Mississippi State does not have to look very far in the rear view mirror to remember the last time it was in this predicament.
The Bulldogs were 5-6 entering the Egg Bowl in 2011 needing a win over state rival Ole Miss to become bowl eligible.
MSU answered the challenge, defeating the Rebels 31-3 in Starkville and earning a Music City Bowl bid before finishing the year at 7-6.
The Bulldogs will need a similar effort this year but this time enter the contest as the underdog. Ole Miss is favored by a field goal over a State squad that still has as many questions as answers entering the final week of the regular season.
Dak Prescott has been ruled out for Thursday’s game and if Tyler Russell is unable to go, does true freshman quarterback Damian Williams have what it takes to upset the Rebels in his first start?
Can the Bulldogs’ battered roster piece together one more win to reach bowl eligibility?
Will Mississippi State’s special teams finally break through after so many disappointments throughout the year?
The series has been nearly deadlocked since the Egg Bowl was moved back on campus in 1991 with MSU holding a slight 12-10 edge.
Some pretty crazy things have happened in the rivalry such as the now famed “immaculate deflection” in Jackson 30 years ago that gave the Rebels a 24-23 victory, the 1999 kicked interception in the waning moments by MSU’s Robert Bean that was intercepted by Eugene Clinton to set up the game-winning field goal, and the 2007 17-point rally by the Bulldogs in the final eight minutes for a 17-14 win.
The game has cost several coaches their job in recent years. David Cutcliffe, Ed Orgeron, Sylvester Croom and Houston Nutt all coached their final games after losing the Battle for the Golden Egg.
Let’s look at what is on the line this year for both teams outside of the rhetorical bragging rights.
Ole Miss is likely headed to the Music City Bowl, win or lose, but it would certainly be another feather in Hugh Freeze’s cap to capture a victory in Starkville for the Rebels for the first time since 2003.
The Bulldogs are battling for bowl eligibility, which would be the first time in school history to reach four consecutive postseason berths. With a win, Dan Mullen would also be able to regain the favor of segments of the fan base that fell off the bandwagon after last year’s Egg Bowl loss.
Like every Egg Bowl I’ve covered since 2004, there are plenty of questions entering the game. The good news this year is they will all be answered before that Thanksgiving feast becomes Friday’s leftovers.
Logan Lowery (logan.lowery @journalinc.com) covers MSU for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideMSUSports.com.