The Big XII Is Dead, Long Live The Big XII

by Jordan Grove

Different verse, same song. After months of flirtation with the Pac12, Oklahoma (and, in turn, Oklahoma State) were denied entrance into the league. Larry Scott, the commissioner of the Pac12, took a vote and after careful consideration decided not to expand to 14 or 16 teams.

In a statement issued by Scott, he stated: “After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference. While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve.”

The reason for denying Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas was that the Pac12 lacked the assurance from the Longhorns to give up the rights to the Longhorn Network, the thorn in the side of Oklahoma.

David Boren, the president of Oklahoma, has tried back-tracking in a way to not lose face by suggesting that the Sooners were entertaining thoughts of leaving the Big 12 as a way to gain leverage over Texas to enforce changes within the conference. In the end, though, Boren and Oklahoma could have lost leverage in their attempt to coerce change by threatening to break-up the league they helped form in 1996.

Missouri, who was courted by the SEC during the tumultuous past weeks concerning the future of the Big 12, looks to also be deciding to remain in the Big XII. Instead of leaving now for the security of the SEC could mean that the Tigers are holding out for a possible invitation from the Big Ten should that conference ever decide to move past 12 teams.

In one attempt, though, Oklahoma has been successful. It seems that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is on his way and that former Big 8 commissioner Chuck Neinas will replace him. The move is needed in an attempt to keep the conference together. Beebe has been the puppet of Texas for quite some time and a change in the front office, especially if it’s Neinas, will bring a strong presence that’s needed to keep the Big 12 intact.

Another concession Oklahoma would like to see is the conference expand back to 12 teams. Currently, the Big 12 sits at ten universities but that will change once Texas A&M joins the Southeastern Conference.

The question, though, is who would be willing (outside of Big East schools) to leave the relative security of their own conference to join the unstable Big 12. It all depends on what further changes are enacted within the conference but if an equal revenue sharing program is created to which all teams receive an equal share of the conference pie then that will go a long way in stabilizing the Big 12.

One team that could join the Big 12 is BYU. The Cougars supposedly would join the Big 12 if Oklahoma stays. If that happens then the Big 12 would add a nationally recognized football team within it’s ranks while expanding the conference. Other teams the Big 12 could target are TCU, Air Force, Louisville, West Virginia, and Cincinnati.

The Big East, which is struggling to survive following the departure of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Big East, would likely crumble if both Louisville and West Virginia departed for the Big 12, which could be likely.

According to John Hoover of the Tulsa World, David Boren wants Air Force, BYU, and TCU. That addition would add two former BCS busters in BYU and TCU while adding a program with a national following in Air Force.

The possibility exists, though, that Air Force would choose to remain in the Mountain West rather than moving to join what has been for the past two years an insecure conference and TCU could remain in the Big East despite that conferences unstable future.

In that case Louisville and West Virginia would become the next most attractive options due to the former’s basketball prestige and the latter’s ability to compete on the national level. The Mountaineers have been one of the most successful football programs in the Big East since joining in 1991. In the BCS era they have been to two BCS bowl games winning both.

Before Big 12 expansion even takes place, the relationship between Oklahoma and Texas could unravel for a third time and see the Sooners turning their attention to the conference that flirted with them last year – the SEC.

Several scenarios abound and what happens is anyone’s guess. The conference realignment talk has quieted down but this could be the calm before the storm (and likely is). All that is known now is that the Big 12 is staying together… for now.

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West Virginia Allegedly Denied SEC Invite, Missouri Invited But SEC Waiting On Big 12 Implosion?

by Jordan Grove

The dreams of West Virginia fans was ended today as it seems that the SEC (and ACC) have rejected West Virginia’s application to join. The news is somewhat shocking as West Virginia does offer the SEC several positives (you can find them listed here). The news came from a Big East official who was told that West Virginia’s application was denied although no official word has been released from either West Virginia or the SEC.

Following the West Virginia rejection story comes news that there are reports that the SEC wants Louisville as the 14th member.

RejectingWest Virginia for Louisville is like turning down filet mignon for hamburger steak. That’s not a knock on Louisville as it has a tremendous basketball tradition but their football prowess has diminished recently, they don’t broaden the conference’s footprint, they don’t add any new television markets, and they would share the same state as Kentucky which violates the gentleman’s agreement between SEC schools. Not to mention that if West Virginia was rejected because of academic standing then Louisville should be too since they are ranked exactly the same according to US News.

Conference realignment news moves fast and now it seems that Missouri has an offer from the SEC but the SEC is willing to wait until the Big 12 implodes. The source found in the article is a Missouri booster who has talked to a Missouri official. In essence, it’s hearsay.

However, the translation in “waiting until the Big 12 implodes” is: the SEC is willing to wait until Oklahoma and Texas officially announce their departure to the Big 12 before acting. That could mean sitting tight at 14 teams with just Texas A&M and Missouri or it could mean expanding to 16 teams with Texas A&M, Missouri, and possibly Florida State, Virginia Tech, and maybe West Virginia (there’s still a small sliver of hope).

Who knows what all will happen when all is said and done. The Big Ten has yet to make a move so far and the SEC has remained relatively quiet. Once those two start to act then all bets are off.

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The Case For West Virginia To The SEC

by Jordan Grove

The SEC is set to add Texas A&M. That much is known but who will be the 14th member is still very much uncertain. Mike Slive and the SEC presidents have been as quiet as possible in keeping the mysterious fourteenth team a secret. Maybe they learned something from Jim Delaney and the Big Ten last year when it came as a surprise when that conference invited Nebraska.

A few days ago Colin Dunlap, former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer and current radio host on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, posted on his twitter account that West Virginia has sent in paperwork to the SEC

That news came right on the heels of West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck issuing a 62 word statement on the future of WVU in which the word “Big East” never appeared. In the statement Luck stated that West Virginia will be a national player in the changing collegiate landscape.

If what Dunlap said is true, and West Virginia has applied to be a member in the Southeastern Conference, then the Mountaineers would make a solid addition as the 14th member of the SEC and offer several assets while also fitting the criteria of an SEC school.

The Mountaineers Are One Of The Best Football Teams Available

Since joining the Big East in 1991 [Note: Using that date gives a perfect 20 year comparison & provides for conference play], West Virginia quickly established itself as one of the most dominant football programs in that conference by claiming three conference championships (and three split titles) and compete on a regular basis. Since joining their overall record is 156-85 (88-49 in conference play) while playing in 15 bowl games (5-10 bowl record). The Mountaineers have been to two BCS bowls and won both (2007 Fiest Bowl over Oklahoma and 2005 Sugar Bowl over Georgia) and also were in the 1993 Sugar Bowl (a loss to Florida). Again using the date 1991, West Virginia has gone 5-4 against SEC teams.

West Virginia Enhances The Weak SEC Basketball Play

Basketball, the second highest grossing sport in the country, is often an afterthought in the SEC unless your Kentucky, Florida, or Tennessee and sometimes Vanderbilt. The SEC West is woefully embarrassing. WVU would immediately bring in a top quality program coached by Bob Huggins who immediately fits the persona of an SEC personality. The Mountaineers have won the Big East tournament once since 1991, made the NCAA tournament eight times, advanced to the round of 32 six times, been to the Sweet 16 five times, the Elite Eight twice, and the Final Four once They’re on par with the Kentucky’s, Florida’s, and Tennessee’s in basketball.

They Possess A Rabid Fan Base

Every person even remotely knowledgeable about college football knows how fanatical SEC fans are about football. The tailgating at 5am for a 7pm kickoff shouting “Geaux Tigers”, “Roll Tide”, “War Eagle”, “Pig Sooey”, and whatever South Carolina does at opposing fan bases. SEC fans travel in droves to away games in SEC stadiums. Know who else does that? West Virginia fans. So what if the SEC will have two teams that wear dead raccoons on their head? Mountaineer fans are so crazed they burn couches to celebrate victories. They shout profanity at basketball games (like at LSU fans do in Coon’s Corner at baseball games) so loud it can be heard on national television (no one said they’re the classiest) and they wear some of the classiest shirts in all of college sports. Who does this sound like? Bingo. S-E-C!

WVU Fits In Culturally

Ever seen Morgantown on a game day? The place is deserted just like Auburn, Oxford, Starkville, Athens, and to an extent Baton Rouge, Gainesville, and Knoxville. WVU athletics are ingrained into children from an early age which is exactly something SEC fans do. Their mascot is a Mountaineer who fires a musket whenever WVU scores a touchdown. That’s badass and much cooler than cheerleaders doing push-ups after every touchdown. Also, look at a WVU dining guide and one of the first options is a Chic-Fil-A. Yeah, they would fit into the culture of the SEC perfectly.

West Virginia Fits Geographically

Last time I looked at a map West Virginia touched an SEC state. Let me check again. Yep, it still touches Kentucky. West Virginia expands the conference’s footprint while maintaining the geographic alignment which means easy rivalries with Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt.

Alignment Is All About Money

The reason for conference realignment is to increase the amount of money each conference gets in television revenue. One of the ways that’s done is by increasing the amount of marquee conferencere games. West Virginia, a national brand, will do that. The gentleman’s agreement between SEC schools about not inviting schools already represented by a school in the SEC remains in tact. [Quick aside: I’ve gone on record stating the only school the SEC would invite that would violate that agreement is Florida State, who is still not out of the question]. The Mountaineers are a team that would help create more top match-ups. Why else would College Game Day be going to Morgantown for the first time when No. 3 LSU comes to town? West Virginia vs Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida are big games that would receive national attention.

Academics Not As Bad As Advertised

One of the major points detractors bring up for not allowing WVU into the SEC is academics. The problem with that is West Virginia is pumping money into academics and research to better their overall academic standing. They’re looking to improve student retention rate and have had 25 students receive Rhodes Scholarships to study at the elite Oxford University in England. The university also possesses top not forensics, business and economics, and law schools. Although they rank 164th in US News academic rankings, that’s only four spots behind SEC considerate Texas Tech and only seven spots behind current SEC member Mississippi State. While their academic ranking is not impressive, the WVU administration is being proactive in its approach to enhance the academic reputation of the university which is a big plus.

Is West Virginia at the top of the SEC’s expansion list? Probably not but they ARE on the list. A high ranking SEC official has said that “every option is on the table right now” concerning conference realignment. At the top of that list? It’s likely Florida State, the only ACC school that formed a committee to explore the university’s options concerning realignment. Next is likely Missouri and then West Virginia. With Virginia Tech unlikely to leave the ACC because of political pressure to keep the Hokies and UVA together, it leaves the SEC with limited possibilities moving to 14 or 16 teams.

The positives that West Virginia provide are sure to have them on the invite list to the superconference party.

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Is Houston Nutt On The Hot Seat?

by Jordan Grove

First it was Jacksonville State. Now it’s Vanderbilt.

In the opening game of the 2010 season, the Rebels (Black Bears?) were shocked by the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State in double overtime 49-48. It was a stunner. It dominated headlines. And it was a premonition of things to come for Ole Miss.

Now Vanderbilt, a perennial bottom feeder in the SEC, has put another blemish onto the once proud Ole Miss football record.

There are high hopes for new Commodores coach James Franklin but having his team only three more wins away from earning a bowl bid in his first season? That’s foolishness. Or is it?

Vanderbilt still has an offensively inept Kentucky team left on the schedule as well Army, Wake Forest, and Tennessee. They only need to win three out of the four which seems doable.

Even if they fail to make a bowl game, James Franklin has made history by being the first new Commordores coach since World War II to start 3-0.

But for Saturday’s game against Houston Nutt and the Rebels it was an embarrassment. Zach Stoudt, who was anything but what his last name would indicate, imitated LSU QB Jarrett Lee from 2008 by throwing five (yes, FIVE) interceptions complete with one being a pick-six.

It was Vanderbilt’s third pick six of the year. Yes, you read that correctly. It was Vanderbilt’s THIRD pick six of the year.

Ole Miss rushed for a measly 2.7 yards per rush – a far cry from the dynamic rushing attack Houston Nutt employed at Arkansas with Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Peyton Hillis.

The Rebels finished with 85 total rushing yards. Vanderbilt? 281 yards on the ground.

They were also 4-14 on third downs, had many drive killing penalties, and looked sloppy, disorganized, and completely inept. If it wasn’t for a touchdown in the final three minutes of the game, Vandy would have recorded their first SEC shutout since 1968.

If a reel of just Ole Miss’ offensive series were played it would have Benny Hill music as the soundtrack. They were that bad.

Houston Nutt, when at Arkansas, was known as a good coach that never could live up to the lofty billing of his team. The Hogs were always better as underdogs. It’s when Nutt’s back is to the wall that he coaches best and he will need to do just that to save his job.

He was brought to Ole Miss just hours after being fired by Arkansas with hopes of helping to restore the Rebels to their former glory. In his first two seasons he helped do just that.

In 2008 he went 9-4 (5-3 in conference play) and earned a trip to the Cotton Bowl where he defeated Texas Tech. He did the same thing again in 2009. 9-4 (4-4 in conference) with another trip to the Cotton Bowl where he beat Oklahoma State.

All the success Nutt had in his first two years, though, can be attributed to him having players that were recruited by Ed Oregeron.

In his third year, Nutt finished 4-8, 1-7 in the SEC with that one win coming against Kentucky. The other three wins? Tulane, Fresno State, and UL-Lafayette.

This year looks to be another long one for Mississippi fans as there could potentially be only two more wins for Nutt’s team: at Fresno State and home against Louisiana Tech. Ole Miss still has to play Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, and rival Mississippi State.

What makes last season and this season (so far) so disheartening, frustrating, aggravating, and annoying for Mississippi fans is that across the state Dan Mullen, Mississippi State’s head coach, is one of the hottest commodities in college football. While his team has started 0-2 in SEC play, they have been competitive in every game.

Mullen’s offenses are exciting to watch, he’s lively and animated on the sideline, players love playing for him, and he has yet to suffer an embarrassing loss.

With each win that Mullen has, even for every competitive loss that State has, Nutt’s seat gets hotter. He has to prove he can get Ole Miss football back to the heights that it once was.

Mississippi has been patient with Nutt. After just one 4-7 season David Cutcliffe was fired as their head coach and that was after a 10-3 year with a Cotton Bowl win

Nutt’s buyout for this year is a lofty $5 million which makes it unlikely that the Ole Miss administrators will get rid of him. Next year (January 2012), though, his buyout decreases to $4 million, however, if it’s Nutt’s decision to leave then the contract calls for a stairstep buyout of $900,000 until December 31st, 2011 but decreases to $700,000 on January 1st, 2012.

How cheap Ole Miss is will determine how long they will retain Nutt. The problem if they get rid of him, though, is who they could get to replace him?

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Pitt and Syracuse Set To Join The ACC

by Jordan Grove

The Friday night game between Boise State and Toledo had not even come to an end before word was spreading about the ACC being in discussions with Syracuse and Pitt about joining the conference.

The courtship between the Atlantic Coast Conference and the two universities has been swift and without subtleties. Early Saturday morning Brett McMurphy of CBSsports.com reported that both Pitt and Syracuse Pitt and Syracuse have sent the ACC letters of application.

Not only is John Swofford, the ACC commissioner, being proactive in the current college football conference realignment shift, but he is also protecting his conference from being poached by the likes of the SEC and Big Ten. Last week, ACC presidents, meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, voted to increase the exit fees for universities from $10-13 million to $20 million effective immediately.

The increase of exit fees would make it more difficult for universities like Florida State and Virginia Tech to depart to the SEC while possibly Big Ten considerations Boston College and Maryland would also think twice about bolting for greener pastures.

In no way does an increase in exit fees dissolve the idea that the possible poaching of those universities by the Big Ten and SEC won’t happen but the likelihood of that happening decreases.

This move by the ACC is just another move in the chess match of conference realignment with another move set for the beginning of the work week..

Monday Oklahoma and Texas have meetings scheduled to discuss conference affiliation. What those two universities decide to do will have a big impact on the college football landscape with Oklahoma possibly looking to join the Pac12 and Texas’s status up in the air.

The Longhorns could either stay and preserve the Big XII should Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (likely) leave for the Pac12, join the Pac12 with their Red River Rivalry opponent (and bring Texas Tech along), join the ACC, or become a college football independent which would require finding a conference for their non-football sports.

Needless to say, these are unprecedented times in college football and all of the moving parts likely won’t come to a halt any time soon.

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Saints Sunday Preview: Saints Offense vs. Bears Defense

by Jordan Grove

The Chicago Bears march into the SuperDome this Sunday fresh off of dismantling last year’s NFC South champion, the Atlanta Falcons. The Bears dominated the Falcons in every aspect of the game. Jay Cutler had a field day against the Falcons secondary completing 22/32 for 312 yards and 2 touchdowns. Cutler completed passes to eight different receivers running the Mike Martz designed offense as good as he’s ever had.

The problem with the Bears had was in running the ball as their offensive line struggled containing the Falcons defensive line. Chicago only had 88 yards of total rushing at the end of the game. However, no matter how few yards they gained on the ground, their offense did just enough to compliment the Bears tenacious, aggressive defense which has been just as stout as Bears defenses in the past.

The final score: 30-12. The Falcons potent offense never got into the endzone and had to settle for two Matt Spaeth field goals. The only way Atlanta saw the endzone was on a Kroy Biermann 50 yard pick-6.

Now the Bears remain in the NFC South, this time taking on the Falcons hated division rival – the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints had their own struggles on offense against the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. On only the second play from scrimmage for the Saints, Marques Colston fumbled a Drew Brees pass which set up the Packers for another touchdown ending drive to put the score at 14-0.

After that drive the Saints offense got rolling with Brees and company attacking mostly through the air since they were playing a game of catch-up but in the end they were never quite able to get over the hump.

It turned into a game that Sean Payton did not want to play. There was a disparaging difference between rushing attempts and passing attempts. Typically, Payton likes to keep it as close as possible in the ratio of pass to run, however, against Green Bay the Saints passed the ball twice as much as they ran. 49 passing to 21 rushing attempts was the end result once the clock hit 00:00.

The Saints rushing attack of Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, and Darren Sproles were moderately effective when rushing the ball with the three backs combined running for a little over 4.2 yards per carry.

Thomas, who was re-signed before the lockout, was the best out of the Saints backs rushing five times for 31 yards but routinely carrying Packers defenders for several yards before finally being drug down.

Going into Sunday’s match-up against Chicago, Brees might have one of his favorite targets in the passing game back if Lance Moore is healthy enough to return to the field. With the loss of Colston for at least four weeks with a broken collar bone, Moore could return to his 2008 form when he stepped up in place of Colston by becoming Brees’ primary receiver. In that year, Moore had 79 reception for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Moore has proven to be one of, if not, the most reliable pass-catchers on the Saints roster by seemingly catching every pass thrown his way. He’s not afraid to go over the middle and also runs some of the most precise routes out of all the receivers the Saints have.

Even if Moore is on the field, fifth year receiver veteran Robert Meachem will have to step his game up.

Meachem, a first round draft pick in the 2007 draft, has yet to live up to his draft status. In what is a contract year for the former Tennessee Volunteer, he will have to show that he can handle the load of being either the primary receiver especially if Moore isn’t ready to go for Sunday’s game.

His biggest year so far with the Saints was in 2009 when he caught 45 passes for 722 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Receivers Meachem, Moore, Devery Henderson and tight end Jimmy Graham should all get their yards against a Bears secondary that surrendered over 200 yards to the dynamic three-headed receiving monster of Atlanta (Gonzales, Jones, White).

Graham will be a big target for Brees due to the match-up problems he presents and will likely be targeted by Chicago in the passing game which would open up Devery Henderson or Adrian Arrington to be left on one-on-one coverage. Both will have to prove reliable in catching the ball which would provide the Saints with an advantage in the chess match against Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

New Orleans will have to win the battle at the line of scrimmage if they want to be in the game to keep pace with the Bears. That won’t come easy as the Bears were routinely in the backfield against Atlanta and totaled 11 QB hits, six tackles for loss, and five sacks.

The Packers were in the backfield against the Saints but not as much as the Bears were against the Falcons. Green Bay totaled six QB hits, three tackles for loss, and three sacks.

The Bears defense, led by Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher, has been one of the more consistent units in the NFL especially now with the addition of Julius Peppers. Urlacher, who should be playing even more intensely after the passing of his mother this week, was all over the field against Atlanta and finished the game with 10 tackles, one tackles for loss, one interception, and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.

This will be the first time the Saints have faced the Bears since the addition of Peppers and quarterback Jay Cutler. In all three previous meetings in the Sean Payton era New Orleans has come up short. All three meetings were played in Chicago with the Saints losing 33-25 in a regular season meeting in 2007, 39-14 in the NFC Championship Game in 2007, and most recently a 27-24 overtime loss in 2008.

For the Saints to win they must protect Drew Brees, limit turnovers, and convert on 3rd down. Chicago limited Atlanta to just 4-13 on 3rd down conversions while the Saints were effective against Green Bay by converting 9-14 on 3rd downs.

New Orleans must do what Atlanta did not and that is score touchdowns. The running game must get going and be effective and Sean Payton needs to do what he does best as a play-caller: stay unpredictable but without trying anything cute.

This game is huge for the Saints. If they lose, they will be 0-2 with both losses coming against NFC opponents. If they win then they are right in the hunt with the rest of the NFC South considering all four teams in the division lost in the opening week.

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LSU vs Mississippi State Preview

by Jordan Grove

Starkville will be rocking when the 3rd ranked LSU Tigers invade Mississippi State’s home turf in a Thursday night throwdown between two top 25 ranked teams. This is the first time in the 105 times these two teams have played that both are ranked in the top 25 heading into the game. Even during Mississippi State’s SEC reign under Jackie Sherrill and all of the great Tiger teams of the past, one or the other hasn’t been ranked heading into the series.

LSU is 68-33-3 versus Mississippi State and won last year’s meeting in Tiger Stadium 29-7.

LSU should be confident heading into the game. In the first game of the season they easily dispatched the then 3rd ranked Oregon Ducks 40-27 and cruised past the Northwestern State Demons 49-3 the following week. Mississippi State, on the other hand, declawed the Memphis Tigers in their opening game 59-14 but lost a heartbreaker on the plains of Auburn 41-34.

In last week’s game, Northwestern St wasn’t able to do much on offense or defense which blessed LSU with the ability to head to the cow pastures of Starkville in relatively good health. Mississippi State, though, were in a tough, hard-hitting game with SEC West division opponent Auburn who battered and bruised Bulldogs quarterback Chris Relf.

State’s defense was able to move the ball up and down the field and finished the game with over 530 yards of total offense with over 300 of those coming on the ground. However, their potent rushing attack will run into the immovable object as LSU leads the country in run defense by only allowing less than 46 yards per game. Mississippi State leads the SEC in over 320 yards rushing.

While Vegas seems to think this game will be close (line set at -3.5 for LSU), it should be anything but. While Mississippi State still packs a dangerous offense, their defense is weaker than it was last year. LSU’s defense, for as aggressive as it was last year, is even more lethal than the previous year’s unit and have shown just how stout they are in specifically by shutting down the frenetic, Madden-esque offense that Oregon possesses.

Popular second year head coach Dan Mullen runs an offense akin to what Oregon runs – he even went to Eugene over the summer to receive tips from Ducks head coach Chip Kelly. LSU has prepared for this type of offense before (as in ALL summer to prepare for Oregon’s offense). Chris Relf is a better runner than Ducks QB Darron Thomas but Thomas is the better passer. Relf also possesses a broader and stouter frame as is evidenced in a QB comparison: Relf is at 6’4”, 245lb while Thomas is at 6’3”, 215lbs.

Take into account how physical the game was between Auburn and Mississippi State and how many times War Eagle (or is Plainmen? Maybe Tigers?) defenders laid into Relf and he should be bruised and sore heading into Thursday’s game.

The home crowd in Starkville should provide Mississippi State a boost but LSU looks to be too strong on defense and just capable enough on offense to come out with a “W”.

This one should be close going into halftime but the second half will likely be all LSU and will continue the Thursday trend of blowouts of the previous two weeks (Wisconsin 51 UNLV 17 and Oklahoma State 37  Arizona 14).

Prediction: LSU 34 Mississippi State 17

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