"This is a tremendous opportunity for our state's largest football game to be played on the largest stage of a crowded football weekend," athletics director Scott Stricklin announced today. "Some of the most memorable games in ‘Egg Bowl' history have come on Thanksgiving night, and hopefully more great memories can be made for Bulldog fans on this holiday evening."
A Thanksgiving date for State-Ole Miss is nothing new. At one time it was played on the holiday afternoon each year, whether on campus sites or in Jackson. It was a Thanksgiving Thursday game 24 times between 1902 and '32 in fact, though the 1969 and '71 games were the last played on the day before the series became permanent in the capitol city.
In 1991, Mississippi State took the bold move of bringing the rivalry back to campus and Ole Miss followed the lead. But not until 1998 was it back on Thanksgiving, and that date became more memorable as the night Mississippi State clinched the SEC Western Division championship in Oxford by a 28-6 score. State is still the only Mississippi program to have played in the league's Championship Game.
Bulldog fans also remember the remarkable fourth-quarter comeback of 1999 on Thanksgiving evening, at Scott Field. And in 2001 another State team pulled off another double-digit comeback on the home field to win on the holiday date. But when ESPN dropped the rivalry as its Thanksgiving game after the 2003 game the tally was three wins apiece.
Now State and Ole Miss have the exclusive broadcast slot on the holiday date again. ESPN reports an average 3.6 million viewers for this timeslot over the last three years, compared to under a half-million that the State-Ole Miss game has drawn on Saturday evenings on another ESPN outlet.
"This is always without question the biggest game of the season for us," Coach Dan Mullen said. "Playing on Thanksgiving night allows a national audience to see how important this game is in our state."
Mississippi State already has one Thursday home game for 2013, as ESPN has moved the Kentucky game to October 24.