Mississippi State Football: Predicting the Bulldogs’ Three Permanent Rivals

Nov 24, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs players celebrate with the Egg Bowl trophy after the game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 24, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs players celebrate with the Egg Bowl trophy after the game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports /

This is Part 4 in a series breaking down Mississippi State football’s future SEC schedule. Who will their permanent rivals 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. In Part 3, we looked at some less obvious options for permanent rivals.

Mississippi State football’s future SEC schedules are about to look quite different. When Texas and Oklahoma join the league in 2024, the SEC will introduce a new format for conference scheduling. That format is expected to be a 9-game conference slate that features three permanent rivals and six rotating opponents. And what everyone wants to know is which teams will be paired as permanent rivals.

In this series, we’ve explored several different possibilities for Mississippi State’s three permanent rivals, both the obvious options and ones that make no sense at all. We know with certainty that Ole Miss will be a part of State’s schedule every season, but after the Rebels, which two teams round out the Bulldogs’ annual slate?

Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated (a Mississippi State alumnus, by the way) shed some light on what matchups are being heavily considered on March 3.


Dellenger is one of the most well-connected reporters in college football, especially when it comes to news within the SEC. If he’s putting something out there, it’s in your best interest to pay attention. And according to him, the three rivals currently being proposed for Mississippi State are Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Texas A&M.

Now Dellenger does state in the thread above that these pairings are simply an educated guess based on what he’s heard from SEC insiders and are far from official. There are likely to be some tweaks. However, it does provide a great starting point to get an idea of what the current thought is from the SEC. And if you’re Mississippi State, you would have to be absolutely thrilled with the permanent rivals above.

Having Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Texas A&M as rivals means that, at least within the current power structure, State gets three teams they have a great shot at beating on the schedule every year. Now let’s be clear that none of them count as likely wins most seasons. These are series that have largely been even over the last few seasons, making them toss-ups on the schedule.

But when you’re Mississippi State, there are very few SEC teams beyond Vanderbilt and Missouri that you can say with certainty you should win against every time you play. Your best realistic scenario is to get matched up with teams that are true toss-ups where you’ve got good odds at winning. It would definitely beat having Alabama on the schedule every year, which is a “rivalry” that has been a popular selection by CFB media trying their hand at picking permanent SEC opponents.

But as Dellenger said, this isn’t yet official. And Nick Saban is already making it known that he’s not pleased with Alabama’s proposed rivals of Auburn, Tennessee, and LSU (which are, you know, Alabama’s three biggest rivals…). The official pairing of permanent rivals will probably have some noticeable differences from the ones S.I. proposed. So what do we think happens for Mississippi State?

The point of the series was to lay out all the options that do or don’t make sense for the Bulldogs and then make a prediction at the end. And as much as I’d love to just roll with the permanent opponents that Dellenger laid out (not just because those rivals would be preferable but because there’s a high likelihood he’s right), I don’t want to just copy him verbatim. That’s not to say that I’d go a different route just for the sake of being a contrarian, but I’d still like to make my own, far-less-informed prediction.

My Picks for Mississippi State’s Permanent Rivals

Ole Miss

This one is a no-brainer with no need for a detailed explanation. The Egg Bowl is one of the nastiest rivalries in sports. The in-state clash will continue to be a mainstay on Thanksgiving weekend.


So far I’m two-for-two with the S.I. prediction. As I laid out in Part 2, Kentucky makes a lot of sense for Mississippi State for a number of reasons. You’ve got a good bit of history as annual opponents, the series is evenly balanced, both teams lack multiple “must-play” SEC rivalries, and there’s even been some hatred developing amongst the two fanbases in recent years. I’ll keep Dawgs vs Cats going.


Here’s where I’ll differ from Dellenger. This could’ve gone a number of different ways. Really any SEC West program would make plenty of sense for State, but the process of elimination gets me to War Eagle. Arkansas has been a wild and competitive series for MSU, but the Hogs have more clear options, particularly with their old Southwest Conference rivals. And, I don’t believe that the Bulldogs would get three permanent games against teams that are in the bottom half of the league from a resources and talent standpoint.

State is LSU’s most-played opponent, and Baton Rouge is a fun trip for fans. But the Bayou Bengals have several other series that they will want over MSU. Alabama might actually be the other most likely option, as MSU is their most-played opponent and the campuses are the closest of any SEC universities. And there’s the “competitive balance” factor of giving Alabama an annual “gimme” game whether they deserve it or not. But I am holding out hope that, despite Nick Saban’s frustrations, ESPN will force the SEC’s hand into keeping the Iron Bowl, the Third Saturday in October, and Bama-LSU annual games. They want the ratings from those matchups.

So then it comes down to A&M or Auburn. A&M probably wouldn’t be viewed as an option for State if not for Jimbo Fisher letting it slip that we were considered permanent rivals at last year’s SEC Media Days. And while I’d be all for continuing to play (and beat) the Cult from College Station, I do think that when it’s all said and done, the Fake Solider Milkmen will end up with rivals that make more sense from a history and geography standpoint.

Hello fightin’ Hugh Freezes. Auburn is going to get Alabama and Georgia on their schedule every single year. This much is known. Who they get as their third rival is the question. Vanderbilt is a popular choice just out of fairness to the Tigers. But I tend to think the SEC chooses opponents for each that have more history, as that’s not a regular series. So if you’re looking for a historic opponent that Auburn has traditionally been successful against, State could be the choice.

MSU is Auburn’s second most-played opponent. Auburn has won nearly 69% (don’t say it) of its games vs State, and their fans go into every season assuming a win over the Bulldogs. Now as we all know, the all-time history doesn’t reflect how this series has played out in recent years. Mississippi State has a winning record against the Tigers since 2012. It’s become a game that the Bulldogs absolutely have a chance to win nearly every season.

But as I just mentioned, Auburn thinks they should beat State annually. And that perspective could be what makes this an annual game in the future SEC. Plus you’ll have MSU’s viewpoint that this is a game they’re more than capable of winning. Further helping things is that you’re in neighboring states with a relatively easy drive separating the schools. Not that it matters too much what the schools want. The SEC (and ESPN) will have the final say. But it definitely helps if all parties can get on board.

Obviously, getting Auburn as a rival isn’t nearly as favorable as A&M. The Tigers are the bigger challenge between the two. But from a competitiveness standpoint, they’re still a much better draw than the likes of Alabama or LSU. Having Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Auburn as permanent rivals presents Mississippi State with three good opportunities to pick up wins each season. No, they aren’t certain or near-certain victories annually. Those are tightly contested games. But it’s still about as good as you can realistically ask for as we transition to a new era of SEC football.