The Bayou Classic rivalry is alive and well.
It’s not that the rivalry between Southern and Grambling ever faded, but both football programs did experience hard times in the recent past.
That was before Dawson Odums’ promotion to Jaguars head coach two games into the 2012 season and Broderick Fobbs’ hiring as Tigers coach in the wake of a disastrous 2013 season triggered a resurgence in both programs.
And for good measure, both coaches threw a little good-natured trash talking into the mix during a news conference Tuesday to promote Saturday’s 42nd edition of the Bayou Classic in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
In his remarks from the podium in the Bienville Room, Fobbs called what the Tigers have accomplished on and off the field this season “stellar.”
“And I’m pleased to say,” he added, “that we will be stellar this weekend as well.”
Moments later, in a less formal interview with reporters, Odums kept repeating the word “stellar.”
“They say they’re going to put on a stellar performance,” Odums said. “I’m about to go Google that word. My definition might be a little off, but he says they’re going to put on a stellar performance. We’ll see.
“When you say stellar, I think you’re trying to put on a show or something. That means it might be a 100-point day.”
The Tigers — 8-0 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and ranked No. 1 in the nation among historically black colleges — have clinched the West, ending the Jaguars’ two-year reign. Southern is 6-2 in the SWAC and 6-4 overall.
“For a coach to say that you’re going to put on a stellar performance, I like the confidence,” Odums said more seriously, “and if I were 8-0, I’d be the same way — confident.”
Odums, whose team prevailed 52-45 in last season’s meeting, which determined the West title, was playing the role of underdog for all it was worth.
“We’re the underdogs, right?” Odums said. “They’re 8-0. I’ve never heard of a team that’s 6-4 being picked over an 8-0 team. What’s the Vegas odds on that?
“I’m going to have to cut this interview short. I’ve got to go back and get some work done. We’re the underdogs and ya’ll are killing me. I’ve got to go get some preparation done.”
Odums called Grambling senior quarterback Johnathan Williams “scary.”
“I was at the doctor’s office yesterday,” Odums said. “I tried to get him to give a sick slip so I didn’t have to come down here, but he said I was healthy enough to go.
“Have you seen him play? He’s scary to me. Figuring him out and keeping him under control is going to be a big part of the game.”
Fobbs, who participated in four Bayou Classics as a Tiger, called the game “a sibling rivalry.”
“I call it a sibling rivalry because there are so many student-athletes on both sides that are cousins, that are high school teammates that have to deal with the smack talk from Christmas, New Year’s and so forth,” Fobbs said. “So that makes it a very heated rivalry and all of us who have siblings know how heated that rivalry can be from time to time.”
Odums, whose teams are 3-0 against Grambling, said “it’s great for the fans” to have both Southern and Grambling fielding winning programs again.
“It’s our Classic,” he said. “We should be taking ownership of it whether the programs are good or bad. It’s our Thanksgiving weekend classic. We’re on the tube with some of the greatest rivalries in college football.
“That in itself is enough for them to embrace it and say, ‘You know what? I don’t know what I’m doing Thanksgiving, but I need to make that a part of my Thanksgiving.’ ”
Then the head coach of the underdog had one parting shot.
“It’s going to be all right,” he said. “We are the underdog.”
Odums paused before adding, “but we’re 3-0 against them, right?”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.