5 reasons MSU will win the Egg Bowl
The biggest Egg Bowl since 2014 kicks off at 6:30 local time on Thanksgiving night at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville.
Mississippi State sits at 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the SEC West, which is good for 3rd place. Ole Miss is 2nd in the division at 9-2 overall, 5-2 in conference play.
While 2nd place in the SEC West is on the line, it feels like the future is what is actually at stake. Which Mississippi team gets the hype moving into the 2022 season hangs in the balance.
The Bulldogs have probably surprised most in college football with their play this year, especially their defense. Offensively, it’s largely been what was promised when the Bulldogs hired Mike Leach. MSU leads the SEC in passing yards, is 2nd in TD throws (35) and QB Will Rogers just broke single-season school marks for yards and TDs. And he still has 2 more games to increase those totals.
The Rebels have surprised everyone as well. The college football world had long known that quarterback Matt Corral was an elite talent and would be a high draft pick. However, the Rebels boast one of the best rushing offenses in the nation and have taken a stop on defense by prioritizing the pass.
That means that the Egg Bowl will feature strength versus strength all over the field.
Ole MIss enters as No. 8 in the AP poll and likely in the top 10 in the College Football Playoff standings, which will be revealed later Tuesday night. On the other hand, the Bulldogs will probably be in the 20-25 range of the CFP standings and are actually unranked by the AP.
What’s interesting is that despite the disparity in rankings, the Bulldogs are favored to win by 1. So. let’s look at the 5 reasons Mississippi State can beat Ole Miss this Thanksgiving.
The Bulldogs have played well against higher-ranked teams, especially at home. They beat NC State, Kentucky, and most recently Auburn at Davis Wade, all of which were ranked at the time.
Meanwhile, the Rebels’ only losses came on the road against ranked Alabama and Auburn.
The Rebels have won only 1 game in mega-hostile territory this year against Tennessee a game in which they needed every second to beat an average, albeit feisty, Vols team.
Ole Miss played Texas A&M, Arkansas and LSU at home.
The two teams only share 1 common opponent/common location — Auburn. Under the lights at Auburn, the Rebels could only muster 20 points while the Bulldogs scored 40 unanswered to rally and beat the Tigers.
The atmosphere at Davis Wade seemed to drastically impact NC State in Week 2. And by the way, the Wolfpack have gone on to have a fine year and are 8-3 with a 1-point loss to Miami and a 3-point loss to Wake Forrest. The Bulldogs beat them 24-10 and it wasn’t that close.
The Cowbells will be ringing on Thursday night and it will be a huge advantage for the Bulldogs.
Despite having, in my opinion, the best quarterback in the country, Ole Miss is actually a run-heavy team. The Rebels are the 6th-best rushing offense in the entire country and again are the best in the SEC. (They led the SEC in rushing last year, too.)
However, the Bulldogs have one of the best rush defenses in the country at No. 21, and are 4th in the SEC behind Georgia, Alabama and A&M.
In games against elite rushing attacks, mainly Texas A&M and NC State, the opponent brought NFL-caliber offensive linemen and running backs.
The Bulldogs find a way to stop the run because the defensive linemen won their matchups and the defensive backs set the edge and tackled well. If the Bulldogs can stop the run with just 5 or 6 players, it will be a long night for the Rebs.
Martin Emerson and Emmanuel Forbes
I simply do not care if you think I write about Emerson too much. His technique, talent and tenacity make him one of the best defenders in college football and, in my opinion, he ought to be in the conversation for All-American honors.
Meanwhile, Forbes leads the Bulldogs with 3 interceptions and in solo tackles with 35, just 5 more than Emmerson. That means that the Mississippi State cornerbacks are covering well and tackling their guy when he makes the catch.
The will be incredibly important against Ole Miss, which relies on dink-and-dunk concepts until the defensive backs creep up and get beat deep.
Unlike probably the past 8 or 9 years, Ole Miss does not have elite talent at wide receiver. There is no DK Metcalf, Donte Moncrief, Laquon Treadwell or Elijah Moore in this game. So, it’s entirely possible that Emerson and Forbes will be shifted around to confuse Matt Corral.
Regardless, for the first time since Darius Slay and Johnthan Banks, the Bulldogs have the matchup advantage, at least on paper. They’ll need to play better than the aforementioned Slay and Banks did in 2012.
Quarterback Will Rogers threw some egregious balls in the first few games, mainly against La. Tech and LSU. However, since then, he hasn’t forced many throws and has simply trusted his teammates and coaches to call the right plays and execute.
He plates quarterback the way a true point-guard plays basketball, by distributing the ball to the guys with skill. That’s why he’s already thrown for more than 4,100 yards and, with 2 games left, has an outside chance of reaching 5,000.
When the Bulldogs have had success this year, it’s been due largely to the fact that the Air Raid pressured their opponents into making tackle after tackle in the open field and they simply couldn’t do it for 60 minutes.
Rogers will see a familiar defensive approach as Ole Miss likely will line up with 6 defensive backs and try to keep everything in front of them. Which is what the Bulldogs usually do when they need to.
Essentially, Ole Miss is going to force the Bulldogs to do what they do best. It will be crucial that Rogers keep running those plays and making those throws even if the Bulldogs should fall behind.
I honestly think that the Bulldogs just have more players who are better at football than Ole Miss does. Whether it’s recruiting or development, this Bulldogs team continues to be underrated.
The best player on offense is considered to be one of the best at his position in the entire country. That, of course, is offensive tackle Charle Cross.
Defensively, I have already mentioned Emerson and Forbes, but the defense also boasts players who win in the trenches consistently like Cameron Young and Nathan Pickering.
The Bulldogs have developed diamond-in-the-rough recruits as well as anyone in the country and have established a brand of prickly play from the defensive backs and violent play from the offensive line.
They should have those same advantages on Thursday
There is only one position where I see the Rebels having a no-doubt advantage; that is at quarterback. That’s a pretty important position, but Rogers has been so effective in this offense.
Corral is splashier and the better pro prospect. He is 4th in Heisman Trophy odds and the projected QB1 for the 2022 NFL Draft. He will more than likely be in New York for the trophy presentation should the Rebels win and he’d probably be the lock if he’d chosen Alabama over Ole Miss.
I have a feeling that this is going to be an all-time Egg Bowl with quarterbacks and coaches we’ll remember for quite some time. Buckle up.