STARKVILLE, Miss. — The Egg Bowl returns to Thanksgiving for the first time since 2003, as Ole Miss closes out the regular season tonight at Mississippi State in the annual Battle for the Golden Egg at 6:30.
One of the most historic and greatest rivalries in college football, the Ole Miss-Mississippi State series is tied for the 15th-longest in NCAA Division I history.
The Rebels (7-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) are bowl eligible for the second straight year under Hugh Freeze and look to keep the Egg Bowl trophy in Oxford. The Bulldogs (5-6, 2-5) are coming off a 24-17 overtime win at Arkansas and look to become bowl eligible with a win tonight.
“The Egg Bowl intensity is always going to be as high as you get in a given game,” Freeze said. “Certainly with them having to win to go to a bowl like we were last year, if it’s possible to ratchet it up a little more, that’s something that would do it if it’s possible. You don’t have to have that to make this game feel emotional. But if there’s anything that would make it more it would be those factors.”
“I know they're going to play hard against us,” junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. “Their backs are against the wall. We know how that feels. They’re in the same situation as we were last year. They’re going to come out and play, so we have to be ready for them.”
Wallace, a Conerly Trophy finalist, ranks third in the SEC in total offense (286.0 yards per game) and fourth in passing (264.4 ypg). In last year’s 41-24 win over Mississippi State in Oxford, Wallace completed 15-of-22 passes for 294 yards and a career-high five touchdowns.
One of Wallace’s favorite targets, junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief, ranks top 10 in the SEC in receiving yards (72.8 ypg), receptions (4.5/game) and receiving touchdowns (5). He also had a big game in last year’s win with seven catches for a career-high 173 yards and three touchdowns.
“They’re a little different than they were last year,” Freeze said of Mississippi State’s coverages. “They will still do some of the same stuff, but the percentages are different.”
“We showed them some looks that we didn’t show earlier in the year,” Wallace said of last year’s meeting. “We will have a few new wrinkles in this week just like every week, and hopefully we will able to score some points on them.”
For Mississippi State, sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott ranks fifth in the SEC in total yards (251.6 yards per game) and leads the team in both passing (171.3 yards per game) and rushing (80.2 ypg).
However, Prescott has missed the last two games due to injury and could be out again this week. Freshman quarterback Damian Williams, who is 14-of-27 for 186 yards with an interception this year, is listed as the starter on this week’s depth chart. Williams also scored the game-winning touchdown with a 25-yard scamper in last week’s win over Arkansas.
“I know they have been resting Dak, and the other two have played in the last few games,” Freeze said. “I saw where Tyler (Russell) left the game last weekend at the end. I don't know what the significance of that is. We have to prepare for all three I think. Fortunately, two of the three are very similar and do the same things, and the other is still similar. They are like watching us on film. They do most of the same stuff that we do. You don’t like not knowing, but that’s the situation we’re in, so we have to prepare for all three.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Ole Miss junior safety Cody Prewitt is tied for the SEC lead and tied for eighth nationally with five interceptions, including one last week against Missouri. He leads the team in tackles (66), interceptions (5) and passes defended (11).
“They want to run the football and then play-action pass, just like our offense does,” defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. “It’s an advantage for us, and both defenses, because we get to see this type of thing all the time. We have to prepare for it all.”
In preparation for tonight’s game in Davis Wade Stadium, Ole Miss had cowbell sounds, along with the usual loud music for road games, piped into practice in the Manning Center.
“We better get used to that,” Freeze said. “I’m not sure how that process is going there with the regulations that they have on them. I’m certain in this game we will hear some.”
“It’s kind of difficult, but once you get used to it, you block it out,” said junior linebacker Serderius Bryant, who leads the team with three sacks and nine tackles for loss. “Sometimes on the field, I don’t really hear anything, but I feel like Mississippi State has one of the loudest crowds in the SEC. The cowbells just makes it worse.”
This is the 110th meeting all-time between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The Rebels hold a 61-42-6 advantage in the series dating back to 1901. Thursday’s game will be the 86th “Battle of the Golden Egg” dating back to 1927. The Rebels have a 55-25-5 advantage in the “Egg Bowl,” including last year’s 41-24 win.