STARKVILLE — The winds of change are blowing at gale-force levels across college football.
As players from the Pac-12 announced their intentions to boycott the season over health concerns and racial injustice — among other issues — on Sunday, the Southeastern Conference released its intention to play a 10-game, conference-only schedule this fall earlier this week.
In short, college football’s day of reckoning is coming. Let’s catch up on the past week:
With the SEC moving to a conference-only schedule, who might Mississippi State add to its ledger?
I’ll preface this with the usual adage: This is all contingent on football actually being played this fall. That said, it’s unclear at this point who MSU might add to its current schedule.
The general consensus is that teams will maintain their eight currently scheduled games, while two more opponents are added to the ledger. Multiple reports surfaced prior to the SEC’s announcement of a 10-game schedule Thursday that cross-division games scheduled for each team in 2021 — in MSU’s case, Georgia and Vanderbilt — would fill the now-empty slots on each squad’s ledger.
Hours after the announcement, Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger reported that the league office may look to a strength of schedule-based model to formulate the new matchups.
Based on ESPN’s Football Power Index, MSU is slated to be the second-worst team in the league, falling somewhere between 4.6 wins and 7.4 losses. However, the Bulldogs already have four top-20-type teams on their schedule for next season in Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M.
The best-case scenario is that MSU draws SEC East bottom-feeders Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Worst case, the Bulldogs will play some combination of Georgia, Florida or Tennessee — all of whom project as top 25 teams this fall.
The most likely case: MSU ends up with one winnable game and another battle against one of the conference’s elite.
What’s the latest on the Egg Bowl, and will it be moved off its usual Thanksgiving Day slot?
This is a complex one and a question that is changing by the day.
Last week, multiple sources confirmed to The Dispatch that it was unclear whether the Egg Bowl would be moved from its usual spot on Thanksgiving Day to a later date. This appears to still be the case and it’s unlikely any more is known until the SEC does announce its new schedules in the coming days and weeks.
I’m drawing a touch from the previous question, but how about two Egg Bowls in one year? The only time it ever happened was 1918 — a year MSU beat Ole Miss twice and played three contests against local military bases. Oh, and did I mention college football also struggled to be played under the conditions of a global pandemic? No? Cool.
It’s unlikely the Bulldogs and Rebels meet more than once this year, but we’ve already seen the Pac-12 move a handful of heavyweight matchups to Week 1 with USC-UCLA, Stanford-Washington and Arizona-Arizona State. It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility college football’s opening weekend could see Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin opposite one another for the first time in their Magnolia State tenures.
With the Pac-12 players threatening to boycott over health concerns, is it possible this becomes a trend?
Frankly, it was only a matter of time until someone or some team came out against the premise of playing football during a pandemic.
The Pac-12 has a huge “problem” on its hands for those who continue to consider college athletes amateurs. I won’t get into all of the specifics of potential name, image and likeness legislation and everything that entails, but this is a major blow to football being played this fall.
It’s long been a point of contention that college athletes haven’t had a voice. That’s begun to change. Just this offseason we saw MSU running back Kylin Hill threaten to sit out the season should Mississippi not remove the Confederate iconography from its state flag. Ultimately, the Mississippi legislature decided to retire the flag and will choose a new one in the coming months.
Point being, if players don’t feel safe playing football this fall, the insane schedules and swaths of testing college administrators are trying to coordinate won’t matter. This isn’t the final death knell for a fall season, but if united fronts of players across the country — particularly in the SEC — stand up in the way those in the Pac-12 did, it’s only a matter of time before the season is canceled.
Since quarantine began, I’ve tried to use my record player more and more as I continue to accrue vinyls for my collection. Here’s a look at the records I’ve listened to the most in recent months:
1. Darkness on the Edge of Town — Bruce Springsteen
2. Straight Shooter — Bad Company
3. Uh-huh — John Mellencamp
4. London Calling — The Clash
5. Abbey Road — The Beatles
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.