The Kentucky-Mississippi State rivalry needs more rivalry
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The Kentucky-Mississippi State rivalry needs more rivalry

Mrs. Tyler Thompsonabout 3 years

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Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky’s playing Mississippi State on Saturday and while it’s a huge game, it brings up a feeling I have every time the Cats face the Bulldogs: no matter what the SEC says, it just doesn’t feel like a real rivalry.

Based on a Twitter poll I did yesterday, 86 percent of you agree:

Back when the SEC expanded in 1992, the league was split into two divisions, East and West. Cross-divisional “rivalries” were created and, for some reason, Kentucky and Mississippi State were paired. The two programs had only played each other 19 times before, but hey, why not. The decision stuck in 2014 when the SEC decided to keep cross-divisional rivalries part of the eight-game conference schedule and, for the most part, the Kentucky/Mississippi State rivalry has fallen flat.

I’ve spent entirely too much time thinking about this, so here’s my guess as to why.

They’re too far away

How do you get hyped up to hate a school 500 miles away? It’s easy to hate Louisville and Tennessee because they’re close; interacting with them on a regular basis breeds animosity. There isn’t a ton of history between the two programs, so you can’t pull from that like you would a program like Duke. I realize Lexington being so far north made finding Kentucky an SEC West rival difficult, but putting us with Mississippi State feels like an afterthought for both sides.

They’ve kind of owned us

Right now, Mississippi State leads the all-time series 23-22, which sounds pretty even, but the Bulldogs have won eight of the past nine. Thanks to Austin MacGinnis, Dan Mullen didn’t go undefeated vs. Kentucky during his time at Mississippi State, but it’s a little hard to get revved up for a series that’s been so lopsided.

Starkville is so bad it’s sad

Benny Snell and Kylin Hill are doing their part to make this rivalry legit with their trash talk, and after sharing that story on Twitter, I was surprised to see some Mississippi State fans come after me for it.

Based on their hostility, maybe I’m wrong; maybe this is a rivalry. Or maybe Mississippi State fans are just scared, which is actually kind of flattering.

Regardless, this brings me to another point: it’s easy to make fun of Mississippi State fans because they live in Starkville, but then you feel bad for them because they live in Starkville. I’ve been there and really tried to have an open mind, but there’s a reason everyone calls it the worst town in the SEC. It just is.

The Cowbells are annoying, but effective

If this was just the Kentucky vs. Cowbells rivalry, I’d be all for it. Those things are annoying as all get out, and it’s lame that the SEC lets Mississippi State fans have them. But you can’t deny the Clanga Clanga is effective. It’s like listening to ten thousand buckets of silverware being dropped at once on loop.

Thankfully, we won’t have to deal with cowbells on Saturday because the SEC only allows them at Davis Wade Stadium. If you see one, feel free to confiscate it.

Their mascot is a dog

If you know me, you know I love dogs, and Mississippi State’s is pretty adorable. But, in terms of cuteness, he’s only second best bulldog in the SEC when you compare him to Georgia’s. If he were a human, that’d be a pretty rough beat; thankfully, because he’s a dog, he has no idea and is super happy all of the time.

It’s impossible to hate on that. Adorable. Now, the costumed mascot? That’s a different story:

That is a teddy bear, not a dog.

Sylvester Croom’s mustache was magnificent

Croom’s five-year tenure in Starkville included some of the best games of the series, including Mississippi State’s upset of the 14th ranked Cats in 2007 and Kentucky’s 14-13 revenge win in Starkville the season after. Croom, the SEC’s first African American head coach, resigned after Mississippi State finished the season 4-8, but you can’t deny his mustache was fantastic:

After being a running backs coach with the St. Louis Rams, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Tennessee Titans, Croom is now retired.

Stingray Steve has disappeared

Remember Stingray, the lovable Mississippi State fan whose kooky YouTube videos went viral? Stingray was great and even made an appearance on Hey Kentucky! in 2016, but has disappeared from the internet. His Twitter account is suspended and he hasn’t uploaded a YouTube video in 10 months. What happened?!

If you’re out there reading this, Stingray, come back. The rivalry needs you.

Let’s make this rivalry a rivalry

Not only would beating a top 15 team be huge for the program, it would add a little spice to this so-called rivalry. Benny and Kylin have done their part. So have Kentucky Joe and Starkville’s Strange Brew Coffeehouse:

So let’s take a page from their book. You’re going down, Dogs. And your costumed mascot sucks.

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2021-12-02