The big question, though, is this: Is it a no-win situation for the Bulldogs?
Several media outlets reported Wednesday that after nearly two decades of dormancy, the Mississippi State-Southern Miss football rivalry will be renewed.
When and where the games will be played, and how many, was not known Wednesday.
“It’s just great for the state of Mississippi, and it will be one of the hardest tickets you will ever find,” said Robert Gaines, an insurance agent in Tupelo and ardent USM supporter.
“I don't have a problem with renewing the series,” said MSU fan Shane Bills, of Olive Branch. “I don’t want (MSU athletics director) Greg Byrne to agree to do the deal unless we get a two-for-one. They want to play us, so we should get to set the terms.”
The schools will hold a joint press conference at noon today to presumably announce the renewal of the series, which Southern Miss leads 14-12-1.
Presidents from both schools – MSU’s Dr. Mark Keenum and Southern’s Dr. Martha Saunders – will take part along with Byrne and his USM counterpart, Richard Giannini.
Neither school would confirm the subject of today’s announcement, but it’s not a very well-kept secret.
The buzz began earlier this week on message boards and was at a high pitch Wednesday afternoon after the reports surfaced. Much debate ensued about whether this was wise on MSU’s part.
It’s an old debate: Should MSU and Ole Miss – which last played Southern Miss in 1984 – should again challenge the Golden Eagles? The argument against it has been that the Bulldogs and Rebels, of the SEC, have too much to lose and nothing to gain by playing an in-state Conference USA school.
“If we beat them, we were supposed to because we are in the SEC; if we lose, we will have hell to pay far into the future,” said MSU fan Steve Hill, an insurance agent in Gulfport. “I just don’t understand the reasoning.”
The counter-argument is that if MSU is willing to play teams like UAB and South Alabama – which will not bring in large crowds – why not play USM and bank on a sellout?
“It’s a long time coming, and the lose-lose argument is a dead argument,” said USM fan Bo Bowlin, an insurance agent in Tupelo. “We’re chipping off every SEC school in the nation, playing them.
“I figure a little team over in Oxford might have to bow down before it’s over with.”
USM has played several SEC teams over the years, including Auburn, Florida and Tennessee, and it has played Alabama 42 times, most recently in 2005.
The Golden Eagles have no SEC teams on this year’s schedule, but they’ve already played – and defeated – Virginia of the ACC, and will face Kansas of the Big 12 this weekend.
Recently, Southern Miss announced plans to face South Carolina in the 2010 season-opener on ESPN, with a game against LSU in 2011 and Tennessee in 2017.
The MSU-USM game has been contested in Starkville 15 times, in Hattiesburg four times and in Jackson eight times. MSU won the last meeting, in 1990, by a 13-10 score in Starkville.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or email@example.com