Note* - For the sake of priority ranking, MPB - which was polled by the media - will be used for ranking purposes. Maxpreps uses computer rankings. If the Clarion-Ledger ranks one team but the other is not ranked in the MPB poll, the CL will be used.
What?: First Road Game
Where?: Starkville High School Football Field
When?: Friday, August 30th @ 7:00 PM
How can you keep yourself updated?: 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter Account, Channel 97 (Metrocast) Monday @ 6 PM, Gamecast on Maxpreps at this LINK.
The Oxford football team is thinking nothing of the sort - like Ole Miss did when they destroyed Mississippi State last year. Both Oxford and the Ole Miss Football teams had one thing in common when asked about "Egg Bowl" questions: "It is just another game on our schedule". Unlike last year where both of the teams' seasons were on the line, it really is "just another game on the schedule" this time - there is nothing at stake beyond a win that will have no meaning come playoff time. Keep in mind, the main reason this game is scheduled is because both head coaches know each other real well - as is the same reason Jackson Prep and Cleveland East Side (next week) are scheduled - and that they are not a 5A opponent anymore.
Last year's loss did have some meaning: It ended the Chargers season. Unlike other "Egg Bowl" games where Oxford entered that contest at 11-1 last year, they didn't have a "Bowl" game to look forward to afterward.
Last year's final was a 28-7 Starkville win en route to their 5A State Championship run, but you wouldn't know it was a 0-0 halftime score last year with that final result. Starkville cannot defend their title in 5A as they have been bumped up to 6A again in the reclassification.
There may be nothing real at stake as far as playoffs is concerned, but Oxford will be playing for a lost life that occurred Saturday Night - Senior Sarah Bial was killed in a car wreck on Highway Miss-310 in NE Panola County (about 3 miles east of Como) this past Saturday night. Four other girls were also injured in the wreck. That is a hair-bit more important to play for than some made up name Starkville-area papers made for this game.
For Oxford to win, they must: Stop the Run Game - Jackson Prep showed they were able to run it solidly last week and was finally able to break a big one for 30-yards in the 4th Quarter that gave Prep a chance late. The front 7 needs to do a better job this week that runs a lot more than Prep does or this might be a track meet.
Let Them Know "We Haven't Forgotten" - Because Starkville might. Starkville returns just 4 starters on offense plus a new QB from their 5A Title team who was their leading receiver last season. While Price was effective at QB last week, he was pretty inaccurate (7-for-17, good for only a 41% completion percentage and threw an interception) - and those type of QB's are what Oxford's defense usually feast on. Stop the run game (like the key above) where Oxford knows the Yellowjackets must put it on the arm of Price.
Test Starkville's Defense - because their shutout of Noxubee County last week is not your typical one or one they really earned. Noxubee's offense only returned two starters from their 4A Title team - thus making it pretty easy to rattle their offense last week and stop them cold. It was also in part that Noxubee failed to execute in the Red Zone making four trips in there and coming away with ZERO points (and in all likelihood did not have a Field Goal kicker). This one will be much tougher as Oxford has more experienced players on the offensive side of the ball and their hurry-up offense should keep them on their heels - that is should the referees not interfere with the pace of play like it did in the first half against Jackson Prep (and knowing refs in that area are typically biased, it might just happen again). If Starkville fails this test and allows Oxford to score early, that'll be a big confidence boost from last year that took them 3 1/2 quarters to score.
For Starkville to win, they must: Be Ready for the "Revenge" Factor - Oxford's defense will be roaring out of the gate to set the tone early. I mentioned already Starkville only returned 4 starters on offense, so most were on the sideline of last year's win over Oxford. Starkville needs to match the intensity the Chargers will bring - and their home crowd should help them. This is also Starkville's first home game since winning the 5A Title last year, so they will celebrate in some way - giving Oxford more motivation to beat them right before they get on the field. (Psst, if they don't figure it out this week, they have West Point next week who will have that same mentality since they also lost to them last year in heartbreaking fashion)
Establish the Run Game - that is what they need to rely on. The pass will be not as risky (obviously) if Oxford's secondary must guess to see if they will pass it or run it out of the shotgun they run. If Oxford knows it must pass the ball - especially on 3rd & long or if they happen to trail late in the game - that plays into Oxford's hands. This is a secondary that helped the team placed 4th in the National 7-on-7 Tournament this summer. Starkville doesn't need to test Oxford's passing game.
Find Some Rhythm on Offense - Starkville's first 10 of their 17 points they scored last week was early on in the first quarter after Noxubee made mistakes. After that, it took them 3 quarters before scoring the put-away points. Starkville cannot allow a potent Oxford offense to hang around if they are going to take that long between scores - if not the Charger offense, the Special Teams will have plenty of chances to make a play like how Oxford turned the game around with a blocked punt last week against Prep.
Other Notes: Starkville is currently on a 12-game winning streak - the last time the Yellowjackets lost was when they dropped to 1-3 to begin the year when their starting QB was just coming back from an injury in their first meeting against West Point last year. Oxford is 3-0 in their past 14 games when facing teams with winning streaks in the double-digits (Charleston - 14, Lafayette - 34, Jackson Prep - 13) - however, none of those wins came on the road.