Mississippi St.-Mississippi Preview

(AP) – Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott is already a part of Egg Bowl lore thanks to his performance in last season’s comeback overtime victory.

That win brought with it bowl eligibility and bragging rights, and another this season could mean a whole lot more for the No. 4 Bulldogs.

Mississippi State travels to face No. 18 Mississippi at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford on Saturday.

It’s just the third time in the past 57 years and first since 1999 that both teams are nationally ranked going into the Egg Bowl – and as always, state pride is on the line.

"This is a game that doesn’t take a lot of motivation to get up for," Ole Miss linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said.

Also at stake for the Bulldogs (10-1, 6-1 SEC), however, is a possible Western Division title, a spot in the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff and reaching 11 wins for the first time in school history.

It won’t be easy considering the home team has won nine of the last 10 in the series.

"You don’t want to get ahead of yourself," Mississippi State offensive lineman Ben Beckwith said, "but there’s a lot on the line."

Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen has been at his best in this rivalry, winning four of five since arriving in Starkville in 2008. The program’s only series loss in that span was a 41-24 setback in Oxford in 2012.

Close to the end of that game, Ole Miss poked fun at Mullen by playing an earlier video on the stadium board that showed the coach in the locker room telling his team that they would never lose to the Rebels during his tenure.

Mississippi State linebacker Christian Holmes said that incident was still fresh in the team’s mind.

"We won’t lose to them again," Holmes said.

The Rebels (8-3, 4-3) will certainly have something to say about that.

Ole Miss opened with seven straight victories, but has now lost three straight conference games, including last Saturday’s 30-0 setback against Arkansas. The Rebels had six turnovers in what was arguably the worst loss of the Hugh Freeze era.

Freeze, though, said that film analysis didn’t reveal any huge surprises.

"I tried to find fault in effort and I didn’t see it," the coach said. "You can’t turn the ball over like that and put your backs against the wall in this league."

Quarterback Bo Wallace returned to play after spraining his right ankle early in the loss, and Freeze said that while Wallace’s ankle remains sore, he’s improving each day.

"It would take a lot more than that to keep him out of this game," Freeze said.

Prescott will have a hard time topping last season’s Egg Bowl performance. He didn’t play in the first three quarters because of a shoulder injury, but entered in the fourth and rallied the Bulldogs to a 17-10 overtime win.

"It’s a game played with emotions and a game played with the heart," Prescott said. "It’s a good rivalry and I’m glad to be a part of it."

Prescott bounced back from throwing three interceptions against Alabama on Nov. 15 with three touchdowns against Vanderbilt in a 51-0 victory last Saturday. Now he’ll face an Ole Miss defense that’s giving up an SEC-low 13.5 points per game.

"They’re good up front and they’re good all the way around," Prescott said. "We just have to worry about staying sound on offense and taking care of what we’ve got to do."

The Bulldogs aren’t simply looking to win Saturday, but to win big. Mississippi State is trying to remain in the running for a spot in the playoff and keep pace with other one-loss teams such as TCU, Ohio State and Baylor.

Mullen insists he’s not particularly concerned about the possible scenarios. He just wants to keep the Egg Bowl trophy for another season.

"Every one of these is as important as the other one," he said. "This is the biggest game of the year for us. This is one to me – the records never really matter – it’s all about winning the game and getting bragging rights in the state for another year."