The Magnolia State’s largest college football rivalry has returned once more as Ole Miss and Mississippi State are gearing up for their annual meeting to see who will win this year’s Battle for the Golden Egg.
In what will be the 120th annual Egg Bowl, both teams will be competing with a lot at stake. For No. 12 Ole Miss (9-2, 5-2 SEC), the program has an opportunity to amass 10 wins in the regular season for the second time in history and a chance to earn a bid to a New Year’s Six bowl.
Mississippi State (5-6, 1-6 SEC), on the other hand, looks to continue a 13-year streak of being featured in the postseason. The program, which recently fired head coach Zach Arnett, will also battle to defend its home turf on Thursday night and win consecutive games over its archrival.
Last year, the Bulldogs squeaked out a narrow 24-22 victory over the Rebels in the final game coached by the late Mike Leach. Nevertheless, Ole Miss currently holds a 64-46-6 advantage in the overall win/loss column of the bitter in-state match.
In his fourth year in Oxford, Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin has compiled a 32-15 overall record, including a 2-1 lead over the program’s in-state nemesis. Though Kiffin is undefeated in Starkville since taking over for the Rebels and is favored ahead of Thursday’s match, he is not taking the upcoming challenge lightly.
“You have a different view of it when you lose it,” Kiffin said. “We had the trophy here for a couple of years and then lost it last year. I hope that makes the players want it back even more.”
The Rebels will look to its offensive playmakers in quarterback Jaxson Dart, All-American running back Quinshon Judkins, and top wide receiver Tre Harris to excel, despite having a makeshift offensive line that has battled recent injuries. Dart and his receiving corps, with a statistical advantage over MSU’s defensive backs, have the chance to set the tone in the air and capitalize on passing plays in the red zone.
On the defensive side of the ball, Ole Miss’ secondary will be tasked with limiting yards after reception and minimizing gains from short passes thrown by Will Rogers to explosive wide receivers in Tulu Griffin and Zavion Thomas. It will also be incumbent for Pete Golding’s squad, which ranks third in sacks in the SEC, to put pressure on the savvy veteran quarterback early and often.
After moving on from Arnett, Mississippi State has turned to senior offensive analyst Greg Knox to fill in as interim while the program conducts a national search for a new leader. No stranger to the Egg Bowl, Knox is well aware of the significance of the annual battle and is looking to have his team embrace the underdog mentality and use that as fuel on the field.
“It’s challenging. One thing about this game — you can take the records and you can throw them out,” Knox said. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve won one game or if you’ve won 10. When that foot hits the ball [Thursday] night, you’ve gotta line up and you’ve gotta play.”
For an offense that has struggled to move the ball in the latter half of the season, Mississippi State has an opportunity to build on the momentum of Saturday’s 41-20 win over Southern Miss with Rogers and running back Woody Marks back in the starting lineup. Marks has an opportunity to set the run game early to open up passing lanes for the four-year signal caller and his speedy receivers to earn large gains off of quick passes throughout the contest.
Defensively, the Bulldogs’ assignment will require star linebackers Jett Johnson and Bookie Watson to help the front contain the Rebels’ dynamic rushing attack with Judkins, Ulysses Bentley IV, and even Dart. MSU’s defensive backs will have to win some one-on-one battles with Harris and others, including Jordan Watkins and Dayton Wade.
How to watch
Date: Thursday, November 23, 2024
Time: 6:30 p.m. CT
Location: Davis Wade Stadium
Radio: Participating SuperTalk Mississippi stations