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When Baseball Meets Football: Understanding the Emotion Behind Saturday's Game Against Vanderbilt

Over the past year, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt have faced off in some major games across various sports, slowly turning them into bitter rivals.

Since last year, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt have had an intense rivalry across multiple sports that will come to a head Saturday as the Bulldogs travel to Nashville to face the Commodores yet again.

The drama started a year ago, when the Bulldogs and Commodores faced off on the football field in Starkville. The game itself wasn't huge on a national level, but each team had something they wanted to prove. In the end, MSU was able to claim the Homecoming victory 24-17 to get their second win of the season. Vandy dominated statistically, but could not execute in the most important moments to finally win a game. Understandably, there was a lot of frustration and anger towards MSU that players within Vanderbilt's football program carried into other sports. 

In late April, the universities met in another pivotal athletic matchup: this time, on the baseball diamond. Both baseball teams were neck-and-neck in the race to claim the regular season SEC championship, and the team that won the series would be so close to claiming the coveted title. The Commodores won the first game 6-2, but the Bulldogs bounced back the next day with a 7-4 win to tie the series. In the third game, Vanderbilt rallied to claim the series. In the audience witnessing all of this was none other than the Vanderbilt football team. They displayed their team spirit extremely openly-- to the annoyance of Bulldogs fans-- and are said to have partaken in some unsportsmanlike events after the final game. The passion each fanbase had during the series added another level to the growing rivalry. 

When both baseball programs made the College World Series in June, it seemed improbable that they would meet in the championship series. However, the Bulldogs pulled off a few upsets, and the Commodores reached the finals after their opponent was disqualified due to COVID-19 protocols. In the first game of the series, Vandy easily defeated MSU 8-2. State responded with a huge 13-2 victory the following day to tie the series and force a winner-take-all game three. The odds were stacked against the Bulldogs in game three: pitching for the Commodores was Kumar Rocker, one of the top college baseball players in the country. MSU's pitcher, Will Bednar, was having an outstanding College World Series, but he was coming off of much less rest than Rocker. With the odds stacked against them, the Bulldogs totaled 9 runs and held Vanderbilt to only one hit in the ballgame to claim their first ever national championship. The regular season losses were avenged in the greatest way possible, and a blossoming rivalry continued to grow. 

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On Saturday, MSU and Vandy will face off for the first time in any major sport since the national championship: this time, on the football field. The game will be filled with aggression and heightened emotion, and fans will watch the game with the events of the past year on their minds. The Bulldogs are heavily favored to win, but previous athletic events between the two universities have proven that anything can happen when the Bulldogs and Commodores play.