MSU and Ole Miss meet today in the annual Governor’s Cup (née Mayor’s Trophy) at Trustmark Park in Pearl (6:30 p.m.). It’s obviously an important game for both teams from a rivalry standpoint, even if it doesn’t count in the SEC standings. But there are at least two more reasons why this game is big for MSU (26-9). There are long-term implications at stake here.
1. As the No. 21-ranked Bulldogs build their NCAA tournament resumé, they obviously need to pile up as many quality RPI wins as possible. Considering the toughness of MSU’s schedule the rest of the way, there will be ample opportunities, so a loss tonight would not do severe damage in that aspect, but it would surely help. State’s current RPI rank is 14, according to BoydsWorld.com, while Ole Miss (23-9) checks in at No. 16.
One could easily envision the Bulldogs and Rebels having similar records and similar profiles by the end of the regular season, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the NCAA tournament committee felt it had to choose one over the other when selecting regional host sites (assuming both teams play their way into such a position). You never know how much head-to-head will factor into such a decision, but winning the season series certainly doesn’t hurt. (The teams play a three-game series May 10-12 in Oxford.)
2. Tonight’s starting pitcher for MSU is Brandon Woodruff. The sophomore right-hander has been trying to work his way into a position to start on the weekend, but he’s been slowed by preseason elbow soreness and then by a string of poor outings. But Woodruff (1-1, 4.15) looked solid a week ago at South Alabama, allowing one run on three hits in six innings, with four strikeouts and no walks.
If he pitches well tonight, it should be a signal that Woodruff has taken a big step toward being a weekend rotation guy. And that’s a role both teammates and coaches have said they need him to fill, especially so with Jacob Lindgren‘s injury issues and collective ineffectiveness in the Sunday slot.
Be sure to follow Parrish Alford on Twitter tonight for updates from Pearl.