For a few weeks in October, Mississippi State and Mississippi stood among college football's elite with undefeated records, star quarterbacks and rare relevance on the national stage.
While the Bulldogs' dream season remains largely intact, the Rebels have fallen by the wayside — undone by a series of injuries and missed opportunities. Now No. 4 Mississippi State (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) must travel to face No. 18 Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3) on Saturday in the Egg Bowl.
The Bulldogs seem to have the edge in most categories — especially momentum. The Rebels have lost three straight conference games, including last week's embarrassing 30-0 setback to Arkansas.
But Ole Miss holds one key advantage: The home team has won nine of the past 10 Egg Bowls. And that might just be the equalizer that the Rebels need.
"It's a tough place to go play," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said with a slight grin. "I don't think they are big fans of mine in that part of the state."
But Ole Miss will have to play much better than it has over the past month — especially last week when the Rebels gave up six turnovers against the Razorbacks.
In particular, all eyes will be on quarterback Bo Wallace to see how he responds. The senior had one of his worst games against the Razorbacks, fumbling twice and throwing two interceptions.
He also briefly left the game after injuring his right ankle and didn't have the same zip on his throws when he returned. Coach Hugh Freeze called the injury a sprain and that he expects Wallace will push through the pain and be ready for the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State expects to get Wallace's best.
"He's a guy that can get hot and beat you in a hurry," Mullen said.
The Ole Miss defense will try and slow down Mississippi State's productive offense — led by quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson. Prescott threw for 193 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 51-0 win over Vanderbilt.
Some things to watch in Saturday's Egg Bowl at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium:
MOMENTUM vs. HOME TEAM: No. 4 Mississippi State is in the midst of a dream season and coming off of an impressive 51-0 victory over Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs have rolled through the SEC — with the exception of a loss to Alabama — and are still very relevant in the SEC West and national playoff picture. But Ole Miss has one important factor in its favor: Home-field advantage. The home team has won nine of the past 10 Egg Bowls.
WHICH BO WILL SHOW? Ole Miss senior quarterback Bo Wallace has had three very good seasons for the Rebels and many of his career numbers are right up there with all-time greats like Archie and Eli Manning. But his inconsistent performances have been maddening for Ole Miss fans. Wallace will try to bounce back from one of his worst last weekend, when he fumbled twice and threw two interceptions in a 30-0 loss to Arkansas.
WALLACE PART II: Speaking of Wallace, the Egg Bowl would seem to be a favorable matchup for the Ole Miss quarterback. Mississippi State does many things well, but is giving up the most passing yards per game in the SEC. One thing to watch: Wallace sprained his right ankle against Arkansas and had trouble getting velocity on his throws during the remainder of the game.
DISTRACTING DAK: Mississippi State's Dak Prescott bounced back from a three-interception performance against Alabama to throw for 193 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 51-0 win over Vanderbilt. Ole Miss will try to replicate Alabama's performance and make Prescott uncomfortable in the pocket. The Rebels lead the SEC with 19 interceptions.
BULLDOG DOMINANCE: Under coach Dan Mullen, Mississippi State has been at its best in the Egg Bowl. The Bulldogs have a 4-1 record in the game since Mullen arrived, including last season's come-from-behind 17-10 overtime victory in Starkville.
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