Thursday, October 2, 2014
Football-wise, could this be our year?
Mississippians are the most passionate football fans in the country, or so I remember reading in a survey a few years ago. I have no reason to doubt its accuracy.
Certainly, Mississippi has produced far more than its share of football stars, especially quarterbacks. Unfortunately, there is no NFL team in Jackson.
You could argue that Mississippi has the best junior college system in the nation. Our junior college football facilities are second to none and our teams are often the best in the nation. East Mississippi Community College won the national junior college championship in 2013 and 2011. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College was the co-champion in 2007. Pearl River Community College was the champion in 2004. That’s four national champions from Mississippi in 10 years.
The NCAA, unfortunately, has been a long exercise in frustration for Mississippi’s ardent football fans. I like to call it “tragedy football” as I have watched our teams snatch defeat from the jaws of victory time and time again.
I recall the year when Ole Miss needed a short field goal to take #4 LSU to overtime. As the ball was snapped, I looked to my left and to my right. To a man and woman, the Ole Miss fans had their heads bowed in prayer.
Could this be our year? Could all those years of impossibly bad breaks be coming to an end? Could this be the year of Mississippi dominance?
One of Mississippi’s problems has been their membership in the toughest college football division in the nation.
In fact, I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal on a recent Saturday about how the SEC West Division is the best division in the history of college football. Never has one division had five teams in the top 10 at one time.
The article mentioned one problem with this: The teams, being in the same division, are destined to cannibalize one another’s records.
No sooner had I finished reading the article than my wife burst through the door. She saw me reading the newspaper and let me know her thoughts. “I cannot believe you are not watching the State game. You have to be the only man in Mississippi reading a newspaper right now. Get with the program,” she chided me.
Those words pierced my heart and sent me lunging for the TV remote and searching the Internet for which of the dozens of channels I could find the LSU-State game on.
Sure enough, State, which wasn’t even mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article as one of the top SEC West teams, was beating the snot out of LSU. So the greatest division in the history of college football is even better than the article implied. That’s good. That’s really good.
Far be it from me, a casual football fan at best, to criticize a multimillion-dollar-a-year coach, but it did seem strange to me that Coach Mullen was playing second and third string players against a team that has, by far, the best fourth quarter comeback record in the nation.
As the quarter ticked by, I got that old sinking feeling of panic. Here we go again. Mississippi tragedy football. But this time, it was not to be. I can imagine those were very nervous minutes for Mullen.
Eight of the top 25 division 1-A teams are in the SEC. Six of the top 25 are in the SEC West, now that Mississippi State is in the mix. Three of the top six teams in the nation are SEC West. That’s out of 11 divisions with 134 teams. There are another 150 division 1-AA teams. Including junior colleges, there are probably 1,000 college football programs in the United States.
The worst SEC West team, Arkansas, is 2-1 and received nine votes in the AP poll.
We are witnessing the greatest domination of a football division in the history of the sport and Mississippi is right in the middle of it.
Dare we dream that the Egg Bowl, so derisively named, could end up determining a championship? Stranger things can happen. Can you imagine that game?
Now there are some Ole Miss and State fans who take no joy in the success of their Egg Bowl rival. I really find that sentiment depressing. Mississippi is not a state, it’s a club and we need to stick together. I understand rooting for your alma mater on game day, but Mississippians should be supportive of all the teams in our state.
Anyway, Saturday night (September 20) ended the perfect night. Sipping wine, watching football and eating take-out pizza after a beautiful day of kayaking down the Okatoma with Boy Scout Troop #302. Life is good.
I cannot write about football without mentioning the Emmerich family Mississippi football record. Both my grandfather, father and I played on the top division state championship teams. The odds of that happening randomly are one in a hundred million.
Although none of us were star players (by a long shot) the only explanation I can come up with is that we somehow helped infuse our teams with a certain esprit de corps.
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