Looking at this year's Egg Bowl, you might say somebody dropped the eggs in the grocery store parking lot. Or maybe they've already been scrambled? The point is, the 2016 season has not gone the way Ole Miss or Mississippi State would have ultimately wanted. The Rebels had a mass exodus of talent last season, while the Bulldogs' former star quarterback is slinging passes for the Dallas Cowboys. As a result, the Mississippi schools are struggling. Still, they'll play on Saturday.
Ole Miss comes into the game at 5-6 and is looking to get bowl eligible. It has been a weird season for the Rebels to say the least. They led Alabama and Florida State each by three scores (and eventually lost) and also beat Texas A&M in College Station. However, Ole Miss also struggled to beat Georgia Southern and got smashed by Vanderbilt 38-17 last week. Talk about inconsistency.
Luckily for the Rebels, 4-7 Mississippi State doesn't have a lot of positive momentum going either. Other than a pair of SEC wins over South Carolina and Texas A&M, the Bulldogs don't have a lot to hang their hat on. State's last two games include a 51-3 loss to Alabama and a 58-42 loss to Arkansas. The Bulldogs also have lost to South Alabama, BYU and Kentucky this season. Not so great.
Saturday will be the 113th all-time meeting between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The Egg Bowl has gone back and forth recently, with the last eight meetings split 4-4. But since Hugh Freeze arrived in Oxford, Ole Miss has controlled the series, winning three of the last four. The Rebels won 38-27 last season in Starkville. Of course, these two teams are very different now.
Mississippi State at Ole Miss
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Ole Miss -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. A Potential Field Day for Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson
We know he's supremely talented but there are going to be some bumps on the road to stardom for Patterson. It will be interesting to see how he performs next year against the SEC West's better defenses. But in his first two games for the Rebels, Patterson has been fantastic. He lit up Texas A&M for 338 passing yards and another 64 on the ground. And though he wasn't overly impressive in the loss to Vanderbilt, he did throw a pair of touchdowns and zero interceptions. That's a big deal for a young quarterback under pressure. Mississippi State has by far the SEC's worst pass defense, allowing 280 yards per game through the air. Even worse, State has given up a staggering 29 touchdown passes. That's good for 124th in the FBS. Saturday could be another coming out party for Patterson.
2. A Potential Field Day for Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald
It's not all bad for the Bulldogs. There is an area they could take advantage of in this one. Mississippi State has a running quarterback of its own, though he's not so shifty. Fitzgerald is more of a physical Tim Tebow/Dak Prescott-esque running quarterback. Fitzgerald not only leads SEC quarterbacks in rushing, he's No. 7 overall in the conference behind only six running backs. Fitzgerald is nearing 1,000 yards on the season and leads the SEC with 12 rushing touchdowns. More than anything, football is a game of matchups, and the Bulldogs' quarterback is a tough one for defenses to handle. Ole Miss is No. 12 in the SEC in run defense and has been gashed for 27 touchdowns.
3. Which Defense Steps Up in Fourth Quarter?
On the surface, it looks like there's a good chance this will be a high-scoring game. Both offenses have explosive players and both defenses give up more than 32 points per game. Both offenses average at least 438 yards per game and both defenses give up at least 451 per contest. Las Vegas has the over/under set at 69.5 and that may be too low. Neither team has a reason to be conservative in this game so it should be fun to watch. In a game that may come down to the final possession, it will be interesting to see which defense can make the final stop. One of these units will have to eventually. Turnovers could play a factor, and for what it's worth, Ole Miss' defense has the fewest takeaways (15) in the SEC. The Bulldogs have 19.
Top to bottom, Ole Miss has the better roster in this game but I doubt that will play much of a factor considering it just lost to a far inferior Vanderbilt team. The majority of the Rebels' talent is young. This one likely will come down to which quarterback can make the most plays and which defense can make the most stops. It's a simple formula but that's how high-scoring games are decided. Because Ole Miss is at home and has more to play for — and because the Rebels have owned the Bulldogs recently — I've got to stick with Hugh Freeze's squad in a shootout.
Prediction: Ole Miss 41, Mississippi State 35
— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host on Sports Radio 1180 WVLZ in Knoxville, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.