The School Up North.
The first time I heard/read Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen refer to The University of Mississippi that way, I have to admit I laughed.
Come to think of it, I'm still laughing.
Citing former Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes, who would not say the word Michigan, as his inspiration, Mullen introduced that gesture as some sort of motivation for his team when he took over that downtrodden program nearly a year ago.
It's gotten him a lot of attention - the press eats stuff like that up - but does that type of silliness really make a hill of beans when the opening kickoff is in the air?
I guess we'll see this morning, but I believe ploys like that - attempts to motivate your own by not-so-subtly disrespecting your opponent - can be a double-edged sword, one that cuts deep.
Who is to say that won't motivate the Rebels as much as it does his own team?
He could be playing with fire, but it's always been said desperate people do desperate things.
It's fully understandable Mullen wanted to hit the ground running and wanted to make a splash to MSU's faithful followers, but I could think of more innovative ways to jump start my program than that.
For sure, they needed some hope coming from somewhere after what they had suffered through during the Sylvester Croom years and the skull-dragging Ole Miss gave them in Oxford last November to end that ill-fated era.
A little brashness, especially coming from where he had been, Florida, where winning is almost taken for granted, was expected and probably needed, but some restraint might have served him a little better considering the results of the season thus far.
Putting up a countdown clock, another Mullenism, to a rivalry game makes sense if you are Ohio State doing that with Michigan because the Buckeyes know how to win, but it sure seems like introducing that to a team that doesn't know the taste of victory is putting the cart before the horse and not sending the message a new program needs to build on. Putting all your eggs in one basket is a hoped-for quick fix and nothing more.
In Mississippi State's case, to me, the better course of action might have been putting up a weekly countdown clock for every opponent, showing the Bulldog players that every game is important, that every game matters just as much as the last one of the season, that winning is what they want to be about, not some form of one-game, let's-salvage-the-season, superficial vengeance.
It's almost like he is saying win the last one and everything will be magically delicious, like a cereal commercial playing to the emotions of four-year-olds.
And if the TSUN nonsense and the countdown clock antics aren't enough, Mullen and his AD have encouraged their fans to break the SEC rule of not using artificial noisemakers.
A Note to Greg Byrne: You are a member of the Southeastern Conference. It is your duty to abide by the rules of the SEC, whether you like the rules or not. At least publicly act like an upstanding member of your conference instead of someone running for class president. It is your charge to make sure your athletics programs are doing things the "right" way and I would assume you'd want to show some class along the way.
You seem to be a bright, aggressive guy with youthful exuberance. Why stoop to that level? What benefits will that give you in the long run? What message are you sending besides sucking up to your fans? Being an AD is not a popularity contest.
OK, I'm done giving advice. They didn't ask for it and it's really none of my business, as a diehard Rebel.
They can run their ship any way they want to, but don't be surprised if the disrespect to Ole Miss, the overboard manipulations of their players and some choice comments leading up the 2009 Egg Bowl don't come back to haunt them.
The Rebels certainly respect the Bulldogs, as LG Reid Neely explained after Tuesday's practice when he said, "Everyone in the SEC is good, some just win more than others. We know this will be another great SEC battle."
It says here that's the prudent route to take leading up to a rivalry game. Let your playing do your talking and pregame posturing is worth little.
And, Dan, a little geography lesson.
Ole Miss is actually The School Up Northwest.
How do I see this Egg Bowl playing out? If I could predict Egg Bowls, I would have been rich long ago.
My expectations are for an old-fashioned cage match. Bar the doors and throw away the keys.
Despite his poor maneuvering in some areas, Mullen and his staff have improved the Bulldogs - even though the record does not reflect it that much - and in every game I have seen, they have played hard. That is a very big part of the battle of building and developing a program.
The Bulldogs will have revenge and the homefield advantage on their side. The Rebels will have being better, in terms of records, than them on their side.
The School Up Northwest and The School Down Southeast will be ready for each other.
That's what rivalry games are all about, not silly sidebars.
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