Egg Bowl: No. 25 MSU (8-3, 4-3 SEC) at Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5), 6 p.m., ESPNU (Clay Matvick play-by-play, Matt Stinchcomb analyst, Allison Williams sideline), XM 193, Sirius 149.
Mississippi State’s seniors are going for the sweep today.
The Bulldogs seek their fourth consecutive Egg Bowl win, something that hasn’t happened since 1939-42. Cornerback Johnthan Banks said back in July that he was going to finish his career 4-0 against the Rebels, and now the time has come to back that up.
His fellow seniors feel the same way. You can read about that in today’s GameDay section, which has all the Egg Bowl pregame coverage you’ll need.
Linebacker Cam Lawrence is from Senatobia, where he starred at Magnolia Heights. That’s pretty much Ole Miss country.
“When I go home I’m hearing all the chatter,” Lawrence said. “That’s just your typical rivalry game. I’m undefeated against them, 3-0 right now, and I plan on going 4-0.”
Ole Miss is actually a slight favorite according to Vegas. New coach Hugh Freeze has rejuvenated the program, and unlike his predecessor, he knows exactly what this rivalry means. With the Rebs fighting for bowl eligibility, there’s more than just pride on the line tonight.
So the game this year is a bit different for Ole Miss. But not for State. It means as much now as it ever did to these players, especially the seniors.
“I have had a lot of emotions,” cornerback Corey Broomfield said. “I’ve had coaches fired, got coaches hired and kept coaches on the staff. It’s an exciting game. That just shows you how much it means to this state, the people of this state, the the schools and the universities. Like coach (Melvin) Smith says, ‘It’s the Super Bowl of Mississippi.'”
• Remember to follow me on Twitter today for updates during and after the game, and follow Ole Miss writer Parrish Alford, too. Also, check out our college football page for updates from around the SEC and the country. Now, let us review the Bulldogs’ three keys to victory, as found in the aforementioned GameDay section.
1. Hit the big plays. Ole Miss will try to force the issue with speed on defense, and that’s worked well at times. The Rebels rank eighth in the country in tackles-for-loss (7.64 per game) and 13th in sacks (2.82).
But that aggressive style has meant opportunities for big plays, and Ole Miss has allowed 53 plays of 20 or more yards (84th nationally) and 25 of 30-plus yards (tied for 94th). Most of those plays have come in the passing game, and MSU has burned the Rebels with big passing plays in recent years.
Ole Miss ranks 10th in the SEC in pass efficiency defense.
2. Rattle Wallace. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has thrown 13 interceptions, and they tend to come in bunches. He had three last week versus LSU, and he had three against UTEP earlier this season. Wallace also was picked off twice each by Alabama and Texas A&M.
Turnovers have been a big key for the MSU defense, which has forced 27 of them, including 14 interceptions (tied for third in the SEC). Cornerbacks Darius Slay and Johnthan Banks have combined for nine interceptions.
State has a turnover margin of plus-16, which ranks fourth nationally; Ole Miss is even in that category (24 lost, 24 gained).
3. Wear them down. Ole Miss has started well against quality opponents, such as last week at LSU, when it took a 21-17 lead into halftime. But the Rebels, who lack size and depth on defense, tend to wear down.
In its five SEC losses, Ole Miss has been outscored 87-41 in the second half, including 54-17 in the fourth quarter. MSU should have the size and depth on offense to wear down the Rebels.
Same could go for the other side of the ball. In its four SEC wins, State has outscored foes 70-31 after halftime and 35-7 in the fourth.
• Notable stat: Ole Miss is 1-3 this season when tied or leading with less than two minutes left in regulation.
• Weather: Kickoff temps will be around 40 degrees, dropping into the mid-30s by game’s end. Clear skies.