Egg Bowl: 3 reasons Mississippi State will send Ole Miss home unhappy
Mississippi State heads into the final game of the season against Ole Miss looking for its 6th win to become bowl eligible. The Bulldogs (5-6, 3-4 SEC) are trying to continue a bowl streak that Dan Mullen started in 2010.
The Rebels’ bowl hopes are much slimmer. If they beat Mississippi State to get to 5-7, they still need several on-the-fence teams to lose in order for their No. 6 APR score to earn a bowl bid.
The game, which is being played on Thanksgiving night, will have the eyes of the college football world on it, kicking off at 6:30 (local) on ESPN in Starkville.
They’ve split the past 4 meetings … as well as the past 30.
Can Mississippi State take care of business Thursday?
Here are 3 reasons Mississippi State will beat Ole Miss.
1. Quarterback Tommy Stevens will shred the Ole Miss secondary
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen Stevens and the MSU offense struggle in the passing game. Recently, it hasn’t been because of the QB play. Against Abilene, Stevens was just 13-for-27 for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns. What you don’t see in the stat book are the 8 drops. If the receivers, who were running wide open, simply catch the ball, Stevens then throws 21-for-27 and the numbers look completely different.
There’s no sugarcoating it: The Bulldogs have had lackluster wide receiver play this fall. Just like this past week, the leading receiver was running back Kylin Hill. You get the playmakers the ball and Joe Moorhead has adapted as such.
Separation has never been the problem. Catching the ball has. I firmly believe we will see a focused group, led by Stephen Guidry and Osirus Mitchell on Thursday night.
Ole Miss has the 117th-ranked passing defense in the country and is dealing with injuries. Should the receivers indeed make the changes needed, it could be a career day for Stevens.
2. Kylin Hill … and more Kylin Hill
With 1,215 rushing yards, Hill passed Josh Robinson for 4th-place all-time for rushing yards in a season. He is in 10th place in MSU history with 2,342 career rushing yards.
He’s averaging 5.8 yards a carry this season and has been the backbone of the offense.
The Columbus, Miss., native knows the importance of the Egg Bowl. Growing up just 20 miles from Starkville and highly recruited by the Rebels as well, Hill will leave it all on the field. Watch for Hill out of the backfield and the slot catching passes. He is 5th on the team with 16 catches and a touchdown, averaging 10.8 yards a grab.
In front of a national audience, Hill could make a lot of money on Thanksgiving night.
3. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and the MSU defense
Alabama struggled to stop Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. LSU allowed the freshman to rush for over 200 yards.
I don’t expect Plumlee to duplicate that success, simply because of the number of defenders the Rebels will have to block.
Point being, I firmly believe that Shoop will do everything to force Plumlee to throw the ball and not allow the freshman to beat him with his feet.
The passing numbers are pedestrian at best: 70-136 for 789 yards and 4 touchdowns. Plumlee has also been intercepted 3 times and has a passer rating of 105.50.
Sure, Plumlee is going to bust some runs, but the defense is going to have to limit those and keep the Rebels out of the end zone.
The Bulldogs have done a nice job limiting teams inside the red zone, as the Shoop-led group is 39th in the country. Ole Miss ranks 41st in red zone offense.
Something will have to give.
At the end of the day, the Egg Bowl will be decided by the plays made by linebackers Erroll Thompson, Willie Gay and defensive backs, Brian Cole, Cam Dantzler and Jaquarius Landrews.
The 4-game visiting team victory streak will be broken Thanksgiving night because of the MSU defense.
Prediction: Mississippi State 34, Ole Miss 31