For as many years as I can remember, the egg bowl was a game featuring only one above average football team, sometimes just fighting to make it to a bowl. The other team was usually a dumpster fire, just looking for a win over a rival to end the season on a positive note. It was more of a toilet bowl than a battle for anything close to golden. I still remember the days where few fans cared if you were 2-9 before Thanksgiving, as long as you won that trophy and earned bragging rights for a year. That week leading up to Thanksgiving night just had a different feel to it than the rest of the season had. And even though the Ole Miss fans wouldn't admit it, they wanted to win that game just as bad as you did.
It looked as if that was all the game would ever amount too. It looked as if winning that trophy would be the most important one you would ever be capable of winning. Sure, one team would have a good season every now and then, but neither team could consistently go to bowls or compete for a championship outside of the one for the state. It was said for many years that it would be impossible for both teams to sustain success at the same time.
Oh, look how far we've come. It first took Dan Mullen coming in and changing the culture at MSU. It then took Hugh Freeze coming in and changing the culture at Ole Miss. It wasn't just the players' attitude that needed to change but the fans' as well. If you think Dan Mullen or Hugh Freeze hasn't changed your attitude, look at the way you view college football now compared to how you did before they arrived. You view it completely different. You went from wishing and hoping for a championship to seeing that it is a realistic possibility.
Yes Ole Miss fans realized that during the Eli days, but that's been about it in recent history. Mississippi State made it to the SEC Championship game in '98, but there was still no consistent success to speak of.
Mullen and Freeze completely turned things around when they got here. Ole Miss knocked off an 8-3 Mississippi State team in Freeze's first year to get bowl eligible. Mississippi State turned around last year and knocked off a 7-4 Ole Miss team to get bowl eligible. This was great. Both teams had made it to bowl games two years in a row. But the question for both programs became, "can they take that next step?"
In other words, could either team step up and compete for an SEC Championship? It would be unlikely that one of them could, but definitely not two. Surely two programs that used to never make it to bowls in the same year could compete to win the best division in college football in the same year.
Surprisingly enough, they did just that. Both teams were still in contention for the SEC West as recently as last week. For Mississippi State, that hope still exists. And while the winner would have needed an unlikely upset in the Iron Bowl, the fact remains that both teams had a legitimate chance in the same year to win the best division in college football.
The rivalry has changed, and it is continuing to change. In just a few short years, the game has gone from featuring one decent team, to two good teams, to two elite teams. The way we view the game is changing as well. We don't want to win it just to be able to brag to our friends and co-workers for a year. We want to win it because it means something more. We want to win it because big bowl games and championships are on the line.
Can both teams win 9 or 10+ games every year and make the Egg Bowl have huge national implications? There is no way of knowing. But one thing is for sure; they never thought we would make it this far to begin with. Nobody ever thought both teams could tie for a #3 national ranking at any point in a season. Nobody ever thought the game could be as big as it is this week. Yet here we are, with a CBS matchup that features one team playing for a playoff berth, and the other with a chance at a nine win regular season.
The passion of these two fan bases is the one thing that will never change. We've been there through the 3-9 days, and we'll be here through the 9-3 days. The fans are what make this rivalry great, and that will never change, even if both teams return to the days of sub par football. It doesn't look like that will happen anytime soon, and the upcoming years of the battle for the Golden Egg should be a joy to watch.