Happy Thanksgiving y’all.
I miss the days when the Egg Bowl was on Thanksgiving. I didn’t mind working the holiday, because I considered that a good trade for a Thursday game with a Saturday off.
C’est la vie.
I got to Mississippi in 1989 and have been around the Ole Miss-MSU rivalry since 1991 covering almost every game in the series since then.
This will be Ole Miss’ first visit to the expanded Davis-Wade Stadium with its bowled-in and louder north end zone.
The cowbells were a big topic earlier this week. The bottom line is no SEC road venue is easy. MSU fans will understandably be more amped up when Ole Miss is in the house. The Rebels, however, have already survived the league’s most difficult road venue at Alabama. They’ve also floundered when favored against a Florida team still trying to find itself.
If Ole Miss can pull off a win at MSU it will complete the season 3-1 on the SEC road. That’s no small achievement.
Home field is a significant advantage in this series and should not be overlooked. The visiting team has won just twice since 1999, and both times the home team has been having a sub-par year. Ole Miss won 31-0 in Starkville in 2003, and MSU won 31-23 in Oxford in 2010.
We had a family gathering last night where someone offered the analysis that it would be really hard for Ole Miss to win in Starkville on Dak Prescott’s Senior Night.
Well, here’s the deal. It’s going to be really hard for Ole Miss to win because Dak has thrown 23 touchdown passes with just three interceptions, and secondary play has been a big struggle for the Rebels.
Dak passed for more than 500 yards and five touchdowns last week. I can’t believe he’ll top that effort simply because he’s playing his final home game. Even with that effort the Bulldogs would have lost had Arkansas punched in a short field goal. An MSU lineman made a tremendous play and saved the win with a block. Dak wasn’t on the field for the game’s decisive play.
That said, it’s the Dak vs. the Ole Miss secondary matchup that’s had me leaning to MSU in this game for weeks. I’ve since moved it back into the toss-up category, and the reason is the Ole Miss quarterback, Chad Kelly.
Before the Arkansas earlier this month Kelly was riding a string of multiple-interception games and had not been turnover-free since Alabama in Week 3.
He’s thrown 12 interceptions this season, but now he’s been turnover-free the last two weeks.
Kelly hasn’t thrown an interception in his last 75 pass attempts, a streak going back to the Rebels’ win at Auburn on Oct. 31. That’s a streak longer than Dak’s got going right now. He was picked off once last week.
After losing at Florida the Ole Miss path to the SEC title game was going to be perfection. No less than winning out in conference play was going to get the job done once Alabama hit its stride. The Rebels remain mathematically alive and will regain control of their fate if Auburn springs a monumental upset against Alabama. That’s unlikely.
Ole Miss, though, very nearly reached the Egg Bowl in the SEC West lead. Had it not been for the fluke lateral play on fourth-and-25 by Arkansas the Rebels would in fact be playing Saturday night with Atlanta on the line. You don’t get a pass for fluke plays, though. They count.
There’s still a lot to play for in terms of bowl positioning and a second-straight nine-win regular season which is rare territory for Ole Miss in the modern era.
Plus it’s State. That should be motivation enough.
It will be for the Bulldogs, who are almost always primed and ready by Dan Mullen for this game.
Ole Miss did a phenomenal job of slowing Leonard Fournette last week, but that won’t help them much in this game. State has struggled to run the ball, and that won’t be the focal point of the Bulldogs’ offense.
The Rebels are going to have to make plays in the secondary, and that’s scary for Ole Miss.
This is where Kelly comes into play and gives the Rebels a chance.
Expect a high-scoring Egg Bowl. State’s receivers are very good, but Ole Miss’ are better, and Kelly is capable of matching Dak series for series.
This is where home field and the bells come in. The Rebels are going to have to minimize mistakes. Kelly has done that the last two weeks, but if the bells force just one mistake – one botched shotgun snap leading to a fumble, one interception – it could turn the game.
Yes, home field is huge in this series, but at some point someone is going to break through.
I’m thinking that’s Kelly and the Rebels Saturday night.
Prediction: Ole Miss 45, MSU 44