Oxford and Auburn are kind of sleepy little towns, but they have quaint areas and unique restaurants. Starkville has, well, err, mmmm.. the best thing is a roadway sign saying "Now leaving Starkville".
Now if you are a native of this little hamlet or a Mississippi State grad who I have offended I offer my deepest apologies. Not for what I wrote… for you being a native of Starkville or an MSU grad… for that, I'm truly sorry.
Oh lighten up, I'm just having a little fun. Truth be told I've had some good times in Starkville, including being there for the last Gator football win in 1983 (Dwayne Dixon had a big game) and being there to call Florida's win in the 1988 SEC baseball tournament. I also had my shoes ruined by a quart of drool after the 2000 Bulldogs upset win. The drool didn't come from the Bulldogs' mascot, but a topless fan with a maroon "S" on his chest.
SYLVESTER CROOM MAKING HISTORY
One of the pathetic realities of life in the SEC for more than half a century is that black coaches making advancement is simply not going to happen. Thus, State's hiring of Sylvester Croom as the conference's first black head football coach is one of the most significant things to happen to this league.
In many ways it is in the best interests of everyone in the SEC if Croom is successful in this new role. Like Jackie Robinson proved blacks could excel in the majors, like Doug Williams helped dispel the myth of black quarterback, Croom has the opportunity to not only blaze a trail for Mississippi State but for aspiring black coaches all over.
He seems to be the right man for the job. He makes a good impression as a no-nonsense man of character and integrity. His coaching resume' is outstanding, and his insistence on doing things the right way with no gimmicks and no short cuts should serve him well. The only problem is, he just doesn't have many players.
BULLDOGS PROBLEMS ABOUND
Mississippi State is not 1-and-5 due to bad luck. It's due to bad players. Their three SEC games have been lost by an average score 42-9. Their closest game was a 31-13 setback to Vanderbilt. They are last or next-to-last in the SEC is almost every important statistical category. Except for pass interceptions that is --- they lead the SEC --- in THROWING them.
Offensively they get their young QB Omar Conner back, but he does not have much experience and had been intercepted four times in just 50 throws. Their best talent on offense is tailback Jerious Norwood who ran for 201 yards last week against a pretty good U-A-B team. The strength of their offensive line is the right side, so I would look for them to come out trying to pound it on the ground and hope something breaks.
Defensively, State is a lot like the Middle Tennessee team Florida just beat in that their strength is the defensive line. Croom is promoting his young LBs and will play them to get some speed on the field, and that has to help some. Opponents are running for almost 190 yards a game so it might be a chance for both Fason and Wynn to challenge the 100-yard mark.
This one should be easy and let the Gators work out a few kinks before the Georgia game. Beating the 'Dawgs has been almost a season-saver type win the past two years. This year, it could well be that and more.
ROOTING AGAINST VOLS LIKELY FUTILE
Too many of my media cohorts keep putting out there the idea that an Alabama win over Tennessee puts Florida right back in control of their destiny in the SEC East race. WRONG! The Gators chances come down to Florida winning out and Tennessee losing TWICE. If you accept the reality that Kentucky and Vanderbilt have virtually no chance of knocking off the Vols, then the Gators need both Alabama and South Carolina to beat the boys from Rocky Top. Don't mean to spoil your weekend, but the truth is what it is.
PAINFUL SALUTE TO THE SAWX
I'm a lifelong New York Yankees fan. Not a fan who noticed eight years ago the Yankees had it all, but one who road the "L" to 161st Street and River avenue in the mid-60's when the Yankees were one of baseball's worst franchises. The first ballplayer I ever booed was Carl Yastrzemski… at least until my dad told me to shut up.
That's what made it sooo painful to see the Red Sox make baseball history by winning four straight to take the ALCS after falling behind three games to none. I know Jeremy Foley is loving it… but they can't reverse the curse until they win it all.
FROM THE E-MAIL BAG
Frank writes, "can you please go over the live ball rule on the kickoff"
On a "free kick" (kickoff, kick after safety) the ball is declared dead once it hits the ground in the end zone untouched. This differs from a scrimmage kick (ie: punt) where the ball becomes part of the end zone when it breaks the plane of the goal line but remains "in play".
This is why no return man should field a kick in the end zone unless he intends to return it. He should just let it hit and get the instant touchback. That eliminates the risk of muffing the kick and creating a live ball scramble in the end zone, or having the kick ricochet off the return man and into the field of play.
Keep those emails coming!
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Have a great week.