For the first time in maybe forever, one can make a very convincing argument that the state of Mississippi is the epicenter of the college football world.
Last Saturday, the Mississippi State Bulldogs dismantled sixth-ranked Texas A&M 48-31 to move to 5-0 on the season. Following that win, MSU is now ranked third in the AP Top 25.
Just hours later, Mississippi knocked off then-third-ranked Alabama 23-17. Ole Miss is also 5-0 and co-ranked with MSU.
The two SEC schools in “The Magnolia State” have earned their places in the spotlight, but one college football expert is asking why some of that respect hasn’t traveled to the Pac-12.
“How come nobody’s talking about the state of Arizona,” ESPN’s Mark May asked while talking to Burns and Gambo Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Both teams go on the road, unranked, play ranked teams and beat ranked teams. No love for the state of Arizona.”
Arizona traveled to Eugene and knocked off then-second-ranked Oregon 31-24 last Thursday night. Then, Arizona State shocked then-16th-ranked USC 38-34 on Hail Mary pass with no time left on the clock Saturday night. Both teams jumped back into the AP rankings, with the Sun Devils landing at number 20 and Arizona propelling all the way to number 10.
“Boy, (ASU) did a great job defensively, stopping the run — at least they held (USC) to under 600 yards of total offense — but they came up with a Hail Mary at the end,” May said. “It was exciting football. Mike Bercovici, the kid’s got a cannon. We knew that when he played against UCLA, but he’s not as good of a runner as Taylor Kelly, but he’s got a tremendous arm.”
Then May’s attention turned south to Arizona.
“(Rich Rodriguez) is a game planner because he beat (Oregon) last year in his own backyard,” May said. “He knows how to play (against) the spread, obviously he was one of the first guys that started it so he knows how to defend it. They didn’t defend it that well, but all they try to do is get enough stops in a game.”
May, while impressed with ASU’s road win in Los Angeles, still thinks the Sun Devils need to mature defensively before they can be considered real players in the Pac-12 South.
“I don’t know if they can continue to win shootouts and give up as many yards as they have,” he said. “I don’t know if they can be consistent doing that. If they can, more power to them. But I just don’t think in the long haul, until they get defensively strong and sound, they’re going to lose more games this year.”
The Wildcats, on the other hand, can win in that style according to May.
“They can get in shootouts,” he said. “They know that they’ve got an offense where they can run and they can throw and they can do it on anybody. But the key is, they need to get enough defensive stops in every game.”
ASU has this weekend off while Arizona hosts USC in Tucson Saturday night.