Following a 41-27 win over Ole Miss in 2009, Dan Mullen announced to a cheering crowd of maroon clad supporters that his Bulldogs were the only team “on the rise” in the state of Mississippi.
It was Mullen’s first Egg Bowl appearance and his team had just finished 5-7, knocking off a Houston Nutt squad that would go on to win the Cotton Bowl. While the victory was impressive, not many folks outside of Starkville paid much attention to Mullen’s post-game proclamation.
A year later, on their home field in Oxford, Ole Miss would fall to the Dawgs again, by a score of 31-23, ending their season with just 4 wins. Mullen was now 2-0 versus “the school up north”, as he refers to MSU’s biggest rival. Furthermore, his prophecy of being the team “on the rise” seemed much more reasonable. State finished 9-4 on the year and captured a 52-14 Gator Bowl victory over Michigan.
After his second Egg Bowl win, Mullen stood up in the locker room and delivered another bold message to his guys; “We’re never losing to this team again!”
Another year has now passed and Ole Miss heads into this Saturday’s “Battle For The Golden Egg” with a lame duck coach, suspended players, a 13 game losing streak in the SEC and a high probability of ending the season with just 2 wins.
Mississippi State, at 5-6, has also endured a disappointing season. The Bulldogs have played 6 ranked teams and come up on the losing end each time. Close losses to Auburn and South Carolina were especially heartbreaking for Mullen’s team.
However, capturing the Golden Egg trophy for the third year in a row would still mean back to back bowl trips for the guys in maroon.
A win would also solidify Mullen’s previous claims, at least for another year.
Of course, a third win over “the school up north’ would likely result in even more gutsy comments from MSU’s young coach. Mullen has never backed away from an opportunity to ruffle the fur of the Black Bears…err…I mean Rebels…and their fans.
Whether Ole Miss supporters are willing to admit or not, Mullen’s antics have been a positive for this long standing rivalry. Emotions have been stirred, to say the least, resulting in a heightened anticipation of the Thanksgiving weekend classic. Not since the Jackie Sherrill/Tommy Tuberville battles of the 1990′s has so much tension surrounded the Egg Bowl.
There’s nothing wrong with throwing a little gas on the fire. It’s good for the fans, good for the state and good for both schools…especially the winning school, which probably explains why Mullen is so quick to stoke the flames.
So, what do we make of this year’s battle in Starkville? Will Nutt’s players make one last bold attempt to send their coach out with a win?
Maybe, but it won’t be enough. There’s a reason State is an 18 point favorite in this one.
In front a 16th straight sellout crowd, the Bulldogs will punch their ticket to the postseason on Saturday.
Don’t feel too sorry for Coach Nutt, though. Thanks to a generous buyout agreement, he’ll have approximately 6 million reasons to keep smiling when the dust settles.
Prediction: Mississippi State 34 – Ole Miss 13