Alright, we've got TWO special guests this week, both from SBN's lovely Mississippi State blog, For Whom The Cowbell Tolls. Everybody say hi to ____!
Since I didn't actually get an e-mail out to our guests yesterday (I'm awesome like that), here's how today's roundtable is going to work: 1) I'm going to ask our new friends some questions. 2) They're going to answer them and ask some of their own. 3) We'll slide slowly off-track as the day progresses. (In the meantime, I've got a Mizzou question for the field as well.) Got it? Good!
1. Mississippi State has never won a national title and rarely wins conference titles, and their best wins ever are almost certainly regular season victories. In other words, they are a history a lot more similar to Mizzou's than the first two teams we have visited, Alabama and Auburn. With so many heavyweights in the conference, I want to ask about expectations. What do MSU fans tend to expect from their team on a year-to-year basis? And when a new coach is hired and optimism reigns, what are the dream goals? National title? SEC title? Strong run of good bowl games?
2. Rick Stansbury recently retired after a long run as Mississippi State's head basketball coach. What do MSU fans think of his replacement hire? And on the enthusiasm scale, if football is a 10, where does basketball fall?
3. What are the most popular MSU sports NOT named football?
4. At some point in the next 13 years, Missouri will visit Starkville for a football game. What should we do to or where should we go to get the full Gameday experience?
(And while we wait for our MSU friends to answer, I'll ask the Mizzou guys this question: if you had an NBA team and a second-round pick, which Mizzou player are you most likely to draft: Marcus Denmon, Kim English or Ricardo Ratliffe?)
The Beef: Hi _____!s!
I would probably take Denmon at this point. I think his game is the most "NBA-ready". I believe his shot is the most consistent and he has some ability (though not tremendous) to create his own shot, which in the 1-1 world from the NBA (as it devolves into from time to time), this is an important skill. He is certainly not a liability on defense either, so defensive energy and 3-point shooting is what I would look for in a guy who could become my 7th or 8th man.
Bill C.: Oh good lord ... I went back and filled in the e-mail addresses and not the names. Never send e-mails before your first cup of coffee has taken effect, kids. Their handles: thecristilmethod and The Croom Diaries, a.k.a. Mark and Josh.
The Beef: Suppose that does have a better ring than _____!s.
Bill C.: I hate you.
The Beef: Oh drink your coffee
Michael Atchison: To answer the NBA question, much to my own surprise, I’m going to say English. Athletically, I think he’s going to have a hard time matching up, but he has the size and the most important skill to be a shooting guard. Marcus has a more complete package of skills, but at his size he’s probably going to have to play some point, and that’s not his strength, and he’ll have a harder time matching up physically with swing players in the NBA. And Ricardo’s game doesn’t translate so well for a guy who is 6’8" at best. If he were a more tenacious rebounder, he’d have a better shot.
thecristilmethod: Good morning all Mizzourah friends!
First myth I need to clear up this morning that is a common misconception spread by our fellow SEC brethren: yes, Mississippi does have Internet. We even have indoor plumbing and electricity! It's exciting stuff. Just wanted to clear that up in case any of you had been led to believe otherwise ;)
1. It's easy to say that expectations have changed in Starkville from say 2005 to 2012. Under Sylvester Croom, MSU was just looking to survive, maybe pull of an upset of a team here or there to ruin their seasons. As an MSU fan in the Croom era, I'd say my honest expectations were 3-5 wins and HEY WHEN DOES BASKETBALL SEASON START?!
Now? Now I think expectations have been raised to 6-8 wins and a bowl game under Dan Mullen. Sure, that doesn't seem like high expectations to some, but for us, I think that is a big deal. You also ask about what our "dream goals" are when a new coach comes in? I think for us a dream is for a string of 4-5+ consecutive seasons of attending bowl games. Maybe an SEC Championship. I mean, the way the SEC has been as of late, winning the SEC basically IS winning the National Championship, so I guess now those basically go hand in hand. I think though as State fans we wish for multiple bowl seasons, because when we've had them in the past, we typically follow those successful seasons up with a season that's resoundingly MEH. I think before 2010/2011, the last back to back bowl games we had played in was 1998,1999, and 2000.
2) I think on the whole, MSU fans were collectively disappointed with the Rick Ray hire on the surface. Let me say that that was our initial reaction, and many of us have become excited about what coach Ray can do with this program now that we know more about him. As a group of fans, we spent weeks during the coaching search convincing ourselves that we were going to get Scott Drew, Kenny Payne or hell even Shaka Smart. The reality though was that some mismanagement by Stansbury during his tenure had essentially allowed our program to become a zoo, and people looking at the job on a national scale knew that, and I think they knew it was a risk to come here if they were already a big name. When South Carolina hired Frank Martin, State fans were like what the heck we have a better basketball program than South Carolina! But what they failed to realize was that South Carolina has a brand new facility and ZERO expectations, and that's a much better situation to go into than, say, a school that just "retired" their coach after multiple 20+ win seasons and postseason appearances.
My personal feeling on Rick Ray is that he will do an outstanding job. I think it will take some time: he is basically working with scraps in 2012-13 due to Rodney Hood, Renardo Sidney, DeVille Smith, and others leaving the program, but I think once he gets the guys he wants in place, he will have a chance to be very successful here. I'm excited to see what he can do.
Enthusiasm scale? Right now I'd say it's at a reserved 6.5. Fans are waiting to see how Mr. Ray's hire shakes out before they get too invested in basketball again. I think we've always had great fans for basketball, and a good bit of that is due to the expectations that Stansbury built in his program, but I think we were all kind of left with a bad taste in our mouths after the way 2011-12 shook out (if you are unfamiliar with our most recent basketball season, this should sum it up for you)
3) Baseball is hands down the most popular sport in Starkville outside of football. We've been blessed to have a very good program for years (8 CWS appearances), even though we've yet to capture that elusive National Championship. Although we've lagged as of late with teams like Florida, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt becoming such great programs, we are slowly working our way back to where I feel like we can compete for an SEC Championship. And our fans are ready. Even though our attendance has been down somewhat over the past several season, we are definitely capable of producing some great atmospheres (see this video from 2007, or this video of "left field lounge" from that 2007 game) and in my opinion we still have one of the best baseball fanbases in the SEC.
4) Starkville is a much smaller place than most SEC towns like Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa, but what it lacks in size I think it makes up and charm (and yes I'm completely biased as I grew up in Starkville). Some things I would say that you need to see/experience:
Nightlife: The Cotton District if you're looking for a more chill place to drink a beer, downtown is also a great atmosphere. The Veranda is also a great place to grab a beer after the game. It's an older crowd, as opposed to a more college aged crowd downtown and in the Cotton District.
Food: Strombolis for pizza. It's a little hole in the wall joint with some of the best pizza I've had. And beer in a mason jar (I rest my case). Burger - Mugshots. A nicer meal, head to the Veranda.
Coffee: You have to go see my buddy Shane at Strangebrew. Best blueberry coffee you've ever had.
Sights: Ah, I don't really know what to tell you on sights, other than I'd suggest checking out the whole campus. It's a pretty spread out campus as far as major colleges go. If you're a shopper (or you bring your wife with you), then she can find pretty much anything her heart desires along Main St / University Drive.
Alrighty guys, hopefully I gave you at least 23% decent stuff above that you can use. Here's some questions I have for you guys:
1) I think MSU fans are fairly unfamiliar with Missouri football history on the whole. We know of Chase Daniel, so give us a great name from your history that we probably didn't know about.
2) Expectations - what would you say expectations are for Missouri football year in and year out under Gary Pinkel?
3) What is Missouri's second most popular sport behind football? I hear you guys are decent at basketball, huh?
4) What SEC game you are the most excited about in your first season in the league this fall? Which are you least excited about?
5) Do you guys eat grits in Missouri? That's pretty much a requirement to be an SEC member
6) Which school already in the SEC would you say Missouri is most like?
The Croom Diaries: Howdy Mizzou fans.
1. We are just hoping for bowl games year-to-year...and hopefully that will evolve into being in contention for the SEC West. Me personally, a SEC Championship is the ultimate goal. We have only won one (1941) so it would be a huge deal. Of course, if we win the SEC we would most likely have a shot at the national title, but I'm not even thinking about that. We did win the West in 1998, and if we do it again we are going to throw a massive party in Starkville.
2. When Rick Ray was hired on April 1st, most fans were hoping it was an April Fool's joke. But after we got over the initial shock, I think he has been accepted and we are satisfied with him. Basketball has definitely taken a drop in popularity though. In 2004-05 I would say basketball would be an 8 to football's 10. Right now, I'd say it's a 3. In general, I'd say it's a 5.
3. Basketball is 2nd just because it's basketball, but baseball is a big deal at State. We have a great tradition; even though we've never won a national championship we've been very good for a long time and Dudy Noble Field is treasured as our best game day experience by many fans (not most, but many).
4. We used to have an intersection on campus called "Malfunction Junction" because of all the confusing roads that intersected. In 2006, we got rid of that and created a tailgating area called "The Junction"...that is the premo place to tailgate for games (right next to the stadium). Don't let Ole Miss fans try to tell you we are copying their precious Grove, or that we will be watching NASCAR and our women will be spitting tobacco. The Junction or anyplace in Starkville is very welcoming, so I think any Mizzou fan would enjoy a visit...just a relaxed Southern town.
The Beef: 1. My personal history/attachment to Mizzou only goes back to the mid-90’s, so Chase Daniel is as good of a recent name as I could offer. I would think historically, we can offer Kellen Winslow and others, but I will let other folks throw those out there.
2. Year in and year out now, I think our fan base was to the point where we need to see 8 wins, or the constant rumbling will get louder and more unbearable. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for high expectations, but I think what Pinkel has done for this program is nothing short of amazing considering where it was for much of the 80’s and 90’s, and elevating us to the level we are at now is pretty incredible. I think a few Mizzou fans may be fooling themselves just a bit about what to expect this year, but I also think that is understandable as a pride thing as we come into the SEC and get told we will be lucky to achieve whatever it is we think we are going to achieve.
3. Going back to those 80’s and 90’s, basketball was pretty close (and, in the eyes of some, probably above) to football. We’ve had some up and down times since the mid-90’s, as our long-time coach Norm Stewart cratered a bit in the mid 90s before getting one more NCAA berth on his way to retirement. Quin Snyder was a popular hire for many, but never did quite live up to what we thought would come, and then redefined cratered on his way out. Mike Anderson was the right man for the job, but then left in a hurry and the shriek of Mizzou fans could be heard round the world when we missed on Matt Painter and landed with Frank Haith. We are a fickle bunch. But since 1995, when I arrived, we have made the tourney in probably just over half of those seasons. Not terrible, but not amazing.
And on Rock M Nation...softball has become the #3 sport
4. I think pretty much everyone is pointing to the 2nd game of the season at home against UGA, and then our October game against Alabama as the two. Many MU fans believe we have a good chance of knocking off the Dawgs, so that has certainly bolstered expectations. As for Alabama...well...welcome to the SEC for us I guess J And while I think it would be nice to go south in November, I am not looking forward to Florida at that point. I think they are a team which will be better than last year and get better as the year goes on.
5. People in Missouri certainly eat them...but this converted Yankee does not
6. Wow…good question and I surely don’t know really. I’ve not spent much time on SEC campuses, and the two that I have (Vandy and Ole Miss) are not exactly Mizzou clones in many ways. I have heard people draw comparisons of Columbia, MO (since we now need to append the state abbreviation if we are talking SEC) to Athens, so perhaps it is UGA?
The Croom Diaries: I have to ask you Mizzou folk if you thought this video was "the bomb", funny, or embarrassing..
Bill C.: It was funny in a self-deprecating way, I guess.
No, it was just embarrassing.
1) From before the 1960s: QB Paul Christman almost won the Heisman in 1939.
From the 1960s: RB Johnny Roland and DB Roger Wehrli (NFL Hall of Famer) were pretty badass.
From the 1970s: QB Phil Bradley and TE Kellen Winslow were pretty potent for a bunch of teams known for beating Nebraska and Notre Dame, losing to Kansas, and finishing 8-4.
From the 1980s: Most of the 1980s sucked.
From the 1990s: QB Corby Jones loved scramble and dive backwards into endzones.
From the 2000s: We've had some really, really good QBs (Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert), but Jeremy Maclin was the most consistently exciting player I've ever seen in person.
2) I agree with Seth (a.k.a. The Beef). Winning eight games every season would get really tiresome to Mizzou fans, especially the vocal ones who want to fire the very successful offensive coordinator every time Mizzou scores less than 30, but for now it's hard to complain TOO much about that considering where Mizzou was when Gary Pinkel took over (7-15 in 1999-00). Mizzou established a pattern over the last six seasons or so: go 8-5 with a new quarterback, then win 10+ games when the quarterback is experienced. To say the least, continuing that trend will be a challenge with an experienced James Franklin this fall.
3) I used to always say that Mizzou was a basketball school that really wanted to be a football school. Now we've seen enough sustained football success to, I guess, consider ourselves a football school. Regardless, Basketball is obviously a clear No. 2, especially after the recent successes (Norfolk State aside, ahem). And yeah, Rock M Nation has pretty forcefully adopted softball as a clear No. 3.
4) The buzz for the Georgia game is already almost audible in Columbia. Being the first SEC game made it big, but since it's against the early East favorite, that makes it all the better. On the flipside, it's pretty difficult to get "excited" for the Kentucky game, though that will be Homecoming, which is always fun.
5) I must admit, you rarely see grits on a menu in Missouri. That said, the wife and I discovered them, so to speak, a few years ago, and make them all the time now.
6) Honestly, I would say Arkansas is pretty close. The two programs have experienced almost exactly the same level of success over the last 5-10 years, and though Arkansas was certainly better in the 1970s and 1980s, the main difference between the two programs, I think, is that Mizzou almost won a national title in 1960 and Arkansas did claim one in 1964.
Michael Atchison: I’ve never watched beyond the first five seconds of that video, so I’m in no place to judge.
Bill left out the Sikeston Train, James Wilder. And I suppose we should mention Justin Smith (who made first team all-pro at one position last year and second team at another) and Aldon Smith who had fourteen sacks as a rookie.
1. Pro Football Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow.
2. Annual expectations under Pinkel: minimum of eight wins and a bowl appearance.
3. I’ll take basketball ahead of football. I know, start the fire, burn the witch.
4. I’m sure Alabama will generate the most excitement. I suspect Kentucky will generate the least. Do we play Kentucky? I think we do. I don’t pay much attention.
5. In nearly thirty years of living in Missouri, I’m not sure that I’ve encountered grits more than twice.
6. I’m not sure I know the schools in the SEC well enough to judge. Pick a school in a city of about 100,000 people that is not in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Bill C.: Oh I think five seconds are more than enough to cast judgment.
The Croom Diaries: You should watch the whole thing. I don't know how old y'all are, but by the clothes they are wearing you can tell they are frat boys being ironic. It's horrible if they were trying to be serious, but they weren't so it's just funny. After seeing the video, I felt better about accepting Missouri because they at least gave enough passion to do something like that.
Here's a quick question for y'all: are you willing to commit yourselves to the SEC? That means chanting 'S-E-C' when you win a bowl game or tough non-conference. It means rooting for all other SEC teams when they play non-conference. It means Mizzou is 1A, SEC is 1B in your mind. It means you'd rather watch the 5th best SEC game that week than a top 10 Big Ten game.
Bill C.: Since Mizzou fans were chanting "SEC! SEC!" when they won the Big 12 basketball tournament last March, I think they'll more than live up to the expectations in that regard.
The Beef: I think that will come...in time. While I understand completely why the SEC is the way it is, and how that aura of collective brotherhood for the good has helped put the conference where it is, there is SO MUCH vitriol in our history with our conference and school affiliation that it is going to be a long-term lesson.
But conversely, where do SEC fans draw the line? I mean, I can see where MSU fans would cheer for Alabama or LSU or Auburn or Florida in the title game, but are you really cheering for Ole Miss in just a normal game?
Michael Atchison: Yeah but Mizzou fans were chanting "SEC!" out of spite to the Big 12.
This is where the culture shock is going to come into play. Sometimes it’s not clear if we joined a conference or a cult.
For me, no. That’s not going to happen. But I’m older than the rest of these guys. They may have excess enthusiasm to spend on that sort of thing.
Bill C.: Oh I don't think that will stop them from continuing it this fall...
The Croom Diaries: The line is drawn at Ole Miss. I will not root for them in anything. When they lost to Jacksonville State (FCS) in 2010 it was one of the highlights of the season.
I hate Alabama as well (MSU and Bama are the closest SEC schools) but I always pull for them in bowl games, especially national championship games.
SleepyFloyd7: Hoops question - I'd take Denmon. The kid has IT, and there is always room for IT in the NBA.
And Atch - " Yeah but Mizzou fans were chanting "SEC!" out of spite to the Big 12. "
Well, yeah. They were able to express that spite because they were out the door to someplace that should be (ahem) more welcoming.
The Beef: My concern, however, is this.
Mizzou fans have a penchant for creating rivals and rivalries where there might be little to no actual hate. kU...no question. But we also claim rivalries with kSU, ISU, OU and NU at the very least (I once wrote we also had rivalries with Rock Bridge High School and Jefferson Junior High...and I was not wrong then J). Now I accept and agree that those were forged over long stretches of time, but I cannot help but think that without the presence of so many foils that Mizzou fans wont go diving after others. Now, we can all likely agree Arkansas moves to enemy #1 not named kU, but then I see us looking for something with South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and/or whoever else. And because so many MU fans could never fathom cheering for a "rival" in anything, I just think it will be a little while before we learn to dial it back...keep the hate to Arkansas and learn what it means to be supported by a total conference experience.
Bill C.: This is very much true. But knowing Mizzou fans' spiteful tendencies, I don't think they'll have any problem chanting "SEC!" during non-conference games.
Michael Atchison: I think real spiteful rivalries are going to be harder to come by in the SEC because we have comparatively few fans and alums who live along the borders of SEC states. The thing with Illinois is pretty natural in St. Louis because people live and work among Illinois alums, and those of us in Kansas City walk among KU, K-State, Nebraska (and to a lesser extent, Iowa State and Iowa) fans and alums every day. I know that Springfield becomes ground zero for the Arkansas rivalry, but there just aren’t as many people there.
The Croom Diaries: I think most fans of SEC teams hate almost all other SEC teams. But we still stick together. One of the reasons I think is because people lump us together as rednecks, wonder of we have electricity, laugh at us for being Christian & conservative, and act like we are insignificant. But we have common bonds outside of football which holds us together. We may not like each other when we meet on the gridiron, but we're still sticking together against all things north of the mason-Dixon.
That might make me sound like a huge redneck, but that's why we don't care. The SEC is the best and there's nothing anyone can say about it. I don't know how much Mizzou feels a part of the South so y'all may never feel the SEC pride. But believe me, you can hate another team and still root for them against the Big 12.
SleepyFloyd7: MSU Guys - We had Brandon Marcello and Brad Locke (beat writers for MSU) on my radio show this week. One of them recommended the Crawfish Dip at Restaurant Tyler in Starkville.
Please confirm its excellence.
ghtd36: Hello, Mississippi State friends. I'm ghtd36. I'm the resident oft-absent yuk monkey around these parts. On Friday, I am going to ridicule your school. I hope we can still be friends.
ZouDave: Greetings to all! Sorry I’m late to the party, but I had to spend my morning collecting evidence against an employee that was using work computers for…things work computers aren’t intended for. At least not at this job. So, hooray for that I guess!
Glad to meet the MSU fans representing with us this morning. I’m ZouDave, I’m best known for making highlight videos of our football team for the past 5-ish years and for cussing an awful lot in live threads. Also, when I wrote the preview piece about your basketball team I didn’t realize that all of those players had left the program. Yikes.
Trying to play catch-up here…so first to answer your questions:
#1 – I think the rest of the crew has done a great job of telling you what other names from Mizzou football history you should know. I will echo Kellen Winslow, as he’s in both the college and pro football halls of fame, definitely Corby Jones as he was the player that gave us hope back in the 90s, even if just for a couple of seasons, and then of course Jeremy Maclin who is probably the most physically gifted player I’ve ever seen on a football field. So fast I swear I heard popping sounds every time he took off. He ran like everyone else was in slow motion. He was the human cheat code. Holy crap was he good.
Oh, and Brad Smith. Brad Smith was Gary Pinkel’s first QB and took us from hoping we could win to believing we should win. Ultimately he may not be remembered as the best QB to ever play at Mizzou, but I think he was probably the most important. Without Brad Smith, we never get Chase Daniel and we never get on this path. Brad Smith is the nexus for all of our modern success. Heck, without Brad Smith we’re not even talking to you guys right now because we wouldn’t be in the SEC.
#2 – They’ve gradually gone up, which is good, and Gary Pinkel has become a victim of his own success to many of our fans. When he got here, we were much like what you guys have described in we just wanted to win and get to a bowl game. Back in 2001 or 2002 if you’d told us we’d be 6-5 or 7-5 at the end of the year, we’d have been over the moon. And that almost happened in 2002, then it did happen in 2003. Then we fell flat, sort of came back in 2005 but things were rocky. Then we fell down 21-0 in the 1st quarter to South Carolina in our bowl game and pretty much everyone just assumed Pinkel would be fired following the season. Then Marcus King intercepted a pass at the goal line, ran it back for a TD, and everything seemed to change. We’ve had winning seasons every year since, we won the Big XII North twice, we’ve been ranked #1, we’ve had 3 seasons of 10+ wins, we’ve won 4 bowl games, we’ve put multiple players into the NFL, etc. Our expectations now are 8 wins is the floor (though that may drop to 7 in the SEC, but with 4 non-con games I doubt it). I think the majority of our fans won’t be happy if we’re below 8 wins every year. Obviously it remains to be seen if we can keep that up, but since 2006 that’s pretty much what we’ve been (8-5, 12-2, 10-4, 8-5, 10-3, 8-5).
#3 – Definitely basketball, no question. Some will argue we’re a basketball school, or at least were until very recently. I’ve always considered Mizzou a football school, even when we just sucked out loud, but basketball has always been above the fold and very good. We have the ability to be REALLY good in basketball (not Kentucky good, obviously, but really good) we just haven’t been able to sustain our success recently.
#4 – For me it’s a time between our first one (home against UGA) and hosting Alabama. Pretty easy and obvious answers, really. For least excited…that’s a loaded question because I’m excited about all of them. I’ve never seen us play any of the SEC teams we’ll face this year except for the aforementioned South Carolina bowl game in 2005. While it’d be easy to pick on Kentucky and Vandy here, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Vandy (not sure why, though I did lead them to GLORY on NCAA Football 2002 or something like that on PS2) and Kentucky is our first ever SEC Homecoming. So I’m looking forward to all of them.
#5 – We absolutely do, but I don’t think we do it with the same fervent desire that our true southern friends do. But you can get grits at a lot of places even up here in Kansas City. Still, the best grits I ever had (which isn’t saying much, I’ve only eaten them like three times) was at a Waffle House in Jackson, MS.
#6 – I really don’t know, to be honest. It sounds like we’re kind of a mix of Mississippi State and Arkansas.
As for the "We Are Mizzou" video, I think it’s hilarious. And I have to admit, the song is semi-catchy as long as you’re not expecting it to be the greatest rock anthem of all time or something. However, my music tastes have been known to be called into question on a weekly basis so regardless of the answer I gave here I was probably going to be wrong.
As for which Mizzou basketball player I’d take, I agree with Atch in that I’d take English even though I like Marcus Denmon’s game a lot more personally. English is far, far closer (in my SEVERLY NOT EXPERT opinion) to NBA size and strength. I think Denmon is poised to have a great career overseas a la Rickey Paulding. Ratliffe should probably get his passport ready as well.
Basically anything from Restaurant Tyler is outstanding. Can't believe I forgot to mention it.
SleepyFloyd7: When does Tailgating start? Where on the impressive spectrum of SEC Pre-Game Atmospheres does MSU lie?
The Croom Diaries: The tailgating rankings would depend on whether or not you want to get plastered (Georgia) or not.
But based on games I've been to and tailgating meaning a good crowd in generally the same area with spectacular eye candy...
Tied at #1: Alabama, Auburn, MSU, Ole Miss, LSU (be careful what you say to a Cajun, they might punch you or feed you gumbo).
thecristilmethod: I think ours has improved greatly over the last 5-7 years with the installment of The Juction (a more unified tailgating area directly south of the stadium).
IMO, State is still waaaay behind Bama, LSU, UGA. UT is a fickle animal: of course they have 100k up there, but it's so spread out it kind of feels weird.
Ole Miss, my goodness don't tell them your tailgating is better than theirs. They hang every hat the have on how spectacular The Grove is. I have heard it's a fun time, but chandeliers at any tailgate I've ever been to would easily get broken as the night progressed.
Tailgating at State depends on the time of the game. If an 11am game, tailgating typically is heavier AFTER the game. For later games, tailgating starts to pickup between 10-11ish. RVs start coming in around Wednesday. You can't set up your tent in the Junction until Friday afternoon, which is dumb, but an 'event' in itself now as the students camp out all day (for big games) and drink 'beverages' while waiting for 5pm to sprint out and get an ideal tailgating spot.
The Beef: As having been to The Grove...it certainly is different, and I am not sure I would want to tailgate there every home week. Missourians would greatly miss the chance to grill something, and because space is somewhat limited and set up is so intense, that would wear me down.
But I will always maintain that as an out of conference, road opponent, I imagine I will never be treated better than I was that day. They will always be the winner to that end
The Croom Diaries: You should come to State then. Mississippians in general are very nice. I am biased of course, but I think MSU has a slight advantage to Ole Miss in terms of hospitality because there are many snobs in Oxford.
In terms of sheer numbers and drinking yes we are way behind Bama, UGA, LSU, but as far as having a good time with your family MSU is right there. But tailgaiting is all on preference, if you have small kids I would not take them to LSU or UGA but I would definitely take then to MSU or Auburn. If you want to drink like a fish do the opposite. If you want to see gorgeous women, ANY SEC school will do - cant speak for UPig though.