Bowling destinations for the Big Three up in the air

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 12, 2009

When people think of bowling, they think of embroidered name patches, middle-aged men, smelly rented shoes, the foul odor of stale beer and staler cigarettes and the endless cacophony of pins being knocked down.

Whoa, not that kind of bowling.

The Big Three of Southern Miss, Ole Miss and Mississippi State started this season with strong hopes of a bowl berth. And more.

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Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached by email, or at 601-636-4545, extension 142.

Ole Miss even made the cover of Sports Illustrated and was the chic pick to go to Atlanta, take home an SEC title and go to a BCS bowl. Southern Miss was bound for the C-USA Championship Game with the conference’s best wide receiver and running back and a veteran quarterback calling the shots. Mississippi State harbored postseason dreams with the league’s most underrated running back, Anthony Dixon, despite a non-conference schedule tougher than a piece of 100-year-old preserved hard tack.

All of those dreams are now derailed. But not quite. With 34 bowls now crowding the landscape, there are plenty of possibilities.

Ole Miss (6-3) found out without wideout Mike Wallace (now making plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers) running under his rainbow passes and without Michael Oher protecting his blindside (now the subject of a Hollywood movie), Jevan Snead really wasn’t that great a quarterback. He was no more a Heisman Trophy candidate than Ray Finkle or any of the infamous Booty quarterbacking brothers of Shreveport.

Southern Miss (5-4) never had DeAndre Brown at 100 percent and then lost signal caller Austin Davis with a broken foot, forcing Martevious Young to take over the Golden Eagles’ spread offense. So despite pushing Houston to the limit, the Golden Eagles are out of the running for a Liberty Bowl berth and will likely have to settle.

Mississippi State (4-5) has weathered a tough schedule, but the fourth quarter woes have smacked the Bulldogs hard in losses to LSU and Florida.

All that said, all three have a solid chance to go to a bowl game. Here’s where they are likely headed:

Mississippi State needs to win two out of its last three games. That three-game stretch starts with second-ranked Alabama, Arkansas and archrival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Ouch. If they can beat Ole Miss and Arkansas, the Bulldogs would likely be bowling in Birmingham, Ala., at the Bowl or in Shreveport at the Independence Bowl. So Bulldog fans, don’t pack your bags quite yet.

Southern Miss has got a winnable game at Marshall, a tough matchup against Tulsa and a game at East Carolina. Win all three of those and the Golden Eagles could go as high as the Armed Forces Bowl and as low as the St. Petersburg Bowl in Florida. A return trip to the New Orleans Bowl is the most likely destination.

Ole Miss has red-hot Tennessee, LSU and State still remaining on the schedule. To even become bowl eligible, the Rebels need to win one of those games and would likely head to Shreveport, the Liberty Bowl in Memphis or the Music City Bowl with just one win. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl would likely be their destination if the Rebels get two wins and the Cotton Bowl remains a possibility if they win all three. That being a really big if.