OXFORD — When football season begins, most Ole Miss and Mississippi State fans watch how the other team is doing and form an opinion about how the Egg Bowl might play out.
And sometimes the image that emerges has wild shifts as the game gets closer.
This is one of those seasons.
Ole Miss won his first seven games, then had a nice comeback win after the LSU loss in a difficult environment before Texas A&M went into complete dumpster fire.
Ole Miss was competitive with Alabama and had his chances to win but didn’t.
Then the Arkansas debacle, and suddenly the Rebels reach the Egg Bowl after losing three of their last four.
Confidence takes a hit, you add in the Lane Kiffin-to-Auburn rumors and the Rebels look very vulnerable.
Mississippi State began the season with high expectations based on eight returning starters on each side of the ball, including an accomplished quarterback who had the highest completion rate in the country in 2021.
It’s not inappropriate to say that the Bulldogs left a win on the table at LSU but then bounced back with three straight home wins — including Texas A&M and Arkansas — in each of which they scored 40 or more points scored.
The street is where the Bulldogs looked like a different team, and for State, the street is where the Egg Bowl is.
The Bulldogs took full advantage of their FCS game last week as they won 56-7 and many players rested on a morning kickoff.
The downside for the newest version of the Bulldogs is that they’ve only had one offensive touchdown in three of their last four Southeastern Conference games. On the other hand, there were long stretches of non-production before it came down to beating Auburn 39-33 in overtime.
Those other three losses happened to Georgia, Alabama, and Kentucky, who are SEC-rated 1-2-3 in total defense. Doesn’t matter. You better fight against this strong defense.
It’s all a lot to process to make an informed estimate for the 119th meeting of Mississippi’s premier college football programs.
The sum of all the parts tells me that Ole Miss will find a way to face MSU, especially if Zach Evans is healthy like he was against Arkansas and the Rebels can have their 2-1 thrashing of Evans and Quinshon Judkins .
Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart had played consecutive games without turnover until he had two against the Razorbacks. Work says there’s a good chance he’ll have one in this game. We’ll see if the rebels can absorb it.
The state has shown strong offense against a few fewer SEC defenses, and that would describe Ole Miss closer than Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky.
The game will be decided by who defends in the red zone. State fought at the bottom of the field for Ole Miss last year.
Too often I neglect the emotional factor in this game, and I think that’s really playing into this year with the Kiffin to Auburn rumors.
He seems to confirm these rumors by refusing to squash them.
There’s no way Ole Miss players aren’t affected by all that swirls around them.
Some State fans felt Dan Mullen wasn’t fully involved in his last Egg Bowl before heading to Florida in 2017, and the Rebels won 31-28 in Starkville.
Turnabout is fair game.
Forecast: State of Mississippi 31, Ole Miss 28
Dispatch Sports Editor and MSU Beat Writer Theo DeRosa: Before the season, I picked Mississippi State to go 8-4 and win the Egg Bowl in the process. Earlier in the year I was feeling pretty good about it until Ole Miss went undefeated while MSU started struggling. But the rebels’ recent failings have restored my confidence in my original prediction. Mike Leach and MSU may be 0-2 in egg bowls right now, but Leach tends to have an unexpected win or two every year and this is as good an opportunity as he will have. Mississippi State would be in a much better position if they ran the ball effectively, but the Bulldogs can still score at times and the Ole Miss defense really struggled. I think MSU will also do pretty well defending Ole Miss’ strong running game. It will probably be tight at Oxford but I’ll take the Bulldogs to turn the tide. State of Mississippi 31, Ole Miss 23.
Daily Journal Ole Miss Beat author Michael Katz: There are plenty of distractions surrounding Ole Miss and certainly plenty of reasons for the Rebels not to play well: Lane Kiffin’s future at Oxford and last week’s loss at Arkansas are pretty big clouds. But the Egg Bowl produces a different gear most years, and I don’t think Ole Miss will be in the wrong headspace for a game like this. If the Rebels have struggled defensively this season, it’s because of mobile quarterbacks, who pose a threat in the game. Will Rogers isn’t that kind of quarterback. I think Ole Miss is in a better place to defend Mississippi State’s offense than some of the other offenses it’s come across in recent times. The rebels win fairly narrowly. Ole Miss 34, Mississippi State 27
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