Mississippi State and Ole Miss have the college football stage to themselves on Thanksgiving night.

They’ll face off in Oxford and in front of a national TV audience to settle the Battle for the Golden Egg.

Both teams are headed to bowl games.

Both are having good seasons but seasons that had potential to be even better than they currently are.

State (7-4, 3-4 SEC) is looking to end a 2-game losing streak in the Egg Bowl and give head coach Mike Leach his first victory in 3 tries against Lane Kiffin.

Here are 5 reasons the Bulldogs will win the Egg Bowl:

1. Will Rogers

When the Bulldogs are at their best, it’s because Rogers is at his best.

He’ll be at his best on Thursday night. He’ll throw the ball as many times as necessary to keep moving the chains.

He’ll connect with more than a half dozen pass catchers.

He’ll be efficient on 3rd down and in the red zone, as he mostly has been all season. He won’t just move the ball and pile up yardage, he’ll put the ball in the end zone and produce enough points to make the difference.

In 37 red zone visits this season, State has scored 34 times (91.9%), including 30 touchdowns. The Bulldogs lead the country in points per red zone drive (5.19), red zone touchdown percentage (81.08%) and red zone passing touchdown percentage (59.46%).

2. Special return games

This figures to be a close game. Any field position advantage could be significant.

State has the return specialists to create breathing room on punts and kickoffs, maybe even produce points in the return game.

It leads the country with an average of 28.2 yards per kickoff return, and the Bulldogs are 1 of just 5 teams in the country that has both a kickoff return for a touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown this season.

Individually, Lideatrick Griffin leads the country in yards per kick return (32.3) and Zavion Thomas is 7th in yards per punt return (12.9). Griffin’s career average (33.3) leads active FBS players and would exceed the school record by 6.6 yards.

There are probably going to be more kickoffs than punts in this game, so Griffin figures to get more opportunities than Thomas.

But both should have a chance to make an impact on this game.

3. Thievery in the secondary

State has forced 20 turnovers this season (2nd-most in the SEC), while Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3 SEC) has forced just 14. The Bulldogs will come out on the plus side of turnovers in this game, and that will be a big factor.

They lead the SEC in takeaways since 2020 with 55, and they have forced multiple turnovers 15 times since 2020, winning 12 of those games.

State leads the SEC with 14 interceptions and will get multiple interceptions in this game. Emmanuel Forbes has 6 interceptions this season, and there is the possibility that he’ll add to his FBS-record 6 interception returns for touchdowns.

But even if there isn’t a pick-6, the interceptions will be a key factor.

4. 1-2 punch at running back

Ole Miss has a really good 1-2 punch at running back with Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans.

But State has a pretty good one, too, in Jo’quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson. The Bulldogs certainly won’t match the Rebels’ rushing yards, but Marks and Johnson will also contribute significantly in the passing game.

Last week, Arkansas beat Ole Miss, 42-27, as Raheim Sanders (232 yards, 3 rushing touchdowns) was able to mitigate the damage done by Judkins and Evans by having a 200-yard rushing game.

Marks and Johnson will produce enough rushing and receiving yards to lessen the impact of the Rebels’ biggest weapons.

5. Needing it more

Ole Miss had really high hopes for this season. The Rebels were ranked in the Top 10 after starting the season 7-0.

But since then, they have lost 3 of 4 and the losses have been by an average of 2 touchdowns.

The Egg Bowl still means a lot, but it’s being played amid a lot of disappointment.

The Bulldogs are tired of losing to Kiffin’s team.

A win for them would be the highlight of the season and get a monkey off Leach’s back.

Both teams are always highly motivated to win this game, but in this particular episode State has motivation beyond the norm.