Rivalry Renewed

Ever since suffering a 45-0 shellacking from Ole Miss a year ago, the Bulldogs of Mississippi State have kept the 106th meeting of an annual in-state rivalry circled on their respective calendar.

From a blatantly visible countdown clock inside the team's practice facility, to constant referrals to the "school up north," the school with what seems a yearly score to settle has had no shortage of headlines leading up to the 81st "Battle of the Golden Egg."

But come Saturday at 11:21 a.m., the Rebels plan to silence these Bulldogs.

"It means a lot," junior defensive tackle Jerrell Powe said of the rivalry. "It's definitely a school tradition and a big rivalry amongst the two schools. This will be a chance to determine who the best team is in Mississippi. It's definitely a big game."

Oh, how quickly Mississippi State forgets.

From start to finish, last season's contest simply proved to be a glorified scrimmage for Ole Miss. The defensive front swarmed in the win, accounting for a school record 11 sacks and two turnovers.

The "landsharks" were on full display, feeding on quarterbacks Tyson Lee, Wesley Carroll and Chris Relf. The Rebels held State to merely 37 yards of total offense, the fewest in any game since 1962.

"It was definitely big for the defensive line," Powe said of 2008. "Whenever one of us got a sack, you could be the one of the most tired people in the game, but the next play it was like your first snap. It was big seeing the guys up front get sack after sack.

"That's why we call ourselves the landsharks. We feed off each other and we fed off each other last year. We continued to get sacks."

And Powe would know.

The former five-star from Wayne County had arguably his best game of the season against MSU, as he totaled two tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception in spot duty behind Peria Jerry.

"It was a big game and a confidence booster," he said. "Last year, it was the biggest game for me. I came out and did what I was supposed to. I was fortunate to have plays come to me."

This year, the objective for Powe and the Rebel defense remains the same. Getting out of Starkville with a win is the only priority, with hopes of a possible trip to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla. on the line.

However, while MSU has no more than pride to play for with a 4-7 overall standing and 2-5 mark in the SEC, the Bulldogs have proven capable in 2009. A lopsided loss to No. 2 Alabama two weeks ago notwithstanding, State played No. 1 Florida to within 10 points in a loss, while falling to LSU by only four at 30-26.

Led by senior running back Anthony Dixon, who is the school's career leader in all rushing categories, the Bulldogs rank fourth in the SEC on the ground. Dixon is averaging 125.8 yards per game, good for second in the conference, and has scored 11 touchdowns.

"They try to be real physical," said Powe. "This will be the first team that stays on the double team up front. Our linebackers should have a field day. We're going to do a good job of breaking that double team down. They've got a good running back in Dixon who runs with a lot of power. It's going to be interesting."

But obligatory positional breakdowns aside, the significance of one of the nation's most-played rivalries is obvious.

The weekly build-up has been substantial and emotions are riding high. It's time for the Bulldogs to put their money were their mouth is.

"There's a lot of motivation. I've got a lot of friends (at Mississippi State). I hung out with them a lot this summer and they talked a lot of trash," Powe said. "They were taking jabs at how highly ranked we were and stuff like that. We're going to be ready to play against them. But leading up to the game, I haven't been hearing a whole lot from them."

Let the silencing begin.


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