Let me be clear, Rebels fans can’t wait for that Thursday night season-opener at Vanderbilt. They know the Commo-dores are in some disarray due to off-the-field legal issues that would have to be a distraction in preseason camp.
But they’re almost equally keen to see what happens when MSU has to visit Houston’s Reliant Stadium to meet an Oklahoma State team that’s getting plenty of preseason Top 25 buzz.
If Rebels fans can come home from Nashville with an early 1-0 lead in the SEC and then pick up the Journal on the next Sunday and read about a massacre of the Bulldogs in Houston, that would be about as good as it gets in early September.
Win in Nashville, and a nine-victory season isn’t out of the question, despite a brutal five-game stretch that includes a trip to Texas. And: “Egg Bowl in Starkville? We got this.”
Mississippi State fans have a very different point of view. They know who their quarterback is going to be on Aug. 31 (veteran Tyler Russell), and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy – He’s a man! He’s now 46! – is playing some mind games on the question of who’ll start at QB for his team in the opener.
And they’re skeptical about the quality of Big 12 defenses, even if the Cowboys led the league in takeaways last season. After all, that league only moved away from playing flag football a few seasons ago.
But MSU fans are anticipating a great appetizer before a season-opening main course. They know Vandy has had the upper hand against Ole Miss in recent seasons, and they expect no change in that trend this fall.
Fans can dream
Win or lose in Houston, MSU fans won’t mind picking up that same Sunday paper and seeing Ole Miss 0-1 and at the bottom of the league standings. And they can look at that tough stretch in the Rebels schedule and let themselves daydream about a 1-6 Ole Miss start and a chance for revenge in the Egg Bowl at season’s end.
It’s always possible that both fan bases will get half of what they want. A loss in Nashville, a loss in Houston – and maybe Southern Miss fans are the only ones eager to pick up that Sunday paper.
John L. Pitts (firstname.lastname@example.org) is sports editor of the Journal.