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The best and worst of the 2017 Egg Bowl, ranked

We expected something ugly, and that’s just what we got.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The Egg Bowl, as often, is a riotous, ugly, mean affair. It’s ugly in the buildup as rival fanbases toss expletive-laden and often offensive insults at one another; it’s ugly as the teams warm up on the field and lob insults at each other’s faces; it’s ugly as the game unfolds and this or that side can’t get anything going on offense and mistake after mistake pops up in the air for turnover after turnover.

2017’s installment of the Egg Bowl delivered all of these insanities and more. 2017’s Egg Bowl led off with an ESPN montage in which rival fans tried to articulate their hatred for the other. As a hype segment it fell totally flat, because it’s difficult to capture compelling soundbites from either fanbase when both are sodden with standard Thanksgiving fare and heavy booze.

So we’re here to attempt sifting through all the bullshit to give you a not-so-comprehensive-as-indicative list of the best and worst from the 2017 Egg Bowl, but, like ranked beneath each penumbra. Let’s do worst first.

The worst three things from the 2017 Egg Bowl.

1. Nick Fitzgerald’s gruesome leg injury

This was awful and caused me to run out of the room, much to the consternation of my dad, who yelled “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?” after me. I had seen the foot. I had seen just the one replay of the tackle and knew exactly what had happened. I knew.

Because, as an Ole Miss fan, I’ve seen two starting quarterbacks go down in consecutive seasons. The immediate and visual horror of Fitz’s injury was bad enough, but the knowledge that he’s going to be out of service for a pretty long time makes the whole business even worse. I enjoy watching Fitz play every week that isn’t Thanksgiving week, and college football is better with him on the field. That he may not for a considerable amount of time frankly sucks. If you disagree, please reexamine your capacity for empathy.

2. Breeland Speaks’ dumb personal foul and pursuant ejection

The personal foul and ejection nearly lost the game for Ole Miss. Miracle that the Rebs recovered the final onside kick and were able to kneel it out. But what a misguided decision to slap a player’s helmet multiple times in broad view of an official.

I won’t say much about his waving at the stadium on the way out other than that Speaks should have realized how far State was from the end zone at that point and how much time was left on the clock (2:02, as I remember it). Waving may not be all that pleasing to the coaching staff in that situation.

3. The chippiness

Chippiness in a game like this is a distraction, but only to an extent. Argue all you want that the Fitz injury was the result of a dirty play — I’m inclined to argue that it wasn’t — but it certainly holds things up and prevents either team from performing the already highly complex task of effective football. Head hunting is not a successful way to win games. It merely exposes you and your opponent to injury.

The chippiness — in this particular context specifically — also fuels the moot narrative that this game is the most venemous in the country. That is demonstrably false. It’s certainly niche in its vitriol, insofar as it gives a microcosm of the hatred that essentially exists between roommates who hate one another because they know one another too well, but the hatred is a difference in quality, not quantity.

Honing in the chippiness only fuels the chippiness and distracts from the 22 men on the field trying, often unsuccessfully, to beat one another in the game of football. If that’s really what they’re after (they are).

The best four things from the 2017 Egg Bowl.

1. D.K. Metcalf lifting a leg in CLANGA’s end zone

The high point of the night:

I say the high point, because it was here that Ole Miss reached its highest margin of victory, which had immediate followed the next item on this list.

1a. A.J. Brown claiming Starkville in the name of A.J. Brown

Seeing this live, I collapsed into hysterical laughter yet again, though it happened before Metcalf clowning out up there.

A star was born on Thanksgiving night, and every Saturday leading up to Thanksgiving night, and he’s the most hated man in Starkville. Wonderful.

Taken together, these two TDs put together an impressive third quarter of throwing by Jordan Ta’amu and catching by his two favorite receiving targets. Taken together, the game looked poised to spin off the rails into a 2016-style throttling but with the tables completely turned. That didn’t exactly happen, of course, which is why our ranking now turns toward ...

2. The fact that Ole Miss won

Now, yes, I understand that the Rebs prevailed in Starkville, 31-28. That’s cool and fun as hell. However, getting there was at times a violent and frustrating slog. After it was all said and done, and given that list of worst things up there, I felt exhausted and even somewhat disillusioned when the clock finally read 00:00. The pregame fights, the Fitz injury, the failed comeback, Ole Miss’ offensive line missteps — all of it had rendered me a blubbering, furious mess by the time the game was over.

BUT! Ole Miss won and improved to 6-6 in a season that won’t see a bowl game, but they kinda won a bowl game under an interim coach whom the players quite obviously love. For reference take a gander at the lede art on this post, wherein the team made the point of gifting Matt Luke with the Golden Egg in the middle of his postgame interview. He raised it aloft and smooched the hell out of it. That’s great.

If you still stand in disagreement with me, fine.

The win is only a third-order concern here — so close to the event itself — because in the moment, in the sublime, heady context of that third quarter with two large touchdown passes and A.J. shouting “MY CITY!” and D.K. peeing like a dog in the end zone, the win itself became a tertiary memory of some of the funnest, funniest Ole Miss football we’ve watched this year. Think back to your elation in those singular moments, and lay that against the grief of those closing two minutes in the fourth quarter and ask yourself, “Which was I more excited about?”

3. CLANGA storing the Egg Bowl trophy between a hot dog warmer and an ancient coffee maker

Very on brand. Perhaps they never thought they’d need to bring it out in public.

4. Three Rebs made Ole Miss history

As well they should. They’re all great players for the Rebel program, and they should be proud of that fact. First, A.J.

Next, Gary Wunderlich, with three accolades, this first of which is HUGE.

And finally, Jordan Wilkins.

Congratulations to all three.