How about a little Egg Bowl to go with your Thanksgiving turkey? These aren’t your vintage Ole Miss and Mississippi State teams, but there is nothing saying this won't be a fun game to watch while your food digests.
Ole Miss stands at 4-7 and is out of the bowl picture. Mississippi State is 5-6 overall and in desperate need to procure their sixth win to earn bowl eligibility. Holy Johnny Reb, would the boys from Oxford love to dash the Bulldog hopes of extending their season or what?
The Rebels had the advantage of taking last week off following their loss to No. 1 LSU two Saturdays ago while the Bulldogs got a 38-point win vs. FCS opponent Abilene Christian. Mississippi State comes in with some offensive momentum, averaging 34 points in their last four contests. Ole Miss is in an odd situation, having given up 58 points to the Tigers but also scored 37 and posted 614 total yards against them. Will that momentum carry over here?
Ole Miss at Mississippi State
Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Mississippi State -3
When Ole Miss Has the Ball
The biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind. You guys saw the LSU game, right? Sure the Tigers did whatever they wanted on offense, but the same could be said for the Rebels with fleet-of-foot QB John Rhys Plumlee and RB Jerrion Ealy. The mercurial field general ran roughshod through that Tiger defense, scoring four touchdowns, including runs of five, 46, 60 and 35 as part of a 212-yard day on the ground. And Ealy averaged 10.8 yards per carry in his 141-yard effort. They helped to put up 614 years on the beleaguered Tiger D. Can't imagine the Bulldog defense is better than LSU’s.
Don't get into a kicking contest. This is one facet of real struggle for the Rebels as placekicker Luke Logan is just 11-for-19 on the season, including 1-for-7 from 38 yards or longer. On the other side, Mississippi State's Jace Christman is 8-for-10.
Back to full strength. Although they're still dealing with some injuries, the best news for the Bulldog defense is that tackle Lee Autry, linebacker Willie Gay, and safety Marcus Murphy are all back from suspension and will help bring the defense to full strength going into this Egg Bowl. The Bulldogs had to start three freshmen in the defensive backfield vs. Abilene Christian, including Jarrion Jones and Mark Emerson on the corners.
When Mississippi State Has the Ball
The passing game must improve. The Bulldogs' passing game has been spotty this season, quarterbacks Tommy Stevens and Garrett Shrader have combined to complete just 57 percent of their 274 pass attempts with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Granted, they've also been plagued by the dropsies from their receiving corps. But the Bulldogs really need to expose that SEC-worst pass defense of the Rebels which allows 293 yards per game through the air alone.
Run down Hill. Kylin Hill comes into this Egg Bowl leading the SEC with 1,215 rushing yards. But the impressive thing is that more than 700 of those yards come after contact. Unlike the pass defense, the Rebels are actually pretty stout stopping the run, giving up just 132 per game, 34th nationally. Against Hill and also the scrambles of Stevens, the Reb defenders will need to be disciplined in scheme and form.
Mass protection. The Bulldogs can't lean on the run so hard this week. But they also can't have Stevens landing on his canasta all game long. The big difference between these teams is that Ole Miss is second in the SEC in sacks with 30 on the season while MSU is 10th in sacks allowed with 24. If the Bulldogs let the Rebels get pressure to Stevens (or Shrader), it could be a game-changer.
These two schools are nearly identical, statistically speaking. They score 27.2 (Ole Miss) and 28.2 (Mississippi State) points per game respectively. They give up 27.0 and 28.8 points on defense. They average 450.8 and 410.6 yards on offense and give up an average of 425.7 and 390.5 yards on defense. The Rebels are plus-three and the Bulldogs are even on turnover margin. Hell, they’re even really close in penalty yards per game, Ole Miss at 50.1 and Mississippi State at 47.0.
It's probably going to be a game that comes down to mental mistakes. Whoever makes the more bonehead plays is going to lose. Emotions will be high and the stands will be very loud and have a distinct smell of alcohol. Can't wait to see how this one turns out. But I'm thinking the difference is in the rising star of dual-threat quarterback John Rhys Plumlee for the Rebels.
Prediction: Ole Miss 42, Mississippi State 38
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.