The Egg Bowl is clearly the best football game being played on Thanksgiving this year. It’s better than any of the three NFL games.
By Matt Zemek
This rivalry is a feisty one every year, but the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Elijah Moore that ended up costing Ole Miss a few years ago is a moment every young college football fan in the South is aware of. A memorable article written about the game estimated that the penalty resulted in over 300 job changes in the college football industry, including Matt Luke, who was the Rebels’ head coach for that game. If the 2021 Egg Bowl lives up to the rivalry and its “lift the dog leg” moment, we could be in for an extremely entertaining game between Mike Leach’s Bulldogs and Lane Kiffin’s Rebels. Let’s take a look at the keys to this game from a Mississippi State perspective.
1 – Matt Corral cannot be allowed to dominate the game
Ole Miss has one of the more prolific offenses in college football. Many people expect Matt Corral to be the first quarterback taken in the upcoming 2022 NFL draft. Put two and two together: Many can see why all eyes might be on the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving Day. Corral has thrown for 3,100 yards, 19 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Corral can also run: He has another 552 yards on 133 carries and an additional 10 touchdowns. Corral is a game-changer and Ole Miss lets him fly week in and week out, which means Mississippi State must be prepared to defend against one of the nation’s best talents at quarterback.
2 – Lane Kiffin uses all four downs much of the time; be mentally prepared
College football has changed dramatically over the past 15 years in its style of play. Coaches are punting less and less. Lane Kiffin is one such riverboat gambler; he trusts his prolific offense to get extra yards on critical downs, and by and large he has been rewarded. A 9-2 record through 11 games indicates as much. The idea that Ole Miss will punt if the Bulldogs can force them into fourth and short is an outdated notion. Kiffin is more likely to trust the numbers and go for it rather than punt the ball and pass up a scoring opportunity. Kiffin has a great talent at quarterback who he can rely on to convert those fourth downs. Ole Miss is No. 32 in the nation in fourth down conversion percentage. The Rebels have converted 25 of 39 attempts.
3 – Let Will Rogers show his talent
All the talk coming into the game will be about Matt Corral, but Bulldog quarterback Will Rogers is better than Corral in almost every category but rushing. Rogers has thrown for over 4,110 yards. He has 34 touchdowns to only eight interceptions and he is completing passes at a 76 percent clip, almost unheard of in modern college football. This is largely due to the fact that Leach loves a shorter passing game and a quicker release time, but that shouldn’t diminish the fact that Rogers can absolutely cook. The Bulldogs should let him. He will have no problems going snap for snap with Matt Corral and he has the talent to win a duel with his opposite number on the Ole Miss sideline.