College football stole the weekend with some great rival games. In Mississippi, we had another edition of the Egg Bowl, and the only excitement was the third period melee between the teams that allowed the referees to apply 157 personal fouls on a play that did not even count. The Rebels snapped the ball after the third period had expired.
Mississippi State with the 35-3 win ended their regular season ranked 20th in the Associated Press football poll. The Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4) are ranked for the 19th time in the last 21 weeks going back to last year. The four losses were to No. 1 Alabama, No. 11 Florida, No. 12 LSU and No. 16 Kentucky. The Bulldogs offense struggled in the four losses as they scored only one touchdown in the losses. The defense was superb as they allowed only a dozen touchdowns during the entire season. The Bulldogs will be awarded a bowl trip for their efforts, and the location of the bowl will be known Sunday.
Ole Miss (5-7, 1-7) will not go bowling for the third straight year. Head coach Matt Luke has already begun his search for another defensive coordinator, and other coaching changes could be on the horizon. The Rebels defense allowed over 36 points per game, and the offense had trouble scoring against quality SEC defenses. The Rebels offense will be losing some quality juniors in A.J. Brown, Greg Little and D.K. Metcalf. The rebuilding has started in Oxford.
USM ended their season with a 39-7 win over UTEP in El Paso last Saturday. The Eagles with the win have achieved bowl eligibility for the fourth consecutive year. C-USA has six bowl tie-ins, and six conference teams have at least seven wins. Those six teams will be given priority over USM. There are 81 teams bowl eligible and only 78 slots for those teams. The Golden Eagles (6-5, 5-3) will know on Sunday if they made the cut.
The Saints (10-1) defeated Atlanta (4-7) on Thanksgiving Night, and on Sunday, Seattle edged Carolina (6-5) to give the Saints a four-game lead with five games to play. If the Saints would beat Dallas Thursday night and Carolina would lose to Tampa Bay on Sunday, then the Saints would claim the NFC South title. The Saints have three straight road games against Dallas, Carolina and Tampa Bay before concluding the season at home against Pittsburgh and Carolina.
Oxford based sports writer Jeff Roberson has teamed with former Ole Miss quarterback Jim Weatherly to write Midnight Train. The book, which chronicles the life of Jim Weatherly, a Pontotoc boy who loves football and music, hit the bookstores last month. Jim went from his small Mississippi town to Ole Miss and eventually to the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in New York City. He led Ole Miss to two SEC titles and two Sugar Bowls and was on the school’s only perfect football season as a quarterback in the '60s. Gladys Knight, Neil Diamond, Garth Brooks, Ray Price and Aretha Franklin have recorded his songs. His song "Midnight Train to Georgia," sung by Gladys Knight, landed in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Odd & Ends
This weekend in Hattiesburg six new MHSAA state high school football champions will be crowned at USM. Games begin Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Former USM head coach Larry Fedora was fired at North Carolina. Fedora last coached USM in 2011 as the Golden Eagles won the C-USA title and bowled in Hawaii. He was 34-19 at USM in four seasons and was 12-2 in 2011. Fedora was 45-43 at North Carolina.
William Carey surprised USM, 78-72, in an intra-city showdown at Reed Green Coliseum last Sunday.