STARKVILLE, Miss. - When it comes to college football, there is one game that, no matter a team's record, can make or break a season. It can make the difference between success and failure.
On Saturday, when the Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-3, 4-3 SEC) take on the Ole Miss Rebels (5-6, 2-5 SEC) in the 109th edition of the Egg Bowl, state pride and bragging rights will be on the line.
Kickoff for the Battle for the Golden Egg is set for 6 p.m. CT, with the national television broadcast on ESPNU. For those unable to get to a television, the game will also be broadcast on the Mississippi State Radio Network and via Sirius Radio (Channel 149) and XM Radio (Channel 193).
When the two rivals take the field Saturday, the matchup to watch will be fast-paced offense against the lockdown MSU defense. For the Bulldogs, senior leaders Johnthan Banks and Cam Lawrence, who have not lost to Ole Miss during their careers, will be looked upon to stop an offense that has cause havoc for many teams this season.
Banks, an All-American defensive back, continues his dominating final campaig, causing issues for opposing offenses in every aspect of the game. The Maben, Miss., native, who recently became the first player in MSU history to be named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, was named a midseason All-American by four major publications. For the season, the team captain has intercepted four passes, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and has broken up six passes. Lawrence, an All-SEC linebacker, has turned up the currently tied for fifth in the nation in tackles for the month with 39. In six of State's first seven conference games, Lawrence has posted double-digit tackles, with 5.5 tackles for loss in the last five contests. The Coldwater, Miss., native will need to bring that same prowess to Oxford Saturday night to secure his fourth Egg Bowl trophy.
Leading the offensive attack for the Dogs will be junior quarterback Tyler Russell, who has had a more-than-impressive 2012 season so far. The Meridian, Miss., native has broken the single-season school records for completions, yards, passing touchdowns and 200-yard passing games. Russell is just one of five quarterbacks in the nation with 20-plus passing touchdowns and less than five interceptions. The Maroon and White field general became the first MSU QB in five years to throw for four touchdowns in an SEC game last week, finishing with 274 passing yards and four scores versus Arkansas.
In last year's in-state battle, the Bulldogs reeled off their third-consecutive Egg Bowl victory at Davis Wade, easily defeating Ole Miss 31-3. State started off fast with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Chris Relf to Vick Ballard on their opening possession. As the first quarter began to wind down, LaDarius Perkins continued his dominance against Ole Miss with a 36-yard run for a score to put State up 14-0. Perkins, on a pass from Relf, and Ballard would both find the endzone once again, putting the Bulldogs up 28-0 before the Rebels could finally score. A 28-yard Bryson Rose field goal is all the Rebels could manage, as State went on to win and clinch their bowl eligibility for the 2011 season.
Following the Egg Bowl, the Bulldogs will await their bowl future, which will be announced Sunday, December 2. State is assured of making its third-consecutive bowl appearance, coming off impressive wins in the Gator and Music City Bowls the last two years.