Mississippi State at Ole Miss
Saturday, 7pm, ESPNU
Line: Ole Miss -1 1/2
This is one of the south's oldest rivalries and Saturday the Bulldogs will meet the Rebels for the 109th time for the Golden Egg. Lately this game hasn't had a lot of external meaning, but not so this year as Ole Miss needs to win this game to become bowl eligible in Hugh Freeze's 1st season at the helm of the Rebels program. Mississippi State is going for only their 4th nine win regular season in school history on Saturday as well. Overall this series stands at 60-42-6 in favor of Ole Miss.
With that on the line it adds a huge carrot to dangle over these two teams. It's highly doubtful the Bulldogs want to be remembered as the team that lost the Egg Bowl and allowed their arch rivals to go to a bowl game. Conversely, there probably isn't anything better than winning this game for Ole Miss. Normally this game is bitter, nasty and really good, but this is an extra special edition of the Egg Bowl.
For Mississippi State to win: It's all about the balance for the Bulldogs in this one. Mississippi State has run just 10 more rushing plays than passing plays on the season as a whole and it's all about keeping the opposing defenses off balance with their mix of run and pass. If they are forced into doing just one or the other this team is going to be in trouble.
They pass for 243 yards a game and rush for 150 yards a game as well and if they can get that balance against a defense that basically averages giving up that many yards passing and rushing they'll win this game.
For Ole Miss to win: The Rebels need to avoid turnovers, and the hangover from last weeks 41-35 close loss to LSU, plain and simple. The Freeze offense can be powerful at times (see last week), but if they aren't on the field they can't win. On the year this team ranks 100th nationally in turnovers lost with 24 turnovers as a team (14 interceptions, 10 fumbles lost) which means they have averaged nearly 2 turnovers a game. In a rivalry game you can't overcome mounting turnovers, I don't care who you are or how quick strike your offense can be. Avoid those mistakes and Ole Miss has a chance in this game.
Key Player, Mississippi State: I know this may sound simplistic, but it is just that for MSU in this one, it's quarterback Tyler Russell. This team will go as far as he takes them and is perhaps one of the most underrated QB's in the country let alone the SEC. He's passed for 2,523 yards on the year and has completed 60.4% of his passes for 21TD's to just 4INT's this season. Those are very efficient numbers and he'll be the key to a Bulldogs victory.
Key Player, Ole Miss: Donte Moncrief is going to be massive for the Rebels in this game. He's their leading receiver with 53 catches on year already for 775 yards and a team best 7 touchdowns. If he can't get free in the Bulldogs backfield and make himself an open target downfield for Bo Wallace it's going to be a long night at home in Oxford, MS.
Key Stat: Turnovers – This one is interesting more so on the Mississippi State side of things because they are 4th nationally with a +16 turnover margin. Over the past three plus seasons the Bulldogs are 23-1 when they win the turnover battle in a game. However, when they lose that they have a record of just 5-15. On the season they've forced 27 turnovers, 12th nationally. So, if they can win that battle expect them to win the Egg Bowl.
Andy Coppens is the managing editor of MadTown Badgers and Big Ten blog Delany's Dozen. Follow him on Twitter @andycoppens and follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun and 'Like' us on Facebook.