Neshoba Fair Football Coaches (copy)

Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach shown during an appearance at the Neshoba County Fair in July.

It's Egg Bowl week, and the whole crew is together to preview the 118th gridiron battle between Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Parrish Alford, Stefan Krajisnik and Michael Katz answer the big questions heading into Mississippi's biggest football game of the season.

STARKVILLE – Everyone remembers Elijah Moore crawling to the back of Mississippi State’s end zone, lifting up his right leg and pretending to urinate like a dog.

Everyone remembers the ensuing unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that pushed the extra point back and cost Ole Miss the 2019 Egg Bowl in Starkville.

For those who have been around the rivalry longer, there are memories such as the 1983 Egg Bowl when an unreal gust of wind at the most inopportune time for Mississippi State cost MSU a game-winning field goal.

The Egg Bowl is a beloved rivalry in a state without major professional teams, and it has a knack to produce one crazy scenario after another.

Predictions and expectations for this week’s edition of the game vary. Two teams with impressive resumes are looking for a final resume boost before bowl season.

Nobody knows how the game will end. Everyone knows something crazy will occur and teams will need to handle their emotions properly.

“They should handle it the same,” MSU head coach Mike Leach said of players’ emotions this week compared to others. “As you get a really good, team-driven locker room, everybody should be on the same page. Avoid the noise and just worry about being the best player and being the best team that we can be.”

MSU has an embodiment of what that looks like in its locker room.

Redshirt senior wide receiver Austin Williams — with MSU down 7-0 in the first quarter of last year’s Egg Bowl in Oxford — fumbled the ball at the goal line. It was recovered by Ole Miss.

The Rebels went down and made it a 14-0 game.

Williams didn’t let that play hover as he bounced back in the fourth quarter with a touchdown catch to make it a one-possession game, although Mississippi State wound up losing 31-24.

“I remember going up to him and telling him, ‘It’s over. We just drove the ball down on these guys. Let’s go do it again,’” quarterback Will Rogers said. “Later in the game, he caught a slant for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. You know Austin’s a guy who’s gonna bounce back.”

Leach and Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin have spent the season downplaying the toxicity of the rivalry.

Could it be a ploy to diminish some of the emotion involved? Perhaps.

It could be genuine, too. Kiffin and Leach are in their second seasons at the helm of their respective SEC West schools.

Leach says they haven’t gotten to spend much time together due to them coming to the Magnolia state amidst COVID-19.

But when they’ve been together, hatred hasn't followed.

The two shared jokes about the rivalry while speaking to fans at the Neshoba County Fair this summer.

A year ago, while meeting at the state capitol in an attempt to urge change for the Mississippi state flag, Leach was tugging at Kiffin’s mask like an annoying big brother.

Kiffin called Leach the greatest offensive mind in the nation during an appearance on College Gameday two weeks ago in which the Ole Miss coach also picked MSU to take down Auburn.

Leach, when informed of Kiffin’s complimentary words, returned the love by saying Kiffin himself might be the best offensive coordinator.

“They are doing a fine job this year,” Leach said, “so we’ll just let the love keep coming both directions.”

The two have set the table for a Thanksgiving night primetime game on ESPN.

Recruits picking between the schools will tune in to see if Thursday can sway their opinion. Bowl reps and voters will tune in to see how the teams stack up nationally.

The general population will be tuning in to see what crazy turn the rivalry takes this year.

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