Egg Bowl Week

A big advantage recently for claiming the Golden Egg in the annual battle has been whichever team is playing at home.

Since 1998, which is the last 16 games, Ole Miss has won only one time in Starkville (2003), and Mississippi State has won only one time in Oxford (2010).

Other than those two games, the home team has won each time.

The Ole Miss Rebels host the MSU Bulldogs this weekend. Two years ago in Oxford, Ole Miss won 41-24. Last year in Starkville, State won 17-10 in overtime.

In a game that’s one of those rivalry contests that many say “throw the records out” when they play, you can’t really say that about home field advantage. It is very much in play. The recent record book reveals that.

Mississippi State, however, does indeed come into this year’s game as the favorite to win it. The Bulldogs are an impressive 10-1 overall, their lone loss 25-20 at Alabama. In Southeastern Conference play MSU is 6-1 with all kinds of major implications awaiting them if they can win on the road Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in a game televised by CBS.

Ole Miss, meanwhile, has seen its star fade some over the past month, from a perfect 7-0 mark to a current record of 8-3, the latest setback a thumping by homestanding Arkansas 30-0 over the weekend to fall to 4-3 in SEC action. That same night, Mississippi State got its express back on track after the setback to the Crimson Tide a week earlier by rolling over Vanderbilt 51-0 in Starkville.

The Commodores proved no test for just about any team this season, and that certainly goes for the two from Mississippi. The Rebels and Bulldogs, coupled with the Ole Miss win in Nashville in September by a 41-3 margin, unloaded on the Commodores by a 92-3 total.

So there’s at least one comparison for you.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said in his Monday press conference this Mississippi State team is for real, and that head coach Dan Mullen has built them for six years since he’s been there into a contender.

“They're a very good football team,” said the third-year Ole Miss head coach. “Dak (Prescott) makes them better than very good. You take him away from that team, and they're still very good.

“Defensively, they're one of the best in the nation against the rush. Their running back is hard to bring to the ground. Their receivers have improved. In six years Coach Mullen and his staff have built a good team with quality depth. They're ranked high and deserve it. They've done a nice job building really good depth and developing the kids they’ve recruited.”

While the Rebels-Razorbacks game is in the trash can now, Freeze and staff know that game was their worst of the season, without question. But he has challenged his program to take the negative and make it a positive.

“We’re obviously coming off a very disappointing showing at Arkansas,” Freeze said. “I told our staff yesterday and shared with our kids that the only thing that can take the sting out of disappointment is thankfulness.”

Freeze continued with his point three days before Thanksgiving.

"So I challenged our staff that I’ve found if I can give thanks in everything regardless of my feelings, I usually can find some joy and peace, regardless of the circumstances. So that’s something I challenged to our staff and our kids.”

Freeze said in this case, it begins with being the head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels.

“The first thing we talked about is being thankful for the opportunity to represent this great University in the Egg Bowl, the importance of it to our fans and to our football program. The players have a clear understanding of how much this game means to so many. I expect us to have a great week of preparation getting ready to play this game in The Vaught (Vaught-Hemingway Stadium) on Saturday.”

And the records show playing at home means something, whether on Scott Field there or Hollingsworth Field here.

Ole Miss has lost only 11 of 36 times the two rivals have met on the gridiron in Oxford. The Rebels also lead in Starkville, having lost only 14 times in the 37 games played on the MSU campus.

Freeze Frames:

* On Bo Wallace: “Bo has an ankle sprain, but it will take a lot more than that to keep him out of this game. He’s hungry and wants to play in this game badly. He's getting better. Hopefully he can be close to 100 percent Saturday.”

* On the Egg Bowl's effect on recruiting: “It is important in recruiting. It is every year. I do believe it has been proven over the last few years that the relationships you build over the years you recruit them typically win out in the end, regardless of the score in the game. This could be a different year because of the rankings and where they could end up. Yes, it's important, but after a couple of weeks and (the actual game hype) is over and you get down to decision time, a lot of kids know where they lean and it's often other factors than just who won a game. That’s my opinion.”

* On the Rebel offense at Arkansas: “I thought had we gotten a couple of those red zone touchdowns in, it could have been different. The defense was playing well enough to keep us in it. But you can't have those turnovers against anyone and expect to win. I didn't see any fault in the effort. You just can't turn the ball over and put your backs against the wall like that.”

* On Laremy Tunsil and other injuries: “We've got a lot of concerns. All of the kids that made the trip (to Arkansas) will give it a go in this game. There won't be a single kid that won't give it a great go (who was on the Arkansas trip). Laremy looked real good in the first half but didn't play much after the shoulder popped out in the second half. We’ll give him a lot of treatment this week and get him ready to go Saturday.”

* On the way this game ended last year: “We haven't talked about it specifically as a team. Maybe we will before the week's up. Bottom line was we lost the most prized possession of this University's football program, regardless of how it ended. That should be enough motivation.”

* On the two backup QBs – Kincade and Buchanan: “I hate to judge any young quarterback in those conditions, and the other team knows you have to throw. That's a tough scenario. They're excited about getting more reps this week for sure. We have to get them ready in case something else happens with Bo's ankle.”

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