The Magnolia State college football roundup: Rebels head to Tuscaloosa to face the Tide
Published 8:00 am Saturday, September 23, 2023
Here’s a look at who and where the college football programs in Mississippi will play this weekend.
Ole Miss at Alabama
2:30 p.m., Tuscaloosa
If you have been keeping up with the 24-hour sports news cycle this week, then you know that the relationship status of Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and musical superstar Taylor Swift has generated more headlines than the looming federal government shutdown.
Second only to that in the sports world has been the number of storylines that have popped up from this matchup between Ole Miss and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Most of the news written about this game has been focused on the trolling done by UM head coach Lane Kiffin on social media.
Another factor has been how pedestrian the Tide have looked this season in losing to Texas and then coming back last week to get an ugly road win at lowly South Florida.
The press pool that covers Alabama football has had plenty to write about as they speculate each week over what the solution is at the quarterback position, why the offensive line isn’t playing better and if this is the final year as head coach for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa.
Kiffin got things started by saying that he thought Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele had been demoted after the Texas loss. That forced Saban to respond and refute Kiffin’s take on the status of his staff.
Bringing it back to T-Swift, Kiffin later shared a video on X/Twitter of the singer performing her song ‘Castles Crumbling.’ With lyrics that describe the fall of something akin to an empire, it was interpreted as another shot at the decline of the Crimson Tide.
It’s just Kiffin being Kiffin, which is good for college football and even better for the people that are paid to write about it. They can only write so many columns and stories about Coach Prime and Colorado before having to mix in some Saban and Kiffin talk too.
The Tide (2-1) are about a touchdown favorite at home to the Rebels (3-0). One can’t imagine what type of memes that Kiffin has saved in his drafts folder if he’s able to join Kirby Smart and Steve Sarkisian on the short list of Saban’s former assistant coaches that have beaten their old boss.
Mississippi State at South Carolina
6:30 p.m., Columbia, S.C.
South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer once worked on the staff at Mississippi State, but to my knowledge he’s not done any online trolling of his former employer like that unleashed this week by Lane Kiffin on Alabama.
It feels like this game between the Bulldogs (2-1) and the Gamecocks (1-2) is one between two teams still trying to figure out what their identity is going to be in 2023.
Mississippi State was never in it last week in a 41-14 loss to LSU at home. LSU scored the first 24 points of the game, outgained the Bulldogs by a 530-201 advantage in total yards and possessed the ball for almost 40 minutes of the 60-minute game.
South Carolina led 14-3 at halftime over the top ranked Georgia Bulldogs last weekend in Athens. Georgia cleaned things up in the second half and took an eventual 24-14 victory between the hedges.
Both teams have well-seasoned quarterbacks in Will Rodgers of Mississippi State and Spencer Rattler of South Carolina.
Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia can be a tough place to win, especially at night when it’s filled with almost 78,000 fans.
State won the last meeting between the schools, a 27-14 victory in 2016 in a game played in Starkville.
The teams haven’t played much in their history as the Gamecock hold a 9-7 advantage all-time. The last win for MSU in Columbia came in 1998 and was a 38-0 victory for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State fans fondly remember that ’98 squad that made the SEC title game before facing Texas in the Cotton Bowl.
Southern Miss at Arkansas State
6 p.m., Jonesboro, Ark.
Sun Belt action kicks off for Southern Miss with a trip to play Arkansas State in a battle of 1-2 teams.
The seasons so far is a mirror for the schools thus far in many ways. Both own a win against a program from a lower rung of college football (40-14 over Alcorn State for USM and a 31-7 win against Stony Brook for ASU).
Both schools know what it’s like to go on the road and lose to a powerhouse program as the Golden Eagles lost 66-13 at Florida State and the Red Wolves were beaten 73-0 at Arkansas State.
Finally, both programs have lost home games to regional opponents in matchups where neither could generate much offense. For Arkansas State and head coach Butch Jones, that was a week two 37-3 loss to Arkansas State. For Southern Miss head coach Will Hall, that was a 21-3 defeat last week to Tulane.
Southern Miss is 10-2 all-time against Arkansas State and won 20-19 last season in Hattiesburg.
The Southern Miss defense was strong through much of the game against Tulane last week and the Golden Eagles moved the ball early but couldn’t get a touchdown on the board before the Green Wave defense stiffened through the second half.
Vegas has the Golden Eagles as a touchdown favorite on the road.
Jackson State vs. Bethune-Cookman
6 p.m., Jackson
After four games on the road, Jackson State is finally getting to play in front of its home fans with a SWAC matchup with Bethune-Cookman.
The Tigers lost 77-34 last week on the road at Sun Belt member Texas State.
BCU knows about going on the road and playing those money games against bigger schools as they’re 1-2 with losses at Memphis and the University of Miami. The Wildcats beat Savannah State 31-6 in between those two losses.
Located in Daytona Beach, Florida, Bethune-Cookman saw the headlines generated by Jackson State hiring Deion Sanders and then watched as Tennessee State go with a similar tact in hiring former NFL star Eddie George.
When they needed a new coach, BCU announced they would be hiring NFL Hall of Fame defensive back Ed Reed back in December. That relationship lasted just about a month before Reed went viral for publicly criticizing the school and how things were being run on his social media accounts.
Raymond Woodie Jr., an alum of the school, was hired as the new head coach in February.
JSU smacked Bethune-Cookman 48-8 last season in Jacksonville.
Alcorn State vs. Prairie View A&M
6 p.m., Lorman
Coach Fred McNair and the Braves got a great win at home last week by a 17-3 score over Southland Conference member McNeese State. Alcorn State wants to make it two in a row in Spinks-Casem Stadium with their SWAC opener against Prairie View A&M.
Prairie View lost last week at SMU. If you go to their athletics page, the story from that reads, “Panthers come up short in a 69-0 loss to SMU.” That’s like saying that I need to lose “a little” weight.
Prairie View beat Texas Southern in its season opener, a game that Texas Southern led 34-17, before PVAM fought back to win 37-34 in overtime. The Panthers also have lost 45-16 to Abilene Christian this season.
Alcorn State has won five straight over Prairie View including a 23-16 victory last season.
Mississippi Valley State vs. North Carolina Central
3 p.m., Indianapolis, Ind.
North Carolina Central comes into his pairing with a 2-1 record as they’ve notched wins over Winston-Salem State and North Carolina A&T. Last week at UCLA, NCCU lost 59-7.
MVSU is 0-2 after losing 35-7 last week at Delta State.
This pairing with NCCU is being played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. Lucas Oil is the home of the Indianapolis Colts. This is the second game for MVSU to play in an NFL stadium as they took on Central State in their opener at Soldier Feld in Chicago.
Delta State vs. Shorter University
6 p.m., Cleveland
It’s Pig Pickin’ weekend in Cleveland as the annual event held by the DSU Alumni Association is a BBQ filled weekend that culminates with DSU opening Gulf South Conference play against Shorter University.
It’s the last time for the teams to play as league opponents as Shorter is moving to the Conference Carolinas next year. Delta State is 9-1 all time against Shorter and won 45-10 last year in Rome, Georgia.
Delta State is ranked No. 6 in the latest d2football.com poll.
Mississippi College at West Alabama
6 p.m., Livingston, Ala.
Mississippi College led West Georgia 21-17 last week at halftime, but the visiting Wolves scored the last touchdown of an eventual 38-35 win over the Choctaws in Clinton to open Gulf South Conference play.
Both teams come in with 1-2 records as West Alabama lost 23-16 last week at North Greenville. The UWA Tigers have a couple Co-Lin alums on the roster including defensive back Lamar Gray and defensive lineman Travarus Hatcher.
Another name familiar to local fans is senior wide receiver John Hilbert. A product of Brookhaven High who first played collegiately at East Central CC, Hilbert caught 37 passes for 541 yards and three touchdowns last season as a junior.
Thus far in 2023, Hilbert has made four grabs for 49 yards through three games.
Belhaven vs. Greensboro
12 p.m., Jackson
Belhaven is 2-0 after being off last week. The Blazers are opening USA South Athletic Conference play with a home date against the Greensboro College Pride.
Greensboro is 0-3 on the season. Vegas doesn’t dabble in odds for Division III football but bet the Blazers in this one if you are making a wager.
Millsaps vs. Hendrix College
2 p.m., Jackson
Millsaps lost last week on the road 27-21 at Sewanee: The University of the South. It was just further salt in a wound that first opened when Sewanee poached its new president from Millsaps earlier this year.
This week the Majors host Hendrix College, another Southern Athletic Association foe. The Hendrix Warriors hail from Conway, Arkansas and are 1-2 this season after beating Southwestern University 51-38 last weekend.