Egg Bowl making Thanksgiving night return

The Egg Bowl is headed back to Thanksgiving night.

Both Mississippi State and Ole Miss, along with the SEC and ESPN, announced on Wednesday that the annual rivalry game between the two schools will be played on Thanksgiving this fall for the first time since 2003. The game, which is in Starkville this year, will be televised on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET.

This will be the 110th meeting between the two schools.

“I think it's great for this storied rivalry to return to Thanksgiving Day,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “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.”

Added Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen: “This is always, without question, the biggest game of the season for us. Playing on Thanksgiving night allows a national audience to see how important this game is in our state."

The first Battle for the Golden Egg took place on Thanksgiving in 1927 in Oxford, with Ole Miss winning 20-12 in front of a crowd of 14,000.

The Egg Bowl has been played on Thanksgiving 20 times previously, with the most recent coming during a six-year stretch that ran from 1998-2003. Both teams went 3-3 during that stretch.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for our state’s largest football game to be played on the largest stage of a crowded football weekend," Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said. "Some of the most memorable games in Egg Bowl history have come on Thanksgiving night, and hopefully more great memories can be made for Bulldog fans on this holiday evening."

The significance of playing on Thanksgiving has had kind of an on-and-off feeling to it, but I remember it being a huge deal when I was growing up in Oxford. The tradition for most families was to eat dinner before either heading to the game -- if it was in town -- or watching it on TV.

It was also a really cool tradition to see Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso award their players of the game with pies.

Whether or not fans made it to the game, it always made for great food coma TV. And people certainly watch Thanksgiving games. Over the past three seasons, an average of 3.6 million viewers tuned into Thanksgiving Day games on ESPN. The last three Egg Bowls (played on Saturday) have brought in an average of a little more than 481,000 per game.

It isn't a given that this Thanksgiving time slot is permanent, but with these schools generating more excitement and publicity lately, they'll certainly have a chance to make this game more attractive for the holiday again.