SDS Roundtable: Who wins more games in 2020: Ole Miss or Mississippi State?
Each SDS roundtable discussion involves the SDS staff providing individual answers and comments to questions covering a wide range of sports and non-sports topics. In this discussion, we ask the question: Their win projections are similar, but who will win more games in 2020: Ole Miss or Mississippi State?
A bit of background …
Both Egg Bowl rivals have new coaches, new offensive-minded coaches. Both promise to be fun to watch in 2020, even if that doesn’t automatically guarantee a bowl bid.
Mississippi State, under new coach Mike Leach, has an over/under win projection of 6.5.
Ole Miss, under new coach Lane Kiffin, has an over/under win projection of 5.5.
If those are close to accurate, we could have another Egg Bowl in which the winner becomes bowl eligible and the loser goes home.
So who ends up with more wins in 2020? That’s something we’ve been discussing for a while.
Jon Cooper, SDS co-founder
With both teams having first-year coaches and no spring practice, Mississippi State and Ole Miss could struggle getting out of the gate in 2020. When you look at both schedules, you can circle the Egg Bowl as the game that will decide which team will hit the over. Right now, I’d take Mississippi State to hit the over of 6.5 wins and Ole Miss hitting the under of 5.5 wins.
MSU has more talent entering 2020 and a coach who is prone to score points. It also has a quarterback in Stanford transfer KJ Costello who can spin it. MSU faces SEC West murderer’s row against Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU and Auburn in 4 consecutive games. Can MSU upset 1 of them? Regardless, the Bulldogs should have wins against New Mexico, NC State, Arkansas, Tulane, Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama A&M and Ole Miss. That hits the over.
Connor O’Gara, Senior national columnist
I’ll take Mississippi State. I’m not sure there will be much separation, but I have a hard time envisioning Ole Miss slowing down many teams this year. I wasn’t sold on Lane Kiffin’s defensive hires, and a unit that improved a ton under Mike McIntyre during his lone season in Oxford could revert back to its 2017-18 ways. That’ll limit Ole Miss’ upside, though I’m a major John Rhys Plumlee supporter.
Mississippi State got a major boost by getting both Kylin Hill and Erroll Thompson back for 1 more year. Both are All-SEC caliber players who could be the veteran voices on their respective sides of the ball. That combination plus the proven pass-heavy offense of Mike Leach should at least get MSU into that 6-7 win range.
MSU also has the more favorable nonconference and crossover draws. If this really does come down to 1 game separating the 2 as BetOnline believes it will, that can make all the difference.
Michael Bratton, News editor
This is an impossible question for me to answer given that we didn’t get to see these teams practice in the spring and both enter the season with completely overhauled coaching staffs, but if I have to make a pick, I’ll lean toward Ole Miss.
I’ve got nothing against Mike Leach. I think he could be the perfect fit for Mississippi State, and as we’ve seen in recent SEC history with Ed Orgeron at LSU and with Joe Moorhead in Starkville, the fit of a head coach can be essential to them having success at a school.
That being said, I’m not sold on K.J. Costello being the answer under center after studying his film from last season and I don’t think Garrett Shrader will be very effective in Leach’s offense, either. Kylin Hill will be the best weapon Mississippi State has on the field next season, but will Leach utilize him enough?
When it comes to Ole Miss, Rebel fans have openly mocked me for saying Matt Luke had some momentum building in Oxford, but the team’s record didn’t do much to indicate that last season. Ole Miss dropped several games that could have easily gone the other way. I think Lane Kiffin inherits more talent than many outside the state of Mississippi may realize — led by my favorite young quarterback in the league, John Rhys Plumlee.
This answer will likely be determined by the outcome of the Egg Bowl and I’ll lean slightly to the Rebels to win that game in Oxford until I see these two take the field in 2020.
Adam Spencer, Newsletter editor
I predict Ole Miss will be 5-6 entering the Egg Bowl. I have Mississippi State entering that game with a 6-5 record. That makes this a very difficult question. Therefore, I’ll go with history, and history says Mike Leach doesn’t fare well in rivalry games. He went 1-7 against Washington in the Apple Cup during his time at Washington State, winning his first matchup in 2012 and then dropping 7 straight. During his time at Texas Tech, he went 2-8 vs. Texas.
Yes, I realize that Texas and Washington were higher-profile programs than Texas Tech and Washington State, but not being able to beat your rivals is a bit concerning. I think his Air Raid offense will catch some teams by surprise this year, but in the Egg Bowl, I think John Rhys Plumlee, Jerrion Ealy and the Ole Miss offense will run all over the Bulldogs to even their records at 6-6.
So, for this question, that means I’m taking the over for Ole Miss and the under for Mississippi State, but I think they’ll finish the regular season with identical 6-6 records.
Chris Wright, Executive editor
I like Ole Miss for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, Lane Kiffin understands exactly what it takes to win in this league. He’s done it, too.
I like the Rebels’ playmakers, too. Jerrion Ealy, in particular, will be fun to watch the next 2 seasons. And Kiffin will develop John Rhys Plumlee into more than a Lynn Bowden-type running threat at QB.
(I also like the fact that Ealy and Plumlee won’t be worn down from a full college baseball season. Because neither freshman is eligible for the draft, they probably transitioned back to football mode as soon the SEC canceled spring sports.)
I know Mike Leach’s system is going to throw for a lot of yards. KJ Costello should contend for the SEC title in passing yards. Leach’s quarterbacks normally do. But just as Jimbo Fisher and Joe Moorhead quickly learned, everything about offense is a bit more difficult when the guys you’re going against are NFL-caliber players.
Leach will have a bigger adjustment preparing for the SEC than the SEC will have in preparing for Leach.
There’s no such learning curve for Kiffin. He knows what works, what doesn’t and he also has some next-level athletes to make it happen.
Kiffin will razzle-dazzle his way to a bowl game in Year 1 and finish with more wins (7-5) than the Bulldogs (5-7).