The Egg Bowl returns to Thanksgiving night for the first time since 2003, which is also the last time Ole Miss won in Starkville.
Thursday's game is the 110th meeting of one of the nation's most-played rivalries and the 86th "Battle of the Golden Egg," as the two schools stated playing for the trophy in 1927. The Rebels (7-4, 3-4 SEC) look to defend the Golden Egg and improve their bowl standing, while the Bulldogs (5-6, 2-6) are playing for bowl eligibility.
"The Egg Bowl intensity is always going to be about as high as you get in a given game," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "With them having to win to a bowl like we were last year, if it's possible to ratchet it up a little more for your kids, particularly your seniors, that's something that will 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."
Keeping The Momentum
Freeze said they gained considerable momentum after last year's Egg Bowl win. That win clinched bowl eligibility and a berth in the BBVA Compass Bowl, which may have been a determining factor for several recruits in their decision.
And on National Signing Day, Ole Miss landed a consensus top-10 signing class, which included eight Mississippi prospects, headlined by Huskie Tony Conner (Batesville) and cornerback Derrick Jones (Eupuroa).
The Rebels look to reclaim the Egg Bowl and continue to build momentum with a win Thursday night.
"I have seen it work both ways," Freeze said of the recruiting impact of winning the Egg Bowl. "There's not any recipe you can put on it. I know that it doesn't to win, and it's going to help you with some. But by the time February rolls around, there are a lot of things that have occurred, people have made decisions and relationships have been built. It's not the only factor, but it doesn't hurt, and it will help in some cases."
Wallace Feeling Better
Wallace was back at practice Monday and said he is at the end of his flu-like symptoms he suffered from in Saturday's 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri.
"There won't be any effect at all," Wallace said of any lasting effects. "Tomorrow, I'll be almost 100 percent almost."
Despite the fatigue and feeling awful, Wallace was was 26-of-42 for 244 yards with an interception.
"It was awful," Wallace said of Saturday. "I knew I was going to attempt to play. It was just hard to focus Saturday on what I had to do at the hotel, when I was just worried about trying to feel. I played OK. Definitely, I could have played better. It's something I'm not proud of."
Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Wallace-to-Moncrief
In last year's meeting, the Ole Miss offense exploded for 24 unanswered points in the second half to take a 41-17 lead, as the Rebels went on to win 41-24 and clinch bowl eligibility.
Wallace was 15-of-22 for 294 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. His favorite target was junior Donte Moncrief who had 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."
A year later, Wallace ranks third in the SEC in total offense (286.0 yards per game) and fourth in passing (264.4 ypg), while Moncrief ranks top 10 in the SEC in receiving (72.8 ypg), receptions (4.5/game) and receiving touchdowns (5).
"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 point on them."
Uncertainty At Quarterback For MSU
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 is listed as the backup on this week's depth chart to freshman quarterback Damian Williams, who is 14-of-27 for 186 yards with an interception this year. Williams also scored the game-winning touchdown with a 25-yard scamper in a 24-17 win over Arkansas last week.
Senior quarterback Tyler Russell, who has started the last two games, is not listed on the depth chart, having been replaced by Williams in each game due to injury. All this uncertainty at quarterback presents a different challenge to Ole Miss this week.
"I really don't know exactly what's going on," Freeze said. "I know they have been resting Dak, and the other two have played in the last few game. I saw where Tyler 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."
The Bulldogs are averaging 438.0 yards per game, which ranks ninth in the SEC and would also break the school record of 422.0 yards per game set in 1982. Another weapon in the offense is junior wide receiver Jameon Lewis, who leads the team with 49 catches for 635 yards and five touchdowns, to go along with three rushing touchdowns and three passing touchdowns.
"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."