Thanksgiving takes a backseat to annual Egg Bowl in many households across the state of Mississippi, and tonight, Ole Miss and Mississippi State will once again put in-state bragging rights on the line.
It’s been a mixed bag for both the Rebels and the Bulldogs during the 2018 season, but capping off the regular season with an Egg Bowl win would certainly go a long way for either program heading into next season.
Mississippi State comes into the matchup as a 10.5 point favorite under first-year head coach Joe Moorhead, who will get his first introduction to the rivalry game on Thursday night.
Really, everybody that you see in town and around the state, have a lot of passion. This game has a lot of the ingredients of what makes college football and a great rivalry special: two great opponents, the proximity, familiarity, tradition, history, and, quite frankly, most importantly, players from around the state that have played with or against each other. I think that is what makes this game unique and special,” Moorhead said.
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke needs no introduction to the rivalry that he has been around for his entire life.
“It’s huge for the people of Mississippi,” Luke said. “It always has been. It’s a game that means so much to so many people. This year is no different. It’s 365 days of bragging rights. It’s always been important in my family ever since I can remember. This is not my second Egg Bowl, it’s my 42nd. It’s always something that means a lot and it is very important for this senior class to go out on a winning note in this game.”
On the field, the most intriguing matchup will be the Ole Miss offense against the Mississippi State defense. Explosive at times, the Rebels will rely heavily on the passing attack behind QB Jordan Ta’amu with RB Scottie Phillips still limited with an ankle injury. A.J. Brown had 167 yards and a TD as he returned to his hometown in 2017, so expect the MSU defense to try and shut him down early.
The Bulldog defensive unit is among the best in the country, and the Rebels have struggled against SEC defenses all season long. Montez Sweat and Jeffrey Simmons lead the way on the defensive line and they’ve been responsible for many of MSU’s 85 tackles for a loss this year. The unit has allowed less than 14 points in 8 games this season, which is the most in the country.
Offensively for MSU, it’s been an up and down year with Nick Fitzgerald under center. While the senior struggled in losses to the likes of Alabama and LSU, he has shown his ability to keep opposing defenses off balance in wins over Texas A&M and Arkansas in the later stages of the season. The Ole Miss defense is one of the worst in the nation, allowing nearly 540 yards per game, so MSU should be able to put up points.
Fitzgerald will also come into this game with something to prove as he was knocked out last year’s loss with a gruesome injury early on. Backup Keytaon Thompson played well in relief, but MSU fell short and the Rebels held on for a 31-28 win. The Bulldogs will look to celebrate on the field in Oxford, which they did in 2016 after scoring 55 points against an equally poor Rebel defense.
The Rebels won’t be heading to a bowl game, and win or lose their season will end on Thursday night. While neither team needs any more motivation, the Rebels don’t have anything else to play for this season which could be an advantage, especially at home.
Kickoff is set for 6:30.