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College football spotlight: Suddenly, Miss. is a big hit in SEC

College football spotlight: Suddenly, Miss. is a big hit in SEC
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott had five touchdowns, threw for 259 yards and rushed for 77 more during a 48-31 victory Saturday over Texas A&M. (Jim Lytle / Associated Press)

How long has it been since the state of Mississippi was relevant in the Southeastern Conference?

Consider: The state's last SEC championship was in 1963, when Ole Miss won it. Man had not yet been to the moon, Mississippi State still hadn't integrated (Ole Miss had been integrated for just a year), and the Big Ten was still relevant.

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Half a century has passed, and there's a long conference season still to be played, but for the first time in a long, long time, there's reason to believe.

The SEC West has seven teams, and six of them would probably be a favorite in any other conference in the nation. Those six teams all played each other Saturday, and the two from Mississippi were the biggest winners.

Mississippi State, ranked 12th, trounced No. 6 Texas A&M, 48-31, and just may be the conference's best team. Dak Prescott threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 77 yards and three scores. He is making a strong early case for the Heisman Trophy.

This was two weeks removed from Mississippi State's 34-29 manhandling of Louisiana State that was a blowout before the Tigers added two late touchdowns.

Never before had Mississippi State beaten two Associated Press top-10 teams in a season. The Bulldogs just did it in consecutive games. They'll play a third, Auburn, next week.

Ole Miss' win may have been even more impressive. They slugged with Alabama for three quarters before a late touchdown pass and an interception in the end zone won it for the Rebels, 23-17.

Oxford, Miss., has always been a pleasant place to watch a game. The Grove has some of the best tailgating in the SEC.

Amid all that grilling and drinking and partying, a pretty good football team has suddenly appeared. Ole Miss will host Mississippi State in the last game of the regular season, the annual Egg Bowl.

The Egg Bowl is typically a fitting name, since both teams stink. This time, it could determine the SEC West winner.

Top-10 shake-up

Thanks largely to the state of Mississippi, the Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 6 teams in the AP top 25 all lost in the same week.

Arizona knocked off No. 2 Oregon on Thursday, and Texas Christian upset No. 4 Oklahoma, 37-33, on Saturday with an interception-return touchdown in the fourth quarter.

When in doubt, blame the refs

A new rivalry is budding in the Big 12, and despite the upset on Saturday, it's not TCU-Oklahoma. No, this one is Iowa State vs. the refs.

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After a 37-20 loss to Oklahoma State, Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard took the unusual step of airing his grievances against Big 12 officiating in the postgame news conference.

"It's hard to watch ESPN, Fox, other announcers not debate, but feel sorry for Iowa State because maybe there'll be another apology for the call," Pollard said.

The Cyclones have been on the wrong side of several controversial calls recently.

As time expired to end the first half Saturday, an Iowa State goal-line stop was overturned despite the lack of any clear camera view showing a touchdown.

Last week, after an Iowa State loss to Kansas State, the Big 12 apologized after a replay official didn't review a close call. The official was also suspended.

And last year, Iowa State recovered a goal-line fumble against Texas but the play was ruled dead, and Texas later scored. The Cyclones lost that game by a point.

Pollard implied that the calls could be retribution for some past incident.

"Coach [Paul] Rhoads and I, a year and a half ago, raised an issue, and we were the lone vote, and ever since that time, we've been on the short end of the stick," Pollard said.

High-profile injuries

A rather gruesome moment marred the Ole Miss-Alabama game. After catching a pass, Alabama running back Kenyan Drake went down to the turf and immediately grabbed his left leg.

His screams were picked up by television microphones, and his foot was angled back toward his ankle. Coach Nick Saban said the injury was believed to be a broken leg, and Drake's season could be over.

Drake is one Alabama's best receivers, and his is the second major injury of the week. Brigham Young quarterback Taysom Hill broke his left leg during a loss to Utah State on Friday.

Hill was an outside contender for the Heisman, and before the loss BYU had been a dark-horse candidate for the College Football Playoff.

Cardinal sins

What is it with Stanford and close games? The Cardinal lost a 13-10 nailbiter to USC in the second week of the season. It lost late again on Saturday at Notre Dame.

Stanford took a 14-10 lead with 3 minutes 1 second to play, but with the game on the line on fourth and 11, Notre Dame's Everett Golson drifted out of the pocket and found Ben Koyack in the corner of the end zone for the winning 23-yard touchdown pass with 1:01 left.

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