By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Ole Miss and Mississippi State each have something to prove this week.
The Rebels (5-4, 2-3 SEC) seek bowl eligibility, which would be a major accomplishment for first-year coach Hugh Freeze. After a 37-10 loss at Georgia, Ole Miss will host Vanderbilt (5-4, 3-3), which is in the same boat.
As for MSU (7-2, 3-2), it’s lost two in a row, suffering a 38-13 home defeat at the hands of Texas A&M on Saturday. The Bulldogs, ranked as high as 11th in the BCS standings after a 7-0 start, are looking to silence those who have criticized a soft opening slate.
Neither team will have an easy go of it. Vandy has won four of its last five meetings with Ole Miss, and the program has been on the upswing under second-year coach James Franklin. The Commodores defeated Kentucky 40-0 on Saturday.
MSU hasn’t won in Baton Rouge since 1991, and its last win in the series came in 1999 in Starkville. The Tigers (7-2, 3-2) are coming off a last-minute home loss to No. 1 Alabama.
“Believe it or not, we’re two 7-2 teams going to play here in the middle of November on a Saturday night in Baton Rouge, so that makes it a pretty big game at this time of the season,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said. “If you can’t get up for it, you’ve got a lot of problems. You must not love football.”
The Bulldogs have had major issues on both sides of the ball the last two games, getting outscored 76-20 by Alabama and A&M. MSU’s defense gave up 693 yards in the latter game, as quarterback Johnny Manziel racked up 440 total yards passing and running.
Mullen said the Bulldogs were “pulling up early” on tackles at times, and other times they just weren’t in good position.
“We were misaligned on different times and had some poor calls,” he said. “If you have poor assignments, poor fundamentals and poor calls, that’s not going to result very good.”