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BARNEStorming: Thoughts Around the College Football World

BARNEStorming: Thoughts Around the College Football World

OXFORD, Miss. – The term is student-athlete. The embodiment of that term is Ole Miss linebacker MoMo Sanogo.

The Plano, Texas native announced this week he will leave Ole Miss via the transfer portal. But Sanogo and Ole Miss have benefited from the relationship the duo forged. The Rebels received everything the linebacker had on the field as far as effort and on the sidelines, locker room and in the community as a leader.

Sanogo received both a Bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Ole Miss. Now he has the chance to finish his playing career at another school and earn an additional degree.

He came out of the Dallas area a high school graduate with a ton of football talent. He leaves Oxford with a bevy of memories and friendships as well as a pair of degrees that will set him up for success for the rest of his life.

As he departs, Sanogo will leave as three things that will never change: a fine young man, a man of letters and an Ole Miss Rebel.

Good luck, MoMo. Continue to make the Rebel Nation proud.

YEP, THESE ARE MY FRIENDS

 I first met Troy Johnson when I worked at Troy (Ala.) State. The first quarter I was there, he wasn’t. He was doing his internship at the Birmingham News, but everyone told me Troy and I would get along.

Troy Johnson (Photo courtesy: AUM)

The first time I met him we were appearing on a television sports talk show. I remember thinking the guy not only knew his stuff, but he had a sense of humor that was second to none. We covered games together, hung out together and even went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans together.

Troy went on to write for newspapers in Dothan, Ala., Athens, Ga., and Columbus, Ga. He happened to win a couple of Sportswriter of the Year awards along the way.

He then worked at Auburn and is the Executive Director of Communications at Auburn University at Montgomery. But he is still a sportswriter at heart. How do I know that? His latest Facebook post explains it all.

“A sign that I like college football a bit too much: I now refer to the elevator in our building as the Transfer Portal.”

Man, I miss that guy’s columns.

GIVE ‘EM HALE, CALE

Lost in the Rebels’ 31-21 Egg Bowl win was the performance of kicker Cale Nation.

The walk-on got the call when freshman Caden Costa was scratched from the lineup before the game. All he did was make every kick he was asked to make in the biggest rivalry game of the year on Thanksgiving night in front of a national audience on ESPN.

College kickers – and NFL kickers as well – endure a lot of grief. They get into the game maybe six or seven plays, but each of them is an opportunity to put points on the scoreboard. If you don’t think that is pressure, ask the Mississippi State kicker.

Ole Miss does not award helmet stickers, but if it did, Nation’s helmet would have been covered after his performance.

A SMART MOVE

Many of the “experts” were dumbfounded by Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame to become Ed Orgeron’s successor at LSU. Why?

Kelly had done all he could at Notre Dame. Or at least all Notre Dame would let him do.

He is the all-time winningest coach in South Bend, but he did have many more opportunities than Knute Rockne did, playing more games each season than Rockne. He did, however, outshine Lou Holtz.

But with no conference affiliation, Notre Dame is relegated to “independent” status along with BYU, Liberty, Army, New Mexico State, UConn and UMass.

In this age of college football, there is no honor in being an independent and Kelly obviously understood that fact. This should be a wake-up call for the Irish to finally join a conference. The NBC money is not worth missing out on championships.

Also, give the man credit. Sure, Kelly won all those games at Notre Dame with a cherry-picked schedule. Like any professional, the man wants to see how he stacks up against the best in the game.

Kelly gets a chance to prove his worth and the SEC West just got even better.

DÉJÀ VU

For the sake of argument, let’s say Georgia beats Alabama Saturday the way the Bulldogs are expected to do it.

That will send Alabama to the Sugar Bowl and Ole Miss to the Peach Bowl.

A familiar place.

Should that happen, Ole Miss will begin and end the 2021 season in the same stadium. The Rebels beat Louisville, 43-24, in Mercedes Benz Stadium on September 6. That phenomenon happened once before.

In 2014, Ole Miss started the season in Atlanta by whipping Boise State, 35-13. The last game of the year in the Peach Bowl was not as fun as the Rebels were destroyed by TCU, 42-3.

Should Ole Miss go to the Peach Bowl, it will mark another occasion. Last season the Rebels beat Indiana, 26-20, in the Outback Bowl in Tampa. It would be the second straight year Ole Miss ends it season in the home stadium of an NFC South team.

HEY, I GOT THREE

Okay, I chose some real doozies for my upset specials this season, but I nailed three of them. In the opening week, I picked Division II West Florida to beat McNeese State and it happened.

A few weeks ago, I picked a Houston upset of SMU and named Marcus Jones as a special team’s player to watch. Jones won the game with a 100-yard kickoff return in the final minute.

Last week, on a lark, I picked North Texas to upset undefeated Texas-San Antonio. Yep, got it.

At the risk of spoiling a good thing, I will give it another shot. I will pick an upset on Championship Saturday.

I like Mike Gundy. I covered Oklahoma State the week before his famous “I’m a man! I’m 40!” rant and I saw the seeds of that speech planted in his brain.

But there is something about Baylor. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like the Bears always throw sand in the gears.

Plus, my friend Brian’s wife went to school in Waco and OSU just wears too much orange for my taste.

Baylor knocks off the Cowboys.

About The Author

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers. He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio. A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series. Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time. He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk. Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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