When Mississippi State hosts Alabama this weekend, it will be the umpteenth time in recent years that ranked SEC West teams face off. With teams in the same division, familiarity grows over the years. And with teams ranked so highly, the margins between victory and defeat grow slimmer by the game.
Any advantage a team has, however minimal, can decide who runs off the field in triumph and who waddles off in disappointment. Games like these often come down to individual matchups, battles between one star and another, the winner of that fight often claiming victory for his own team.
For example, MSU receiver De’Runnya Wilson can beat nearly any cornerback in the country when left 1-on-1, as we have seen. Tide defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson weighs more than two Brandon Holloways (MSU’s junior running back) and still managed to hop over an LSU offensive lineman without even having a running start last weekend.
Both are impressive players, that much is sure, but to really be certain, to truly figure out who has the advantage on Saturday, we’ve broken down the battles that really matter.
The Matchup: Cowbells vs. Houndstooth
Two of the most well-known accessories in college football, this may be the biggest battle of the game. Cowbells, of course, come from the legend of a cow wandering onto Scott Field while MSU hosted Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl decades ago. The Bulldogs went on to win the game after the cow was contained on the sideline and, for some time, students brought cows to games as a good luck charm. Eventually, an entire cow was too troublesome and they just brought the bells instead, a tradition continuing today.
Houndstooth, it turns out, has a tradition dating much farther back than MSU’s clanging bells. However, its origin does not come from sports. In fact, it’s the complete opposite of battles such as the one happening Saturday. As historical research (AKA, a quick Google search) tells us, houndstooth originated in Scotland when quarreling clans were at each other’s throats. In times of war and strife, houndstooth was worn as a sign that one didn’t want to fight and considered him-or-herself neutral.
Houndstooth looks nice, sure, but I’ll take the symbol of victory.
Score: MSU 1, Bama 0
The Matchup: Edam Cheese vs. Dreamland Barbecue
If cowbells are MSU’s most famous object, then Edam cheese is the university’s most famous food, and really, it’s most famous product of any kind. And, like the bells, it’s another cow-related tradition, wouldn’t you know it? Back in 1938, when much of the school’s focus was on agriculture, an MSU professor used milk from the school’s herd of cattle to make this savory and mellow cheese, wrapping it red wax balls and eventually selling it to the public. Today, Edam is the best seller in MSU’s MAFES store featuring a variety of cheeses, dairy and assorted campus-grown products.
20 years on the dot after MSU starting making cheese, Alabama hired Bear Bryant as their football coach. In the same year, John “Big Daddy” Bishop opened the very first Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, the start of a legendary barbecue joint. In a part of the country known for its ribs, sauces, sides and service, Dreamland paved the way.
In fact, Dreamland has been so successful that you can even get it at MSU games, where vendors are set up selling Dreamland’s pork products. Tastes good, too.
You sure can’t get Edam cheese at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Matter of fact, you can’t even get it at Davis Wade Stadium. You have to go down the street to the MAFES store to purchase Edam, and you can’t even do that right now. This close to Christmas, Edam cheese has been sold out for weeks.
I love Dreamland, and I recommend the BBQ nachos at baseball games, but there’s a reason kings and queens always decorated themselves with jewels: rarity is value and demand far outweighed supply. In this instance, the big cheese takes the bejeweled crown.
Winner: Edam Cheese
Score: MSU 2, Bama 0
The Matchup: Hail State vs. Roll Tide
How Alabama got the nickname “Crimson Tide” is a straightforward story. In 1907, a reporter referred to the mud-covered Bama players as a collective crimson tide against their rival Auburn. The name stuck and here we are, but the question of when fans began saying “Roll Tide” is a bit more mysterious. In this International Business Times article asking if Roll Tide is “the most annoying slogan ever,” it says the phrase was eventually coined as a way to describe the team taking the field, as if the tide was rolling in. There are several suggestions across the internet, but that seems to be the best and most accurate one.
Hail State is a fairly easy thing to find the origin of. MSU’s fight song was written in 1939 by Meridian music store owner Joseph B. Peavey as part of a contest to come up with a school song. Peavey, whose son Hartley went on to found Peavey Electronics, named the song Hail State, with the opening line, “Hail dear old State.”
Hail State was always one of the rallying cries for MSU sports, but over the last five years it has gone from shouted praise to a means of greeting, cheering and even identification.
Therein seems to lie the answer to this particular matchup. Roll Tide is very popular, as well as unique, sort of like “Gig ‘Em” for Texas A&M or “Woo pig sooie” for Arkansas. Like those, Hail State is different in that it’s not just a basic “Go Team Name or Mascot.” What sets Hail State even more apart, however, is how much it has become a part of the way those around the country refer to the school. Daily, writers, anchors and the like can be seen and heard to refer to the Bulldogs not as MSU, but as Hail State (often with a hashtag).
Hail State has transcended the typical standard of a cheer and become a moniker in itself.
Winner: Hail State
Score: MSU 3, Bama 0
Final: Mississippi State beats Alabama in a clean sweep. This is clearly a very serious and very accurate summation of who will win the football contest on Saturday.