One shiny egg is Mississippi’s ultimate prize

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It’s time to play for an egg.

The stakes will be much higher than that, no doubt, but let’s be real here. Mississippi State won’t be thinking of the College Football Playoff when foot meets leather Saturday night. Ole Miss and its three consecutive SEC losses will be long forgotten by the time “Are You Ready?” blares from the video board in Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium.

There are many types of eggs. Easter eggs, Faberge eggs, fried eggs and eggheads. But the egg these two will be playing for is better than the ones at Big Bad Breakfast.

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CBS will be there. So will about 100,000 other people, with millions more watching at home and more than a few who will wake up the next morning and remember that they forgot everything.

This is the biggest Egg Bowl since Tom Patterson coined the term 36 years ago as a reason for the sports editor to package together a special section to show off his talented sports writing team at The Clarion Ledger in 1978.

The Bulldogs are clinging to a No. 4 ranking and the cusp of a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff. MSU needs Auburn to beat Alabama to snag a spot in the SEC championship game, but even without that Dan Mullen’s team is in a solid spot to sneak into the playoff after losing to the Tide two weeks ago. Ole Miss is nursing a No. 18 ranking after three straight SEC losses, the last one the most embarrassing to an Arkansas team that finally seems to be finding its footing. The Rebels would love nothing more than to be the reason why their buddies in Starkville won’t be included in the playoff festivities come January.

Rick Cleveland, the resident patriarch of Mississippi sports writing, said this was the biggest Egg Bowl he’s ever witnessed in his long and illustrious career. “No doubt about it,” he told me without hesitation, and who would know better than him?

If Mississippi State wins, it will add another notch in its SEC West belt and solidify a resume that will be hard to pass up when the committee makes its final four selections in December. If Ole Miss emerges victorious, it will be a dramatic blow to the Bulldogs’ title hopes, all but eliminating them from contention and adding a signature win to the Rebels’ solid season that will erase the bad taste of earlier heartbreaking losses.

Bo Wallace is playing on a bum ankle and has said it will take a lot more than that to keep him out of this game. The senior will be looking for redemption after fumbling away the Rebels’ win last year in overtime. Dak Prescott is playing with a renewed confidence after stalling midway through the year after a Heisman push that was stronger than the smell in the locker room after an August practice. He’ll be looking for redemption in his own right.

The narratives are there. It’s now time to watch them play out in the frosty chill of an Oxford Saturday night.

It’s time to play for an egg.

Let the scramble begin.

Cory Gunkel is a reporter. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, Ext. 145, or by email at