D. Smith : What you need to know about this year's Egg Bowl

MSU and Ole Miss face off this Thursday in Starkville for the annual rivalry game. 

This is the first time since 2015 that Mississippi State and Ole Miss will come into the Egg Bowl with both teams ranked in the top 25. No. 25 Mississippi State University will play host to No. 12 Ole Miss on Thanksgiving. The last time each of the foes were ranked, Ole Miss won in Starkville by a score of 38-27. Let's take a trip down memory lane at how we got to the 118th meeting on Thursday.

First facing off in 1901, when Mississippi State University was the Mississippi A&M Aggies, the Aggies walked away victorious, beginning the series. Mississippi A&M dominated the early part of the rivalry, winning 17 of the first 23 games. 

The Golden Egg trophy came to fruition in 1927, after Ole Miss defeated Mississippi A&M 7-6 in 1926. Ole Miss fans stormed the field in Starkville, attempting to tear down goalposts, while Aggie fans were attempting to stop Rebel fans in any way possible, leading to multiple injuries. The trophy was then founded through an agreement by both school's students to prevent such a thing from taking place again.

The name "Egg Bowl" was coined by The Clarion-Ledger executive sports editor, Tom Patterson in 1979. This name has stuck since then, and is used to describe the state's greatest rivalry every year.

The recent history of the matchup has been up and down to say the least, with neither team managing to take a stronghold in the rivalry. Let's take a look at what the last five years of Egg Bowls have brought their respective fan bases.

2016: Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald led the Bulldogs to an upset victory, 55-20, in Oxford. Fitzgerald threw for 106 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 258 yards and two touchdowns. MSU running back Aeris Williams also contributed 191 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, leading to a blowout victory.

2017: Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State University 31-28 in Starkville, after an injury to MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. MSU was down by 18 with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, before scoring the final 15 points of the game. Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown had a standout performance, with 167 yards and a touchdown.

2018: MSU won in dominant fashion on the road, 35-3, in senior quarterback Fitzgerald's last game. Fitzgerald had 111 yards through the air and 117 yards on the ground, along with three total touchdowns. Four ejections took place in the third quarter after a scuffle that led to both sidelines clearing, including three on the MSU side (Cameron Dantzler, Willie Gay Jr. and Jamal Peters).

2019: The last time the game was in Starkville, MSU walked away with a 21-20 victory after a missed extra point by Luke Logan with four seconds left in the game. The extra point attempt was backed up by fifteen yards following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty committed by Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore after catching the touchdown. 

"Elijah is a good kid, and he got caught up in the moment," Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke stated, addressing the penalty.

2020: Last season, Ole Miss took a large lead early and held off MSU to defend home field and leave with a 31-24 victory. The two teams combined for 1029 yards in the first matchup between Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns, while MSU quarterback Will Rogers passed for 440 yards and three touchdowns. 

Both quarterbacks are back again this season, each finding their names on a short list of players competing for the Heisman Trophy.

Ole Miss has racked up a 9-2 record, with their two losses coming to Alabama and Auburn. The Rebels are 2-2 against ranked opponents, as MSU will be the fifth one they've faced this season. Ole Miss is led by junior quarterback Matt Corral who recently stated he would be moving on to the NFL Draft following this season. 

Ole Miss beat Vanderbilt last Saturday, and Corral was not pleased with the play of the Rebels as a whole.

"If we play like that against Mississippi State, we're gonna get blown out. That's just the reality of it," Corral said.

MSU currently sits at 7-4, with losses to Memphis, LSU, Alabama and Arkansas. Three of the four losses came by a combined eight points. The Bulldogs are led by the NCAA's second leading passer, sophomore quarterback Will Rogers. Rogers has thrown for 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions in the Mike Leach "Air Raid" offense. MSU's defense also ranks fourth in the SEC in yards allowed, which will be important against the explosive Ole Miss offense.

Finally, let's look at my predictions. This season's Egg Bowl has all the makings to be a high-scoring shootout. Fans should expect a fantastic game on the night of Thanksgiving. Points will be scored, but it will all come down to which defense will get a stop. MSU will be that defense. The final score will rest at 35-31.

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