This weekend provided lots of fodder for discussion given the way the Bulldogs managed to get out of Arkansas with a victory, Barrett Sallee making many Mississippi State fans angry, and other controversies surrounding college football as a whole. First, it is time to head back to Little Rock to wrap up Mississippi State vs. Arkansas.
The Good, The Band and The Ugly
The Good: How much do Mississippi State fans have to like Damian Williams right now? The true freshman has been thrown into the fire in back to back games, and he has done a fantastic job each time. With a little help from receivers, he gets Mississippi State to within one score of Alabama late in the contest. Against Arkansas he scored on a 25-yard run on the first play of overtime. Damian may never win the full-time starting position, but if he serves as the primary backup for four years, Mississippi State will be lucky to have a solid quarterback on the sidelines.
Think back to Williams's touchdown run. While what he did was impressive, one has to be impressed with the way the ENTIRE team handled that play. The offensive line did its job, and many backs and receivers made it down field and made another block. Mississippi State is a team that wants to have an identity as a running team, and that is how they can build it.
Josh Robinson showed why he should be getting many more touches each contest. LaDarius Perkins dove in for a touchdown that Bulldog fans will long remember. Other than Derrick Milton's fumble, the Mississippi State running backs showed why this part of the roster can be a real weapon. If they can do that Thursday night against Ole Miss, Mississippi State will be headed to a bowl game (probably Birmingham for the BBVA Bowl).
The Bad: Every team gets banged up late in the year, but Mississippi State has had some rough injuries down the stretch. Dak Prescott has apparently been lost until a bowl game if Dan Mullen is taken at face value. Tyler Russell has his arm in a sling, and his career in Starkville may be over. LaDarius Perkins will have a tough road ahead if he wants to play Thursday with his injured ribs. There is nothing more disappointing than seeing a senior not be able to go out on his own. Let's through a bone of sympathy to our friends at Georgia as well. It was terrible to see Aaron Murray's career end with a torn ACL.
Mississippi State took most of the first quarter to get into the game against Arkansas Saturday. That cannot happen Thursday, or the Bulldogs could be in trouble. This team has to be focused and going hard from the very first snap.
The Ugly: Ah, table for two? Right this way Mississippi State special teams. Of course, your standing reservation is ready for this section. Every time it seems that the Bulldogs' special teams cannot get worse they find a new way to do something bad. This week, ugly field goal kicking reared its ugly head again. The blocked field goal should never have been that low. It was not a very long kick, and it should have been up and over the line pretty quickly.
Mississippi State has a good history of special teams saving the day against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl (remember 1999 anyone?), and the Bulldogs may well need some special teams magic late in the game. Who has faith right now that it would happen?
SEC POWER RANKINGS
1. Alabama (1): The Crimson Tide now stand at 11-0 and only a date with Auburn and the SEC East champion separate Alabama from a date in another BCS National Championship Game. Sounds easy at first, but do not forget that those games are against BCS No. 4 Auburn and what should be another top-10, maybe top-five, team in either Missouri or South Carolina.
2: Auburn (2): Auburn has had a dream season in 2013. That dream most recently continued with the "Prayer at Jordan Hare," and a week to rest up for the Iron Bowl. Of course, it could be a nightmare Saturday if Alabama has their way. Should Auburn go on to win the SEC championship, they should jump Ohio State, even if the Buckeyes are undefeated at the end of the season. Even with a loss, their resume will be miles better than the one produced by Ohio State.
3. Missouri (3): The Tigers are another team with an outside chance of reaching the BCS Championship Game. They would have a little more leapfrogging to do than Auburn, but should this team win the SEC Championship, they also should leap over Ohio State into the BCS National Championship game. Again, it is about resumes. Ohio State will have faced two teams that have any sort of ranking status in Wisconsin and Michigan State. That pales compared to either Auburn or Missouri. Sorry Buckeye fans, Northwestern does not count.
4. South Carolina (7): The Gamecocks have been silently sitting around watching to see if Missouri can keep pace to reach the SEC championship game. It is like they went out and shot a 66 on Sunday and have to wait to see if the leader can birdie 18 to win the championship. Their matchup with Clemson this weekend should be a good one.
5. Ole Miss (5): The Rebels put up a respectable showing against Missouri, but they never threatened the Tigers. It has been a good year for the Rebels, but how much luster does this season lose if they drop the Battle for the Golden Egg on Thursday.
6. LSU (7): The Tigers have proven to be Kryptonite for Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies. This performance said a lot about the Tigers given that they do not have too much room to move up this season. They could have had a bit of a mailed in performance, but they fought through and had a big win.
7. Texas A&M (4): The Aggies suffered a disappointing loss in Baton Rouge, and now they have to travel to Columbia, Missouri, to face a team that is playing for a birth in the SEC Championship Game. Manziel will not end up winning the Heisman, but how much fun has he been to watch.
8. Vanderbilt (8): The Commodores have wins over Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia this year. Yes, it is down years for all three squads, but still, this is a huge accomplishment for Vanderbilt. They should pick up a win over Wake Forest, and will have a shot at nine wins this season. Duke may have eleven wins after all is said and done. What is going on?
9. Mississippi State (11): Mississippi State picked up an all-important win over Arkansas Saturday to keep their bowl hopes alive. Compared to everyone below them, the Bulldogs have fewer injuries or more talent.
10. Georgia (9): The Bulldogs picked up a win over Kentucky, but they lost Aaron Murray. It will be a challenge for the Bulldogs to win a game down the stretch.
11. Tennessee (10): The Volunteers will not make it to a bowl game this season, but they have a strong recruiting class committed. It may not be long until the fans in Knoxville have good reason to cheer.
12: Arkansas (13): The Razorbacks put up a strong showing against Mississippi State, but in the end, they could not find a way to seal the deal in Little Rock.
13: Florida (12): The Gators have mailed in this season. They are injured. They should not have lost in The Swamp to Georgia Southern. Does anyone know the protocol for when a Realtor should over his or her services to Will Muschamp? How soon is too soon?
14: Kentucky (14): They managed to lose to Georgia and end Aaron Murray's career.
Five Thoughts from this Weekend
1. What a wacky weekend in college football! Oregon had an uninspired performance and lost. No one seemed to want to do much to help their Heisman chances. This weekend could be epic, especially with a No. 1 vs. No. 4 Iron Bowl as the biggest national game.
2. This whole situation with Jameis Winston is very bothersome. Of course, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but some of the news coming out is not good. It seems likely is that the status of Florida State as a national championship contender has impeded the legal process. If that is the case, there are many people that need to be fired and have time to examine their priorities. Also if you are a fan cheering because this situation could benefit your team, you need to reexamine many things as well.
3. I found the reaction to Barrett Sallee's article about Dan Mullen to be interesting. Just a few weeks ago, the message boards were full of people saying Mullen was not the guy to take the next step for Mississippi State, but Mark Hudspeth could do it. Now, many people fired into Sallee. Guess it is how my co-host Joe Abston said on our show on Bulldog Sports Radio--It is one thing when MSU fans do it. It is another when it is an outsider.
4. So the AFC would have teams qualify for the playoffs that could not play in a bowl game right now.
5. I am so tired of the Brady vs. Manning junk. They are not even on the field at the same time. To me, it is cheap marketing and takes away from the game.