Game Time: 7:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. CT, Thursday, November 23
How to watch online: Watch ESPN
Odds: Mississippi State -14 || Over/under 64.5 (via OddsShark.com)
Series History: Ole Miss leads 63-44-6, In Starkville Ole Miss leads 21-14-3
Last Meeting: Mississippi State dominated Hugh Freeze’s last game as Ole Miss head coach, 55-20
Dating back over the last 20 years or so, the home team in the Egg Bowl has generally won except in years where there is a clear talent difference between the teams. While last year’s 55-20 result in favor of Mississippi State in Oxford may not have been down to a talent gap, there was a certain difference in motivation with Mississippi State trying to gain bowl eligibility and Ole Miss seeming to have quit on the season.
A year later and the Rebels have been putting up a fight in their games, but are certainly battling talent deficiencies at key positions, specifically on the defense. Nick Fitzgerald ran for 258 yards in last year’s matchup and there is little that has changed on the Ole Miss defensive side of the ball to think that the result will be significantly different. In all honestly, it will be surprising if this game is closer than the spread.
Keeping with the theme of recurring themes from last year, Ole Miss comes in with their backup turned starting quarterback coming off the worst game of a young career. Jordan Ta’amu and the Ole Miss offense only managed 66 yards and were shut out in the second half of last week’s loss to Texas A&M.
Prior to last week’s game at Arkansas, Mississippi State looked to be sailing towards a 9-3 season and possibly a Florida bowl game, but the Bulldogs almost got NovemBERT’d. Fitzgerald connected with Deddrick Thomas with less than a minute remaining in the game to give Mississippi State their first lead and they escaped Fayetteville with a last second win.
Off that win, Dan Mullen and crew are looking to win back to back Egg Bowls for the first time since winning the final three years of Houston Nutt’s tenure from 2009-2011.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the spiciness of the rivalry in recent years. Mullen escalated the angst in the rivalry his first couple of years in Starkville with consistent needling of Ole Miss. After the 2010 win, video leaked from the post game locker room of Mullen saying, “We’re never losing to this team again.” Ole Miss, of course,
took that in stride used that video after the 2012 game which the Rebels won 41-24 and played the video on repeat on the video board.
Past the friendly-ish banter back and forth, the rivalry has turned nasty in recent years. Ole Miss’ second notice of allegations from the NCAA earlier this year mostly stemmed from charges related to (reportedly) current Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis (and to a lesser extent, Kobe Jones). Lewis was compelled to appear at Ole Miss’ hearing in front of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions and has surpassed Mullen as the leading persona-non-grate for Ole Miss fans. Lawsuits have since been filed against the two by the related Ole Miss booster and those remain in the court system.
Expecting the NCAA’s sanctions to come down at any time, it is now past the time that has been routine for the NCAA to release sanctions. While Ole Miss has been displeased with that delay as it hampers their ability to effectively hire a coach without knowing the penalties, the delay was leaked to at least one journalist before the hearing even took place.
Dating back to around the time of the hearing, Yahoo’s Pat Forde reported that the penalties would not be handed down until after the Egg Bowl. The thought was that they were being held to prevent further escalation in the rivalry. Hopefully after the game is over, the NCAA’s sanctions will be released to start to put some closure to this chapter of the rivalry.