The 2013 Egg Bowl will be a game that both Bulldog and Rebel fans long remember. The Bulldogs, led most of the way by their third string true freshman quarterback, Damian Williams, and an amazing defensive performance, hung around long enough that Dak Prescott could pick up the win in relief as the Bulldogs gained bowl eligibility and the Golden Egg.
The Good: In a season were so much had gone bad at times for the Bulldogs, the word good seems inadequate for much of the play of Mississippi State against Ole Miss. The Mississippi State defense played beyond reproach against Ole Miss. The squad forced four turnovers (might should have been six), and they limited the Ole Miss offense to just three points.
Nickoe Whitley had maybe the greatest final play of a career for any Bulldog when he punched the ball loose from Bo Wallace just as it looked like the Rebels' quarterback was going to score. The defense knew they had to play well with Williams drawing the start, and with the season on the line, they took care of business.
Geoff Collins made a bigger name for himself Thanksgiving night, and the defense won over many fans with that performance.
Credit has to be given to Williams for his performance Thursday night as well. Making his first start, Williams played well enough to have the Bulldogs in position to win. If not for a few dropped passes and not good special teams play, he might have led Mississippi State to victory on his own. As it was, he made the hot tag to Prescott who helped seal the Bulldog win.
As far as Prescott, what else can be said? It seemed that he would be unavailable and in no condition to play as the game started. Yes, he took warmups, but he did not look like someone who would play quarterback. A few hours later, he had etched his name in Bulldog lore.
The Bad: The Bulldogs did not have much that qualified for this category. The wide receivers could have made more plays for Williams, but all in all, things either went really well for the Bulldogs or they went really bad.
The Ugly: This could be sponsored by special teams snafus. The Bulldogs nearly suffered a costly one Thursday as the only Rebel touchdown came as a result of a blocked punt. While many will complain about the missed game winning field goal, the made field goal to tie the game cannot be forgotten.
SEC POWER RANKINGS
1. Auburn (2): The Tigers did the improbable and picked up one of the craziest wins in college football history. I am not sure when we will see a more unlikely ending. Should they (or Missouri) win the SEC, they should play for the national title, but it probably will not happen.
2. Alabama (1): Sorry Missouri fans. Yes, your Tigers won the East, but they still fall behind the two powers of the west in 2013. Alabama would probably beat Auburn most of the time, but they did not make it happen in the Iron Bowl. Getting that extra second will sting for a long time for Nick Saban and company. Barring a complete shocking final weekend, the Crimson Tide dream of three in a row died Saturday, but at least it was a memorable way to go.
3. Missouri (3): The Tigers came oh-so-close to taking over the second spot here, but I cannot make much of an argument to say Missouri is better than Alabama. If the teams played, Alabama would most likely win. That said, in a world where championships matter, should the Tigers from Columbia win the SEC, they should advance to the BCS National Championship game.
4. South Carolina (4): The Gamecocks picked up a big win against Clemson to close out the regular season. They will fall just short of winning the SEC East, even though they beat the East champ.
5. LSU (7): Even though they finished the season with three losses, the Tigers victory over Auburn may be what keeps the Plainsmen from going to the BCSNCG. Should Auburn make it and win, it will be yet another year that Les Miles and company beat the team that went on to win the national championship.
6. Texas A&M (7): Even though the Aggies lost, they move up in the rankings thanks to the loss by Ole Miss. The Aggies will look back and wonder what could have been if they could have played defense.
7. Mississippi State (9): The Bulldogs made the big jump after their victory over Ole Miss. The Mississippi State team that played that last for weeks of the season, especially on defense, does not look like the same team from most of the season. Given the way the team has played as of late, they could give several foes all they would want in a matchup.
8. Vanderbilt (8): The Commodores have had a good week. Winning eight games at Vanderbilt and going bowling yet again is quite the accomplishment, and not having yet lost James Franklin is even better for the crew from Nashville.
9 Ole Miss (5): The Rebels took the nosedive of the weekend. With a win, Ole Miss could have claimed a bit of superiority over their Magnolia State rivals on the gridiron, but instead, they will now have to recapture the magic of one year ago.
10. Georgia (10): The Bulldogs scored a big come from behind win to kick off the post-Aaron Murray era in Athens. While seven wins would make many teams happy, it has to feel like an albatross around the necks of the Bulldogs who expected much much more in 2013.
11. Tennessee (11): The Volunteers may have been the best of the non-bowling teams in the SEC, but Butch Jones will have to focus on doing more next year. Right now, there looks to be a solid recruiting class headed to Knoxville, so 2014 might be where the ship starts to correct course for Tennessee.
12: Florida (12): The Gators closed out their season in embarrassing fashion, losing to Georgia Southern at home and then losing to their rivals. Will Muschamp will have to find away to get the momentum going the right way in Gainesville, or he may be the one going in 2014.
13: Arkansas (13): #karma
14: Kentucky (14): There is long way to go in Lexington, but as teams like Auburn proved, turn around can happen quickly.
Five Weekend Thoughts:
1. When was the last time a rivalry weekend had the excitement of this weekend? The Egg Bowl looked like it might the most exciting finish of the week after it ended. However things kept getting wilder until the Iron Bowl got drunk and ended like it did.
2. Speaking of that Iron Bowl, how many folks will claim to have been at that game that were not there. I suspect it will become a bit like Mississippi State and Alabama in 1980.
3. I am glad I am not the folks in the SEC front office this year when making the final bowl game picks. Yes, bowl games are exhibitions about "rewarding teams" and making money. That said, something feels right about merit being involved in picks, but everyone knows it is not the driving factor. The situation with the final three bowls with Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State is a mess. The Bulldogs beat Ole Miss, and the Rebels beat the Commodores. The Bulldogs deserve a better game than Ole Miss, but they will most likely not get that because the SEC will have a hard time justifying Mississippi State jumping Vanderbilt. The problem comes up that Vanderbilt should be in the Gator or Music City, but Georgia will probably end up in Jacksonville, and Nashville does not really want the Commodores.
If for some reason the Gator Bowl snags Vanderbilt, all can be made right with Georgia to the Music City, Mississippi State to the Liberty and Ole MIss back to Birmingham. It probably will not happen, but people can hope.
4. The thought of Ohio State playing for the national title over a one-loss Auburn or Missouri is repulsive.
5. Games to watch this week: Potential Bulldog foes: UCF @ SMU, USF @ Rutgers, Marshall @ Rice. Of course, watching the championship games is important also.