JOHN L. PITTS: Not much difference in rivals

John L PittsCORINTH – I have $50 worth of college football magazines sitting on my kitchen table and the truth is that none of them is likely to tell me what’s going to happen this fall.

But flipping through one of them, my beloved Phil Steele preview, underscores a thought that has been nagging at me lately.

Fans of both schools may take offense, but viewed from a distance it seems like Ole Miss and Mississippi State are essentially the same program.

Now, I’m not planning to wear a “Mississippi State Rebels” T-shirt, although I do wish somebody had bought me one of those when they were on sale, briefly, at the College World Series.

It’s just that, if you look at the last decade for the Rebels and Bulldogs, the schools have had rather similar performances. That’s notable when you consider that 10 years is about the period of time that young men who have grown into a potential football recruits have been paying attention.

For them, 2001 seems like ancient history.

Crunching numbers
Each team has had four winning seasons in that span. Ole Miss has had three coaching changes, MSU has had two.

Ole Miss went 55-67 over the past decade, MSU was 52-70. Of the 12 teams in the league for the past decade, only two others – Vanderbilt and Kentucky – have losing records.

In league play, the Rebels were 26-54, the Bulldogs 24-56.

Each has played in four bowl games – and here is where Ole Miss holds an edge, with a 4-3 advantage in wins and three of those coming in a better event, the Cotton Bowl.

Neither team reached the SEC championship game, of course. And both play in what would be widely seen as “undersized” stadiums.

Compare all that to Kentucky, a program that we’d all regard as undercompetitive in the league. The Wildcats went 52-71 during the last decade, 20-60 in league play, with five bowl trips and three wins.

The challenge for both Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen isn’t in the past, of course. This season will play a crucial role in how the next decade shapes up for both programs.

John L. Pitts (john.pitts@ journalinc.com) is sports editor of the Journal.