you need to know before you make the trek to the “Town that fun forgot.”

fresh as hail

1.  Bring your own food and drinks

SEC football tailgates are nationally known for having ridiculous spreads of food, drink and hospitality.  Mississippi State does not fit in that mold.  Here you will find mostly spreads of hoop cheese and crackers (made on campus) and at a really fancy tent you might find stuffed deer meat or subway catering.

I would recommend you bring your own food and nice bottle of liquor or wine.  Otherwise you will be stuck drinking cheap lite beer if you are lucky enough to find a bulldog willing to share.

milk cow msu

2.  Don’t dress up too much

One thing I can say about MSU fans, is they are not pretentious.  Comfort over fashion is the rule here and this late in the year with possible freezing temps and precipitation, expect to see more camouflage hunting gear than team colors.

If you wear slacks and or a sports jacket or a scarf you will be a dead give away that you are not “from around here.”  You might as well wear a #10 Chad Kelly jersey with a target on the back of your head.

bitch im a dawg

3.  Bring ear plugs

Mississippi State has worked hard over the last 10-15 years to upgrade their gameday experience.  Ole Miss fans may find their pre-game festivities very familiar.  That is because they have actually carbon copied the Ole Miss pre-game.

They built a miniature version of The Grove and called it the Junction.  They have the players walk through a crowd of fans just like the Walk of Champions (They call it the Bulldog Walk).  They even have a fairly new cheer called Maroon and White that ends with a hint of profanity, just like our own Hotty Toddy cheer.

But the one thing State has that no one would envy is the fan’s tradition of ringing cow bells.  How this got started or why it is continued is a head shaking wonder.

Just understand it is annoying , so be prepared.

cowbell girl

4.  Have a few deer hunting stories

Don’t be afraid to interact with the natives.  If you are dressed comfortably or maybe you have a few friends that are MSU fans, feel free to have a seat with the dogs and enjoy the day.

Make them feel comfortable by talking about deer hunting or what you planted in the winter garden.  Even if you don’t do either of those things, you will be more easily accepted.

Talking about business or stock options is another dead give away you are a Ole Miss fan.

stingray bull

5.  Get out of town as fast as possible after you win (or lose) in Starkville.

The MSU fan base is very unpredictable.  They are as likely to bail before halftime as they are willing to stand in the middle of the street after the game and swat at people with their cowbell like a country boy battle sword.

No matter the outcome, my best advice is to just have your things gathered up and ready to bolt to the car right after the game.

You can enjoy gloating from a distance for the next 365 days until the next Battle of the Golden Egg.

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HAS THE EGG BOWL RIVALRY GOTTEN OUT OF HAND?

(This article originally featured in RebelNationMagazine – Pick up a copy at your local magazine rack!)

The “Battle for the Golden Egg” has always been a hotly contested battle between two bitter rivals. Even if the game rarely has wide ranging implications, in the state of Mississippi it is a cherished tradition.

The game has only decided a division or conference champion a handful of times in it 100 plus years in existence. Most years, the egg-shaped trophy is the only reward for a long, hard-fought season.

The most successful coaches at each school found a way to win the egg bowl. Playing down the importance of this game or overlooking the in-state rival is not advised. That is, If you plan to stick around very long.

As fans, we always hoped and prayed that one day this game might mean something. It’s natural to feel a little jealous of our neighbors to the East in Alabama where the game always seems to have larger stakes. They certainly have a larger national media draw.

The Iron Bowl has only been supplanted by the Egg Bowl once on the TV broadcast pecking order and that was last year due to licensing issues because CBS was unable to televise a sixth Alabama game, or they probably would have.

In the last 20 years, the winner of the Iron Bowl has been split 11-10 in favor of Auburn. Alabama has six SEC western division titles over that time with three national titles. Auburn has five divisional titles and 1 national title with one undefeated season not resulting in a national title for Auburn (2004).

In the Egg Bowl in the last 20 years, the games are split evenly 10 to 10.  There has only been 1 divisional champion between the teams and neither Mississippi team has gotten to the promised land of a national champion in a long, long time.

With the addition of Dan Mullen over the last few years, we have seen a glimpse of the high stakes poker that is normally reserved for the state of Alabama.

Dan Mullen successfully jump-started what was a dead rivalry in 2009 by pulling out all the stops. He put the entire focus of his program on winning the Egg Bowl. He claimed Mississippi as “Our State” for MSU fans, refused to call Ole Miss by their name and has successful stirred up strong emotions for State fans to Iron Bowl levels and beyond.

Since 2009, the Egg Bowl is now fought year round, on billboards and in the office. You see a battle for the best tailgating area, you see a battle for who can make the best post game video, a battle for who has the most students, best cheerleaders, etc.

The Bulldogs were frothing at the mouth over Dan Mullen’s first three wins in the series, but since 2012 Freeze has flipped the script on him and the despair and negativity of MSU fans are making the rivalry almost unbearable.

It’s not really enjoyable to attend the Egg Bowl in Starkville anymore, not that we ever liked going to a game at MSU but watching the games were so much fun in the 80’s and 90’s, no matter where the games were played.

Now, as an Ole Miss fan you are more likely to get in a fight defending your wife in Starkville rather than Baton Rouge.

The biggest difference in the Egg Bowl rivalry compared to the Iron Bowl rivalry and most other in-state rivalries is there is truly a lack of respect between the teams and it starts at the top. Dan Mullen’s antics when he began coaching at State were sophomoric and unprofessional which is fine and even could be seen as funny except the MSU fans take that as a license to take an even lower step.

In Alabama, the “smack” talk is tempered with the fact that either team can win the game, no matter the record. They respect each other’s talent and accomplishments and the game is more a shared event by the fans. The way things used to be here.

In Mississippi, the State fans and MSU-aligned media don’t even extend platitudes to Ole Miss. Even though Mullen has lost two of the last three games, Freeze is still referred to as a women’s high school basketball coach. NCAA sanctions are hoped and wished for by a fan base that can’t seem to beat Ole Miss in recruiting.

The absolute worst indication of where this rivalry is headed is last year’s anonymous threat to damaging the trees in the grove.

Last November, prior to the Egg Bowl in Oxford, the University Police department alerted the FBI to a hand written note that was signed, “Hail State/Go To Hell TSUN,” and threatened damage to the shrubs and trees on the Ole Miss campus.

According to University news reports the letter read: “What’s going to happen to ya’ll on the field Saturday ain’t nothing compared to what’s going to happen on your beautiful campus. You won’t be the most pretty campus next year. A lot of shrubs and trees are going to die; especially in the Grove.”

The childish threat ended with the sentence, “Can’t stop us.”

UPD Police chief Calvin Sellers reminded everyone of reality. “We encourage everyone to remember that this is a game, after all, not a time for hate. We are hopeful that passions have not escalated to the point that someone is prepared to damage a landmark for which all Mississippian’s take great pride.”

While Mullen and the MSU fans are busy fighting Ole Miss off the field, Hugh Freeze takes the right approach by having a professional attitude and wins the game on the field.

Let’s get this rivalry back to the point where we can look each other in the eye, shake hands like a man and respect our opponents, win or lose.