April 11, 2013 10:09:33 AM
STARKVILLE - The football game that is considered a statewide celebration for all Mississippians will now have the platform of a national holiday this season.
ESPN announced Wednesday morning that the 2013 rivalry game between Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi, commonly known as "The Egg Bowl," will be played on Thanksgiving evening for the first time in a decade.
ESPN will televise the 110th meeting between the two programs nationwide on Thursday, Nov. 28, at 6:30 p.m.
"It gives MSU, Ole Miss and the state of Mississippi a national exposure platform, which is always beneficial," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said. "The routine in the past for Mississippians was spend Thanksgiving Day with family and head to the game. It's neat folks get to do that again."
ESPN has only agreed to broadcast the game on Thanksgiving for this upcoming season and future matchups on the holiday have not been discussed.
The network, which previously televised the rivalry game as its annual Thanksgiving Day primetime college football game from 1998 to 2003, had its executives approach the leadership of the two schools just over a month ago for a one-year agreement to play on Thanksgiving again in 2013. Both schools were more than happy to accommodate the possibility of millions of television viewers.
"Speaking for (ESPN) I just think this is happening because they saw a premiere rivalry matchup where both schools are doing well," Stricklin said. "As I've said before, we all have friends that went to and are fans of Ole Miss and we always agree that this game is extremely important."
The most obvious benefit for the schedule change is exposure for the two schools. Egg Bowl ratings have averaged approximately 481,000 viewers on ESPNU in the last three seasons. The college football prime time game played Thanksgiving on ESPN has garnered 3.6 million viewers per game during that same three-year span.
"This is always, without question, the biggest game of the season for us," MSU coach Dan Mullen said through a school release. "Playing on Thanksgiving night allows a national audience to see how important this game is in our state."
Mullen is 3-1 in the Egg Bowl, his first loss coming last season in a 41-24 defeat in Oxford in what was Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze's first game as the Rebels' head coach. Ole Miss holds a 61-42-6 advantage in the overall series. The last time the matchup was on Thanksgiving, the Rebels shut out MSU 31-0 in Starkville, giving Ole Miss a share of the 2003 Western Division Championship in the Southeastern Conference.
"I think it's great for this storied rivalry to return to Thanksgiving Day," Freeze said through a school release. "There were so many memorable moments from our meetings on that holiday in the past, and I hope to see a big Rebel turnout in Starkville this year."
Both schools had already agreed to play a Thursday night game this season on ESPN as Ole Miss will open the 2013 season by playing at Vanderbilt University on Aug. 29, at 9:15 p.m. The Bulldogs will host the University of Kentucky on Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m.
MSU will have five days to prepare for the 2013 Egg Bowl matchup after a SEC road test against the University of Arkansas at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Ole Miss has home games against Troy University and the University of Missouri before coming to Starkville for the season finale against MSU. Stricklin said he consulted with Mullen about the quick turnaround and the Bulldogs' fifth-year coach is supportive of the move.
"We wouldn't be doing this if Dan and his staff didn't feel comfortable with the situation," Stricklin said. "I think the fact that the game is at home makes the quick turnaround a little easier in terms of scheduling for our coaches."
Recent Egg Bowl TV viewers
(481,160 average over last three years)
2010: Mississippi State at Ole Miss, 531,560 (ESPNU)
2011: Ole Miss at Mississippi State, 409,911 (ESPNU)
2012: Mississippi State at Ole Miss, 502,011 (ESPNU)
Recent Thanksgiving TV viewers
(3.6 million average over last three years)
2010: Texas A&M at Texas, 4.9 million (ESPN)
2011: Texas at Texas A&M, 4.1 million (ESPN)
2012: TCU at Texas, 1.9 million (ESPN)