Sideline View by Dale McKee

Published: Dec. 28, 2020 at 11:07 AM CST
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My first column of 2020 dealt with college football, and my final column of this unusual sports year will deal with college football. I promise not to mention COVD-19. The lead story of that initial column back in January was about the changing of the guard at Ole Miss and Mississippi State. For the first time since 1938, both Ole Miss and Mississippi State would have new head football coaches. I reported that Mississippi State, Alcorn and USM all took losses in their bowl games. Then I previewed LSU and Clemson getting ready to play for the National Championship in New Orleans. Today, my final column of this sports year will deal with Ole Miss’s and Mississippi State’s bowl games, the College Football Playoffs (CFP) semifinals, the Saints, conference basketball action, various football notes and about the sad loss of another sports legend.

Bowling Season

Mississippi State and Ole Miss will play in bowl games this week while the CFP will play their semifinals this Friday. Mississippi State will meet No. 24 Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl in Arlington on Thursday morning at 11 a.m. while Ole Miss will head to Tampa Bay to wrestle with No. 11 Indiana of the Big Ten Conference at 11:30 a.m. this Saturday in the Outback Bowl.

The CFP semifinals will have top ranked Alabama meeting No. 4 Notre Dame in a rematch of the 2013 National Championship game in Arlington, Texas, in the playing of the Rose Bowl on Friday at 3:30 p.m. The Tide is a 3-touchdown favorite over the Irish. In the Big Easy that night, the Sugar Bowl will pit the ACC champion Clemson against the Big Ten Champs from Ohio State. Clemson is a TD favorite over ‘The’ Ohio State.

NFC South Champs again!

The New Orleans Saints (11-4) wrapped up their fourth straight South title this past Friday with a 52-33 win over their nemesis from the North in Minnesota. Alvin Kamara tied the NFL record with six rushing touchdowns as he broke Ernie Nevers’ 1929 accomplishment. He is also the first player since Gale Sayers in 1965 to score six touchdowns in a game. Also, Drew Brees is the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 80,000 yards in a career.

Conference Cage Openers

Ole Miss (5-1) will open their SEC slate this week heading to Alabama on December 29 while Mississippi State (5-3) will travel to Georgia in their opener the next day. USM (4-3) will host UTEP on the night of January 1. USM will also entertain the Miners the next afternoon in their C-USA openers.

Odds & Ends

USM football has scheduled a road game on August 31, 2024, with Ohio State.  The Golden Eagles will receive $1.9 million for their visit.

The Ole Miss foursome of Evan Engram, A.J. Brown, D.K. Matcalf and Laremy Tunsil were named to the NFL All-Pro squads. The MSU trio of Fletcher Cox, Chris Jones and Elgton Jenkins also were selected to the squads.

Patrick Surtain was a standout college football player at USM and later was named an NFL All-Pro three times. His son Patrick Jr. is a junior cornerback for Alabama and was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Auburn hired Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin (69-19) to replace Gus Malzahn (68-35).

To score or not to score, that was the million dollar question as former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and Liberty (10-1) won an insane game over former Delta State head coach Jamey Chadwells’ Coastal Carolina (11-1), 37-34, in the Cure Bowl.

Sad News

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro passed away this week. The knuckleball expert won 318 games in his historic career.

Let’s put 2020 in the rear view mirror and set our sights on a hopefully better 2021.

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