STARKVILLE, Miss. — This year’s Egg Bowl promises to be brisk by Magnolia State standards, with temperatures expected to hover in the 30s tonight.
That could be good news for Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5 Southeastern Conference), which plays host to rival Mississippi (7-4, 3-4) in the 110th meeting between the programs.
Mississippi State played well in the cold last weekend against Arkansas, winning 24-17 in overtime. The Bulldogs must win tonight to earn bowl eligibility for a fourth consecutive season.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said the Rebels didn’t handle the cold weather very well in last weekend’s 24-10 loss to then-No. 8 Missouri. The Rebels had some dropped passes in the red zone, causing their normally prolific offense to stagnate.
“I don’t talk about those things a lot, but I did talk to our team about it today,” Freeze said. “I didn’t think we handled it real well, particularly when we got behind and your mind is not your friend. It’ll play some games with you, some tricks on you and lie to you. Part of our program – our core values – is mental toughness and we’ll have to have that Thursday night because there’s going to be some adverse times when you’re playing a good team.”
Mississippi State knows about adversity – especially at the quarterback position.
The Bulldogs could be down to their third-string quarterback Damian Williams. Starter Dak Prescott is out with a nerve injury in his non-throwing arm that’s caused him to miss the past two games.
Backup Tyler Russell could still play but has missed chunks of the past two games with an injury to his throwing shoulder.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Williams has thrown just 27 passes this season, but ran for a go-ahead 25-yard touchdown against Arkansas last weekend.
“You can see the talent there,” Mississippi State coach Les Koenning said. “But we’ve got to be careful as coaches. He’s a freshman. We’ve got to go out there and put him in a position where he can be successful.”
Though Mississippi State is hurting at quarterback, one important factor is pointing toward the Bulldogs: The home team has won 12 of the past 14 Egg Bowls.