Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin are letting 'the love keep coming' before Egg Bowl
STARKVILLE — The game within the game has begun.
With the Egg Bowl approaching, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State coach Mike Leach are attempting to out-respect the other. During the ESPN College GameDay segment on Saturday, Kiffin chose the Bulldogs to upset Auburn — he was correct — and complimented Leach’s offensive prowess in the process.
“I would like to say this: Mike Leach is the best offensive coach in America,” Kiffin said. “I’m taking Mississippi State.”
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Asked about those comments Monday, Leach quipped that Kiffin “was kind of setting the stage for a really good Egg Bowl.”
“I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think that he thinks he’s the best offensive coordinator, so it was modest of him to say,” Leach said. “They’re doing a fine job this year, so we’ll just let the love keep coming both directions, how ‘bout that?”
Even without the friendly banter back and forth between coaches, the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving (6:30 p.m., ESPN) should be lively enough on its own.
Mississippi State is coming off a 43-34 victory against Auburn, overcoming a 25-point deficit to complete the largest comeback in school history. Quarterback Will Rogers earned SEC offensive player of the week honors for his display, passing for 415 yards and a program-record six touchdowns.
Rogers was also chosen as one of the Manning Award Stars of the week, as well as the National Offensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation and Athlon Sports. Rogers is second in the NCAA with 3,722 passing yards — just 71 passing yards shy of tying Dak Prescott’s single-season school record.
“We’re protecting better. I think the receivers are more in-tune with him. And I think we’ve improved in other phases, which I think makes him look like he’s improved — which he has,” Leach said. “But I think utilizing the weapons around a quarterback is the single most important thing they do, so I think that he’s better at doing that.”
The Bulldogs will face an Ole Miss offense led by quarterback Matt Corral, who has thrown 17 touchdowns compared to two interceptions. But before Mississippi State can look ahead at Ole Miss, the Bulldogs host Tennessee State (5-5) on Saturday (11 a.m., SEC Network+).
“Within the locker room, there’s gotta be a commitment to practice well,” Leach said. “If you’re fully engaged in practice, I think that’s one of the biggest keys.”
Once through with this weekend’s test, though, two of the best offensive minds will square off — and the pregame displays of respect will fly out the window.