Ole Miss and Mississippi State are the only attraction on the college football stage Thanksgiving night. It’s the 116th meeting between the rivals, who first faced each other in 1901. It’s the 92nd time they will be battling for the Golden Egg trophy in what has become better known as the Egg Bowl.
Egg Bowl: Ole Miss at Mississippi State (-2.5, 58.5 over/under), Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
It’s the 26th time the rival schools have met on Thanksgiving as the host Bulldogs (5-6, 2-5 in the SEC) are 2.5-point favorites against the Rebels (4-7, 2-5).
“Two great American pastimes; turkey and football,” Bulldogs coach Joe Moorhead said.
MSU has possession of the Golden Egg by virtue of its 35-3 victory in last season’s Egg Bowl, the fourth straight Egg Bowl win by the visiting team.
The Bulldogs will become bowl eligible with a victory, which would make this a school-record 10th consecutive season of bowl eligibility.
“That’s one of the very baseline goals that we have, to get to a bowl game,” senior wide receiver Malik Dear said. “For the seniors to say that we’ve been to a bowl game every year we’re here, that’s really an accomplishment we can take with us for the rest of our lives.”
It’s not out of the question that the Rebels could wind up in a bowl game if they win and there aren’t enough teams with at least six victories to fill all the bowl spots.
“I think that’s out there because enough people have been talking about it,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said, “but it’s not something we’re talking about. Our guys are dialed in on this game.”
The Rebels have had extra time to dial in on this game because they had an open date last week while the Bulldogs were beating Abilene Christian 45-7.
After the game, Moorhead was asked about a comment he made before the Abilene Christian game, saying he wouldn’t start preparing for Ole Miss until afterward.
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“I lied,” Moorhead said. “I looked at them this week. I don’t make the schedules and I am not involved in that decision-making process. They had the luxury of having a bye week and a bunch of days to get ready and we are coming off a short week. It is what it is. We are not going to complain. We are not going to make excuses.”
In the Rebels’ last outing they lost to LSU, 58-37, but they rushed for 402 yards and gained 614 total yards against the No. 1 team in the country.
Freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee rushed for 212 yards and four touchdowns. He is third in the nation among quarterbacks with 989 rushing yards.
“They do a great job of making sure everyone is a threat and that you have to defend the quarterback and running back,” Moorhead said. “It is kind of similar to some of the things that we do. These guys have tremendous speed, great escapability and for a smaller guy he runs with some physicality, too. You have to make sure you swarm him and get him down on the ground, because he has made a lot of explosive plays.”
The Bulldogs have a pretty formidable running game themselves, led by junior running back Kylin Hill, who leads the SEC in rushing with 1,215 yards. He had his seventh 100-yard game last week and needs 177 yards to break his school’s single-season record for rushing yards.
“I’ve already told the young guys that this week is one of the weeks that you can’t play around with,” Hill said. “This is basically the Super Bowl for us or a championship for us. It’s a big rivalry that we’ve got to take it to the field.”
Luke is a former Rebel offensive lineman who has known the rivalry with MSU his entire life.
“It is an
emotional and passionate game,” he said. “I am born and raised in the state of
Mississippi. When the game is on Thursday night, and it’s a national television
game, you want the whole state of Mississippi to be shed in a good light with a
good football game, two passionate fan bases and two good teams out there
playing hard. That is the way it should be.”
Moorhead got his first taste of the rivalry last season, his first as the Bulldogs head coach after coming from Penn State. He experienced the Penn State-Pitt rivalry and grew up with the “Backyard Brawl” rivalry between Pitt and West Virginia.
“When you talk about two schools with a lot in common and passionate fan bases, I don’t think you really quite understand it until you are actually in it,” Moorhead said. “This is a game that means a ton to both schools, the people in the state of Mississippi, to our players, to our coaches and to our fans.
“A lot of these kids have played against each other. We recruited a bunch of guys on their team, and this is a game that is going to be played with great emotion and great passion.”