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Opinion: State of Mississippi dictating college football landscape

Junior wide receiver Cody Core (88) celebrates his touchdown reception against Boise State with sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell during a game in Atlanta on Aug. 28. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Junior wide receiver Cody Core (88) celebrates his touchdown reception against Boise State with sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell during a game in Atlanta on Aug. 28.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

With all due respect to Buckeye nation, college football lives in the Magnolia State in 2014.

The newest Associated Press Top 25 Poll shows that the state of Mississippi holds all the cards in the first-ever College Football Playoff. The Mississippi State Bulldogs remain No. 1 in the poll after making a meteoric rise to the top. The Bulldogs became the first team in the AP Poll’s history to go from unranked to No. 1 in five weeks.

Their rivals from Oxford, Miss., are the only team that can match Mississippi State’s impressive résumé, consisting of wins against three top-10 opponents.

Ole Miss stands at No. 3 in the country after impressively beating down Tennessee to improve to 7-0. The Rebels forced four turnovers and scored 34 unanswered points after falling behind, 3-0, early.

The Bulldogs and Rebels are both spearheaded by their tremendous defenses, which allow their offenses to control the game and not get too greedy. The two quarterbacks leading Mississippi’s powerhouse teams might not have been household names before, but they’re making headlines quickly.

Mississippi State’s redshirt-junior quarterback Dak Prescott has made huge strides under coach Dan Mullen’s guidance. Mullen was offensive coordinator at Florida — under now-OSU coach Urban Meyer — when Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy in 2007. Prescott has completed 61.5 percent of his passes through six games this season, and has thrown for 14 touchdowns versus just four interceptions.

The #DakAttack campaign is coming on strong in Starkville, Miss., and you might see Prescott in New York later this year for the Heisman ceremony if he continues his rapid pace against top-notch Southeastern Conference competition.

Ole Miss’s signal caller has been arguably just as good, if not better. Redshirt-senior quarterback Bo Wallace struggled early in the season, throwing three interceptions against Boise State to start the year.

There was some reason to be concerned, but since going 18-of-31 for 251 yards and three touchdowns against Alabama on Oct. 4, Wallace has blossomed. He hasn’t turned the ball over in three consecutive games and he’s done a great job of using his plethora of offensive weapons.

The best part about the Mississippi dominance is the freshness of new blood in the national championship picture. We’re no longer stuck with the same evil empire that is Nick Saban’s Alabama program.

Major college football programs like Michigan and Texas have struggled mightily this season despite enormous revenue streams and — in Texas’ case — its own television network.

Ole Miss and its coach Hugh Freeze have built the program up from the bottom with nothing but passion for the game. Freeze’s 2013 recruiting class surprised many in college football circles. He picked up five-star defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and five-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to lead the nation’s No. 4 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.

It’s what the Rebels’ coaching staff has done with the talent that is most impressive. Ole Miss leads the country in scoring defense, allowing just 10.6 points per game.

The “Land Shark” defense Ole Miss fields has put it on a crash course with Mississippi State’s top-10 scoring offense.

If both teams can continue their pace, the final game of the season in Oxford, Miss., will be a meeting of tiny giants. It’ll be two programs with a big passion for football but a small amount of recent success.

No one thought The Egg Bowl would be the game of the year at the start of the season, but whoever wins will likely have a chance to play for a national title in January. The state of Mississippi is going to dictate the college football landscape whether you like it or not.

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