Mississippi State Football: Less obvious options for permanent rivals

Oklahoma's Billy Bowman (5) celebrates an interception with Danny Stutsman (28) and Jeffery Johnson (77) in the first half during the Bedlam college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov., 19, 2022.oufoot1
Oklahoma's Billy Bowman (5) celebrates an interception with Danny Stutsman (28) and Jeffery Johnson (77) in the first half during the Bedlam college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov., 19, 2022.oufoot1 /

This is Part 3 in a series breaking down what Mississippi State Football’s future SEC schedules will look like. Who will their permanent opponents be? In Part 1, we laid out an overview of the changes on the way for the SEC. In Part 2, we broke down some of the obvious candidates to become State’s permanent SEC rivals.

Big changes are on the way for Mississippi State Football’s upcoming SEC schedule. Once Texas and Oklahoma join the league in 2024, the SEC will debut a new format for conference scheduling. Most likely, the league will move to a 9-game conference schedule featuring 3 permanent rivals to play each season. And the question now is who those rivals will be for each team.

In this series, we’re taking a look at various teams in the SEC and evaluating whether or not they make sense to become one of Mississippi State’s permanent rivals. We know the Egg Bowl will be played every year, but that makes up just one of three annual games. Who fills the other two spots?

We already discussed some of the most obvious candidates in Part 2, but what about some candidates that aren’t obvious at all? We’d like to assume State will be paired with teams that we’re already used to playing annually, but that’s not a sure thing. Why is that? There are a few things we have to keep in mind.

First, MSU doesn’t have any major football rivalries outside of the Egg Bowl. That alone opens up the door for State to be paired with someone random. Second, with just three permanent rival spots for each team, it’s impossible for the SEC to make everyone happy. Even the teams who have three very obvious rivals are unlikely to get those exact teams as their permanents because you have to fill spots for all 16 teams. There are going to be some classic SEC rivalries that become casualties of this. And the result could be some odd pairings.

There’s a chance that MSU ends up with an oddball opponent for at least one of their permanent rivals. So who are the teams that we shouldn’t just entirely rule out for being on State’s annual slate?

South Carolina

Despite having been a part of the SEC for over 30 years now, South Carolina has struggled to establish any true SEC rivalries in football. They obviously have Clemson, but the Tigers, of course, are an out-of-conference opponent. Within the SEC, the Gamecocks consider Georgia their biggest rival. And while they have been playing each other annually since well before South Carolina joined the SEC, Georgia has absolutely dominated the series, leading 54-19-2.

The only time UGA-SCAR has been viewed as a momentous and competitive series came during the peak of the Steve Spurrier-era in Columbia, which not coincidentally, is the best stretch of football in South Carolina history. Regardless, there’s a long history between these two, and the universities are in close proximity to one another. And remember what I said in Part 2 about the SEC giving its power programs an annual “gimme” game? This is it for Georgia, and South Carolina will actually want it to be played.

But who else after Georgia? As I mentioned above, South Carolina really doesn’t have any other SEC rivals. They obviously have lots of history with the other SEC East teams, but in terms of games that are necessary to be played, you won’t find them. Perhaps you keep the Steve Spurrier Bowl going with Florida, but the Gamecocks are a team who could end up with someone a bit random. And perhaps that’s Mississippi State.

The interesting thing here is that the Bulldogs and Gamecocks actually do have some history. It’s a bit of a lesser-known fact that when the SEC split into divisions in 1992, teams actually had two permanent cross-division rivals. All of the current cross-division rivalries we know today existed, but along with those we had: Alabama-Vanderbilt (because obviously, that’s who the Tide needed…), LSU-Kentucky, Auburn-Florida, Arkansas-Tennessee, Ole Miss-Georgia, and finally, Mississippi State-South Carolina.

The SEC ended up eliminating these games as annual fixtures following the 2002 season because of the limitations they created for schedules, but for about a decade, State always had USC East on the schedule. It must’ve made sense to have a couple of programs that are far more successful in baseball than football meet annually on the gridiron. And it just so happens that we’re currently paired up as permanent rivals for men’s basketball.

South Carolina has a lot of similarities to MSU in terms of SEC rivalries and how they fit in to the league. And that means there’s a possibility of pairing them up (once again) as permanent opponents.


We talked about one SEC East program that’s located in a city called “Columbia”. How about a second? Missouri would be an even weirder permanent rival for State than South Carolina. At least with the Gamecocks, you do have some ties. That doesn’t exist with Mizzou. We’ve played just four times ever in football, twice in the ’80s and twice since MU joined the SEC. But continuing on with the theme here, we’re looking for programs that, like State, don’t have multiple obvious SEC rivals, and therefore, might end up on State’s schedule.

And finding just one SEC rival for Mizzou is a struggle. The Tigers have practically no history with any program in the SEC from before they joined the league in 2012. Even Texas A&M, who they were Big 12 members with, had only played Mizzou 12 times total prior to joining the SEC alongside the Tigers. The league has tried to force the “Battle Line Rivalry” between Missouri and Arkansas because of the regionality between the programs, but it’s not a series that has caught any traction (Arkansas fans literally could not care less about it).

Now there is a decent chance those two get paired together, but there is at least one more obvious rival for Mizzou on the way. Oklahoma and Missouri played all but one year from 1910 to 1995. The longtime Big 8 conference rivals competed for the Tiger-Sooner Peace Pipe. Once they joined the newly-formed Big 12 in 1995, they were placed in separate divisions, ending the game as an annual matchup. And of course, Mizzou’s departure for the SEC stopped the series altogether. But with Oklahoma set to join the SEC, these two can, and almost certainly will, resume playing annually.

But even if the Tigers get both Oklahoma and Arkansas, there’s still one more spot to be filled (it won’t be Texas or Texas A&M if you’re wondering). And to the original point, there’s no one who makes much sense. You could potentially see them continue to play the aforementioned South Carolina Gamecocks, as they’re in a similar predicament. And technically the two do play for a trophy: the Mayor’s Cup, a play on the schools being located in cities of the same name.

Still, Mizzou fits the bill of a team that could end up with a random permanent rival. It makes absolutely no sense for Mississippi State and Missouri to play on an annual basis. Frankly, it makes no sense that we’re even in the same conference. But I expect a few non-sensical pairings once the SEC officially announces permanent opponents for each team, so maybe this becomes one.


Let’s get even weirder. Figuring out who two of Oklahoma’s three permanent rivals will be once they join the SEC is easy. They’re joining the SEC alongside their biggest rival in Texas. We’ll continue to see the Red River Shootout (yes, I am still calling it the Shootout regardless of rebranding attempts) taking place at the old Cotton Bowl during the State Fair of Texas. And we just explained their history with Mizzou. But after those teams? Good luck.

Many would assume they’d play Texas A&M, but despite being division opponents in the old Big 12, the Sooners and Aggies really don’t have much in terms of a rivalry. And A&M has made it very clear they’d rather see some of their recently-formed SEC rivalries on their permanent schedules than simply go back to playing nothing but former Big 12 teams.

Ok, well what about Arkansas? It makes sense from a geography standpoint, as only about a 4-hour drive separates the two schools. But despite regionality, they don’t have much history. They’ve played just three times since the 1920s.  And Arkansas has other series they’d rather maintain, especially if they’re forced to keep Mizzou.

That’s not to say there’s no chance OU doesn’t end up with either of those programs to fill out their permanent rivals. Both would make a lot more sense than practically anyone else in the SEC. But finding anyone that’s a perfect fit for the Sooners after Texas and Missouri is pretty much impossible. And if you look at the countless projections for permanent rivals that are available, it’s fairly common to see Oklahoma matched up with someone almost totally random. In fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve seen a projection out there that did indeed pair Oklahoma with Mississippi State. And while I ultimately do not expect that to happen, a world does exist where it could.

When it’s all said and done, I don’t think we’ll see our Bulldogs paired up with any of the three teams discussed above. But the reason I still felt it necessary to include this as a part of this series is that Mississippi State is absolutely a candidate to end up playing an oddball “rivalry” annually. It’s impossible to perfectly lay out three rivals for each of the 16 teams in the league without A) eliminating a few classic series and B) not ending up with some weird pairings (if you don’t believe me, try it for yourself). And because Ole Miss is the only team State truly must play, they’re more at risk of a weird matchup than most.

In Part 4, I’ll make my official prediction for which three teams Mississippi State will play on an annual basis in the new SEC.