Egg Bowl is a ‘golden’ rivalry
As you give thanks today, and hopefully sink your teeth into some delicious food, I’m sure your mind will be on what tomorrow holds. Like many of you on this Thanksgiving, I will enjoy good food and time spent with family and friends. I’m extremely thankful for this time of year. I actually enjoy when the Egg Bowl is not on Thanksgiving, so I can spend the day with my family without distractions (other than NFL football) and allow the day to fulfill its true meaning.
In my home, as with many of you, we are surrounded by red, blue and even maroon. I, along with my grandfather and oldest sister, am vastly outnumbered by Bulldog fans. So, the Egg Bowl in my house can bring either too much excitement from the ‘Rebel trio,’ or too much harassment from the ‘Maroon Tidal Wave.’ I am thankful that on this fourth Thursday in November, the conversations based around football are relegated to pre-game trash talk only.
Egg Bowl: Essence of what college rivalries are all about
The Egg Bowl is the essence of what college rivalries are all about, and that is proven each November when Ole Miss and Mississippi State meet on the gridiron.
But that isn’t the only place it is proven.
Year-round it is proven through the writings of message board trolls, conversations at work, discussions between neighbors, debates at church, chatter on sports-talk call-in shows and many, many other platforms. The desire to beat one another, but also the respect for one another on the field, in all sports, as well as the attitude between fans, for the most part, combine to make the Magnolia state rivalry special.
Look to the east, and you see a rivalry that has consumed a state, and in many cases, goes too far. While Mississippi certainly has its college football crazies, Alabama seems to grow them on trees. However, look to the immediate north and immediate west and you see rivalries between SEC schools that don’t have enough passion, at least from this Mississippian’s perspective. Yes, Vanderbilt-Tennessee, LSU-Texas A&M and even Arkansas-Missouri carry little interest in SEC country, though this did happen in its lead-up this week.
The battle for the Golden Egg, however, provides the perfect mix of on-field intensity and off-field fan vitriol.
Growing up, I remember the dread of losing the Egg Bowl being far worse than the actual feeling after losing. Sure, you take it on chin for a few days, and you hear repetitive comments that sound dumber and dumber each time they’re uttered throughout the year, but it’s never as bad as you imagine. On the other hand, winning the game is pure joy for that night, and even the next day, but the feeling eventually wears off and everything goes back to normal. Sure, there are times you can poke your chest out a bit more.
Another impressive quality the Egg Bowl always seems to bring to the table is relevance within the state. When there is pride on the line in Mississippi, especially if it is earned on the gridiron, people are ready to claim it.
Whether this game features a match-up between two teams who have been ranked in the top four by the college football playoff committee during the season, or two teams who could be be in contention for a bowl game with five wins, there will be incredible intensity on both sides.
While my gauge tells me the excitement meter isn’t quite as elevated for this year’s game as in the recent past, I have a sneaking suspicion the winning school will enjoy quite the celebration once victory is secured. In fact, I expect the tension to continue to build before kickoff Saturday, but, in the end, whether Dan Mullen or Hugh Freeze comes out on top, you can expect both coaches to be very emotional and animated on Saturday night. I, for one, am very excited to see how it plays out and who comes out on top.
On the field, there are concerns for both teams. If you are Ole Miss, the big question is: How do you stop Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald? Heck, how do you tackle him?
For Mississippi State, the questions will also hinge around the defense. Can they stop a quarterback in Shea Patterson, of whom they have seen very little? Patterson, like Fitzgerald, can hurt a defense with both his arm and his feet.
I expect this game might come down to who gets off to the better start, who turns the ball over more, and who converts more on third downs. So let’s revisit who wins those three categories Saturday night and see if that is not ultimately the team who comes out on top.
Ole Miss does own the most significant advantage, at least on paper, entering the game, as they are the home team. The host of this rivalry match-up has lost just three times since 2000, with Ole Miss winning two of those three in Starkville.
So get warm on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.–whether you’re at home or in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium–and root on your team like this is the biggest game in the SEC, because in Mississippi it might as well be. Remind us and show others around the region and country why the Egg Bowl is so special, and perhaps the teams on the field will reward us with yet another classic.
John Luke covers all sports for The Rebel Walk and also writes about high school football for the Southern Elite Sports network, most frequently for SES Mississippi. John Luke is from Tupelo and is the Host of The Buzz on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-3 p.m. on 95.1 FM in Tupelo. He is also a frequent co-host of Mississippi Sports Today with Craig Horton on ESPN 96.3 FM, The Ticket, from 7-9 a.m. in Tupelo.