Only two games remain in the regular season for the Mississippi State University Bulldogs. They will need to win both of them if they hope to make a post-season bowl game. This has left a sense of urgency with the Bulldog's starting quarterback Tommy Stevens, a graduate from Indianapolis, Indiana.
“It’s what we’re gonna have to do,” Stevens said. “There’s no other choice.”
There is indeed no other path for the Bulldogs to become bowl eligible outside of a two-game home stretch against two very different opponents.
The first test will be Abilene Christian University, a 5-6 FCS team out of the Southland Conference. While the Bulldogs will be heavily favored, the Homecoming Game could be shaken up. There could be distractions that allow the underdog Wildcats to be stronger competition against their SEC opponent.
Still, there seems to be almost no scenario in which Abilene Christian could pull off the upset. That is, unless the Bulldogs completely overlook the game in favor of focusing on the University of Mississippi. Head Coach Joe Moorhead has assured fans the team will not let the future distract them from the present.
“We need to be focused on the task at hand. Certainly, everyone knows what is looming on the back end of this: a huge game, a huge rivalry game,” Moorhead said. “Our focus will turn to that the second the clock ticks zero against Abilene Christian. Right now, all of the focus and attention of the players and staff are on doing what is necessary to get win No. 5 and beat Abilene Christian. When the clock hits zero, it will be full speed ahead to the last game.”
No matter how fast the Bulldogs will be able to turn their attention to Ole Miss, they will still be behind in the preparation process because Ole Miss will be coming off a bye week. The Thanksgiving day kickoff and the shortened week of practice prior to the Egg Bowl will leave the Bulldogs at a disadvantage. The Rebels have been able to focus on and prepare for the Egg Bowl since their loss against the No. 1 team, Louisiana State University.
While the Rebels lost 58-37 to the top-ranked Tigers, they were still able to hold their own against them, accumulating 614 total offensive yards. Many of those offensive yards were due to a deadly rushing attack led by John Rhys Plumlee and Jerrion Ealy. The matchup against Ole Miss has many fans concerned, more so than they are with the Abilene Christian game. This worry is due to the sheer difference of talent between the two teams and the intensity of the rivalry surrounding the Egg Bowl.
Regardless, the Bulldogs remain confident in their ability to qualify for a bowl game. It certainly seems to be within reach and a core goal for players. The prospect of an extra game is definitely on the mind of senior offensive lineman Darryl Williams, from Bessemer, Alabama.
“We got a lot left to play for,” said Williams. “We get two more home games. The opportunity to get bowl eligible.”
The final question regarding the Egg Bowl is job security. Both head coaches have come under fire amid poor plays, but both are still calling the shots. The Egg Bowl is huge for both fans and recruits; therefore, it has a significant impact on job security. If MSU's head coach Joe Moorhead can pull out a win against the Rebels, it seems probable that he will return for another year. If not, MSU could easily be in search of a new head coach.
No matter what happens, the next two weeks are the last two chances the Bulldogs have to become bowl eligible. Their first chance will be this Saturday against Abilene Christian University, at 6:30 p.m. Moorhead said the team is excited to play.
"With a night game at home, we are going to have a huge Homecoming crowd," Moorhead said. "The fans are going to be into it. The fans are going to be excited. We are excited to come out. The last two games of the season are at home. The kids are very excited about it.”