Every rivalry puts pride, respect, and bragging rights on the line. However, the truly great rivalries catch the eye of the casual fans because they usually have national implications.
Why do folks who may not be Ohio State or Michigan fans pay attention to “The Game”, because it is usually (historically speaking) for the Big Ten Championship. Why do people in California watch the “Red River Rivalry”? They watch for the same reason we all watch, because that contest usually determines the winner of the Big 12.
Now there are some lesser rivalries that hold regional interest like “Clean Old Fashioned Hate”, the “Backyard Brawl”, and “The Civil War” all of which matter to their fan bases, but leaves something to be desired from a national perspective.
You can place “The Battle for the Golden Egg”, which Mid-South fans know is between Mississippi State and Ole Miss, in the category of rivalries that get regional interest, but lacks national luster.
Traditionally speaking, the two SEC schools that reside in Mississippi are not very good. Over the past twenty years, Ole Miss has finished the season ranked in the AP poll only five times. Mississippi State has not faired any better finishing the season ranked in the AP Poll four times since 1994. Just once since the SEC added a championship game in 1992 has either school played for the SEC Championship (that was the Bulldogs in 1998). Also, the two schools have managed to get a share of the SEC West crown just twice in that time span (Mississippi State split with Arkansas in 1998 and Ole Miss split with LSU in 2003).
However, this season appears to be different for both schools, as they seem to be poised for a historic run through the SEC, which would set up the biggest Egg Bowl ever.
It is not outside of the realm of possibilities for this year’s Egg Bowl to be for the SEC West crown, and a chance to play in the SEC Championship.
Ole Miss has one of the nation’s best defenses. They are holding opponents to 248 total yards (fourth in the nation) and allowing just 8.5 points per game (third in the nation) so far this season. The emphasis Hugh Freeze’s staff has put on defense has the Rebels off to their first 4-0 start since 1970.
Meanwhile in Starkville, Dan Mullin has one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in all of college football, Dak Prescott. After an injury plagued season last year, Prescott has returned healthier and better. He accounts for 335 yards of total offense, and led the Bulldogs to their first win in Tiger Stadium since 1991.
An Egg Bowl for the SEC West crown would be exciting and well deserved for the fans of these two programs. No two programs have fans more deserving of a relevant rivalry than Ole Miss and Mississippi State. They are every bit as rabid and crazed as the best schools in the SEC, and they do this while consistently residing in the SEC dweller. These are two fan bases that show up yearly in support of their programs, regardless of how well the Rebels and Bulldogs are doing. There are few programs that can say that.
It is easy to support programs that are always ranked and competes for conference championships year in and year out. Those programs get bandwagon fans on top of their real fans along with the adoration of the national media. ESPN College Gameday has never been to the state of Mississippi for anything, except to drive through it on their way to LSU, Auburn, or Alabama. They have been to North Dakota twice!
Okay insert random SEC West school fan here I understand that neither Mississippi State nor Ole Miss has a winning record against you (except Texas A&M, the Bulldogs lead that series 4-3). It is a rare occurrence for either Mississippi school (let alone both) to beat you in a season, but this might be the year.
If that happens, then the nation will have no choice but to pay attention to “The Battle for the Golden Egg”.
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