Sep 28, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace (14) passing against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in 10 long years the Egg Bowl returns to Thanksgiving. This rivalry has taken a long time to get back to where it was from 1998-2003 when it was played on Thanksgiving night. Every year since has seen one team up while the other was down, or both were down…until last year.

  • 2004: MSU was 3-8, OM was 4-7
  • 2005: Both finished 3-8
  • 2006: MSU was 3-9, OM was 4-8
  • 2007: MSU was 8-5, OM was 3-9
  • 2008: OM was 9-4, MSU was 4-8
  • 2009: OM was 9-4, MSU was 5-7
  • 2010: MSU was 9-4, OM was 4-8
  • 2011: MSU was 7-6, OM was 2-10

Finally in 2012 both schools went to a bowl game – the first time since 2000. That renewed ESPN’s faith in the rivalry and here we are, back on Thanksgiving in 2013. Ole Miss comes in with a 7-4 record, MSU at 5-6. Very similar to last year but with the roles reversed as MSU came to Oxford with an 8-3 record while OM was 5-6.

Game time: 6:45 at Davis Wade Stadium. ESPN with the broadcast.

MSU rushing offense: 194 YPG (39th)  vs. OM rushing defense: 160 YPG (61st)

MSU passing offense: 244 YPG (54th) vs. OM passing defense: 224 YPG (51st)

MSU total offense: 438 YPG (46th) vs. OM total defense: 384 YPG (49th)

MSU scoring offense: 27.2 PPG (76th) vs. OM scoring defense: 24.9 PPG (47th)

OM rushing offense: 194 YPG (38th) vs. MSU rushing defense: 154 YPG (54th)

OM passing offense: 293 YPG (24th) vs. MSU passing defense: 217 YPG (41st)

OM total offense: 487 YPG (20th) vs. MSU total defense: 371 YPG (40th)

OM scoring offense: 32.3 PPG (50th) vs. MSU scoring offense: 25.6 (56th)

Ole Miss has an advantage in most of these stats, but they are pretty close. And when it’s close it comes down to who wants it more in rivalry games.

Keys for Mississippi State:

  1. Red zone defense – State has done an excellent job forcing three and outs this year but they’ve been poor in the red zone. We have the worst red zone defense in the SEC, and that’s what’s contributing to the high scoring D despite the good total D. State needs to force some field goal attempts instead of allowing touchdowns.
  2. Red zone offense – Scoring only 10 points in five trips last week was brutal, and almost cost us the game. MSU is 12th in the SEC in this category, and it needs to improve. Part of the issue is the inability to kick field goals, but we’ll just have to find a way to get in the end zone, or line up a glorified extra point.
  3. Special teams – the FG kicking is a lost cause at this point (crossing my fingers I’m wrong and we make a couple of kicks) but it doesn’t mean we can’t play sound special teams. We were hit or miss last week – stopping a fake punt but also allow big kickoff returns. Put the game in the hands of the offense and defense because this group isn’t good enough to make plays – just play fundamentally sound…..although Jameon Lewis did have a kickoff return for a TD in the Egg Bowl last year.
  4. Catch the ball – dropped passes have plagued the Bulldogs receiving corps all year. With Damian Williams likely starting and playing most of the snaps, they need to help him out by securing what is thrown good enough to catch.

It should be a great game. Both teams want it but I would argue State needs it more – not only for a bowl game but to hold serve at home, keep from losing two in a row, and re-energize the fanbase. Hail State!