5 reasons Ole Miss will beat MSU again in the Egg Bowl
Ole Miss’ regular-season finale on Thanksgiving night at Mississippi State will feature two teams that play differing styles of football.
The Rebels again will face Mike Leach’s Air Raid scheme, this time with the program’s first 10-win regular season on the line. Mississippi State will try to control the tempo of the game by controlling the ball and the clock. The Rebels will want to play fast but will likely have to adjust a bit to ensure they sustain drives and do not leave their defense on the field for 40-plus minutes of this game.
If Ole Miss beats Mississippi State for the 2nd consecutive year, here are 5 reasons it will happen.
1. Ole Miss runs for 200 yards or more
This isn’t rocket science. When Ole Miss runs the football well, the offense scores points, the passing game opens up, the Rebels’ tempo-strategy is far more poignant and Ole Miss wins games. When they don’t, they struggle to sustain drives, finish in the red zone and are a fairly toothless offense.
If Ole Miss can find a way to use Jerrion Ealy, Henry Parrish and Snoop Conner they way it did in the LSU and Texas A&M games, the Rebels should be in good shape. There is also rain in the forecast for Thursday evening, which makes this even more paramount, especially considering the offense on the other side throws the ball 50-60 times per contest.
This has largely been what makes and breaks the Ole Miss offense this year and there would be no better time for the running game to go off than Thursday night.
2. Sam Williams has a multi-sack game
Williams is 2nd in the SEC in sacks with 10.5, trailing only Alabama’s Will Anderson (13.5). Williams has made himself a lot of money this year with regard to his NFL Draft stock. The way to neutralize this Air Raid scheme is to get consistent pressure without blitzing, which is exactly the service Williams and Cedric Johnson can provide. They have helped forge a consistent pass rush that Ole Miss hasn’t seen in nearly half a decade, and if Williams has a big game Thursday night, he has the chance to make the single largest individual impact on the game.
3. Ole Miss scores on its first 3 possessions
You are probably thinking, yes, no kidding, could you be any more obvious. But the reason this is important is that, with the way Ole Miss has played over the past month, it is ill-equipped to play from behind against Mississippi State and chase the game.
Ole Miss has scored just 2 offensive touchdowns in the second half over its past 4 games — and one of those was set up by an interception deep in Texas A&M territory. Whether it is a lack of depth that’s causing the offense to fizzle in the second half, or the injuries Ole Miss has sustained on that side of the ball, the Rebels have really struggled to continue adding points after intermission. The 3rd quarter in particular has been unkind to Ole Miss.
On the other hand, Mississippi State has been a much better second-half team this year, which only heightens the importance of Ole Miss getting off to a good start. If the Rebels fall in an early hole and are chasing the game at halftime, it could be a long night.
4. Matt Corral factors into the running game again
Corral has been Ole Miss’ secret weapon in the running game. He is a smart, efficient runner that adds another dynamic to the Rebels’ read-option and run-pass option concepts. But ever since his 30-carry game in Knoxville, Ole Miss has been reluctant to run him due to an ankle injury he suffered in that contest and re-aggravated against Auburn.
Corral carrying it 13-15 times in the 70-80 yard range could have a tremendous impact on this game and help solve some of the team’s struggles in the red zone. Corral is presumably as healthy as he’s been since before the Tennessee game and Ole Miss needs to utilize him in the running game more frequently than it (understandably) did in the weeks after he suffered the ankle injury.
5. Ole Miss has to be efficient and smart on 4th down
Lane Kiffin has made it abundantly clear that his 4th-down strategy isn’t changing.
The Rebels have gone for it on 4th down 39 times this year, most among Power 5 programs and 2nd overall in the country. The Rebels have converted 25 of them (64%), again the most of any Power 5 team in the country.
However, what Ole Miss can’t afford to do is go 1-for-4 on 4th downs and give a red-hot Mississippi State offense advantageous field position and put a short-rested defense back out onto the field.
That’s a recipe to be down 21 points before you even fully know what happened to you.
The Rebels need to be better on 3rd down, too, to quell this issue altogether. However, 4th-down conversions will keep the Mississippi State offense off the field and are demoralizing to a defense.
There will be 2 or 3 4th-down plays that will swing the outcome of this game.