Mississippi State visits Ole Miss for the annual Battle for the Golden Egg. Kickoff is 2:30ct for the SEC Network.
The Bulldogs (4-7, 2-5 SEC) are out of bowl contention, barring unique circumstances requiring some 5-7 finishers to fill out game slots. Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5) can lock in a post-season trip.
For veterans of this ancient rivalry the 2016 circumstances are familiar. Younger fans? They’ve gotten used to a big bowl game regardless of outcome.
“There’s been times this was all there was,” Coach Dan Mullen said. “Over the last couple of years both programs have done a great job raising what they have to play for. I don’t mean to say that to lessen the importance. But the success both have had has not made this an all-or-nothing game it maybe used to be for both schools.”
Then again…Mississippi State’s coach largely made his Mississippi State name in the beginning by dominating the rivalry. His 2009-11 teams scored three consecutive victories and Mullen was 4-1 against Rebel teams at one time. Ole Miss has taken the last two meetings though, and are favored in their home game again.
Neither rival arrives Saturday with much momentum. The Bulldogs have been soundly beaten in their last two SEC West games, while Ole Miss was upset at Vanderbilt. This was known to be a rebuilding season at State and the job has proven more problematic than expected.
By same token Rebel hopes were much higher and none would have projected they would arrive at the Egg Bowl still seeking eligibility. Though, as Mullen reminded, “I’m sure they’d say if they could change three plays they’d have a different season. I know we can say the same thing.”
Mullen hasn’t studied the potential for a 5-7 Bulldog team slipping into an open bowl slot based on conference ties and APR rankings and more. Three 5-7 teams did bowl last winter. A traditionalist about bowls the Bulldog coach is mixed on whether losing-record clubs ought bowl at all, even as a reward for academic success.
“It’s not something we can control. If that happens it’d be a heck of a deal. But I’d be happy to go!”
That story-line flirts in the Bulldog background though. Reversing the rivalry trend again is more on State’s minds. And, “To finish the season on a win is something important to me, because you don’t play for so many months.
“For those young men who’ve put so much into the program, walking off the field with a win is a special memory. For the guys still here, coming off a win going into your next season is a great feeling.”
The full video of Mullen’s Monday press conference is attached.