It two weeks, we’ll be smack in the middle of Egg Bowl Week, that wonderful time of year when the Mississippi State-Ole Miss rivalry hits its shrillest pitch. It’s when Dan Mullen is at his trash-talking finest. It’s when tie-wearing frat boys curse at ballcap-wearing cowbell ringers, and vice versa.
It’s when stereotypes like those become the foundation for the rapier wit of message board posters. It’s a game fans can celebrate no matter how their team’s season is going.
Well, this one’s going to be a little different. The Nov. 26 meeting in Starkville will be the final game of the Houston Nutt era at Ole Miss. The lame-duck coach was fired earlier this week but will finish out the season before they take away his keys.
This is unusual. Back in 2003, Jackie Sherrill announced his retirement during the season, then lost the Egg Bowl, 31-0. Sylvester Croom was hired four days later.
But that wasn’t a firing.
Then in 2008, Croom was canned the day after a 45-0 beatdown in Oxford. There was talk leading up to the game of Croom’s job security, but things went down afterward.
So this year’s Egg Bowl is going to be ... weird. Nutt will exit stage left in the place where it all started to go awry. In 2009, an No. 20-ranked 8-3 Ole Miss team strolled into Starkville with plans to dispatch a 4-7 MSU team trying to regain its footing under first-year coach Mullen.
Sixty football minutes later: Bulldogs 41, Rebels 27.
Mullen is 2-0 against Nutt, and he ought to wind up 3-0. To hear Mullen tell it, though, nothing will be different that week.
“It doesn’t affect my dynamic at all,” he said Monday. “Word out of there last year and the year before, they were pretty focused on that game as well. So I imagine it’ll be just as passionate as it always is.”
Will it? Can Nutt and his players honestly muster that much passion under such awkward circumstances? My hat’s off to them if they can.
Nutt is certainly saying all the right things about finishing the season strong, but I’m predicting an 0-3 finish – Louisiana Tech is favored this week, and that’s a solid team that took MSU to overtime.
I’m sure schadenfreude will be in full effect at Davis Wade Stadium that Saturday after Thanksgiving. Nutt will receiving no sympathy from MSU fans, although some might be sorry to see him leave (see: Mullen’s record against him).
And I wonder how many Rebel faithful will actually be celebrating the arrival of this Egg Bowl. Ole Miss has returned nearly 3,500 of the 6,000 tickets it was allotted for the game.
Many were returned before Nutt was fired. I guess, like me, Ole Miss fans were looking ahead to this game, and not wanting any part of it.
Brad Locke (email@example.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.