The Ole Miss Rebels have a chance to go 10-2. That’s Hugh Freeze-level quality. If Ole Miss does win a tenth game by capturing the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State, the Rebels should be headed for a New Year’s Six bowl game.
By Matt Zemek
That would be a tremendous result for 2021, and a clear indication that Lane Kiffin has the program on the right track. The Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach hires at the two Mississippi schools were met with excitement, but also with questions. Were these two innovative offensive coaches ready to handle the rugged and rough SEC? Would they be able to make the requisite adjustments needed to thrive in the country’s most cutthroat conference? Clearly, that answer is yes in 2021. We don’t know about the long-term trajectory of these programs, but this season, both Ole Miss and State took advantage of the continued struggles of LSU and Auburn, and they also pounced on Texas A&M’s vulnerabilities.
Ole Miss should expect to beat Mississippi State. It has had the better season, even though State has done quite well, having defeated A&M in College Station and Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium. It’s an Egg Bowl that should get scrambled and fried, but when it’s over, it won’t be easy.
1 – Run the ball
Lane Kiffin certainly uses a lot of finesse concepts on offense, but Ole Miss is capable of running the ball, and Kiffin has shown a willingness to do that. Arkansas ran for 202 yards against Mississippi State a few weeks ago. The Razorbacks kept MSU’s offense off the field. Ole Miss very likely wins this game if it can hit 200 rushing yards and power the ball against State’s defensive front. The Rebels need to embrace the matchup against the MSU defensive line. You know Kiffin will go for it on fourth downs in this game. The Ole Miss offensive line will need to be at its best in short-yardage situations. Cramming the ball down State’s throat and draining clock – which has the added benefit of wearing down the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter – is the best way for Ole Miss to win this game, even though you’re sure to see plenty of downfield pass attempts in this contest.
2 – Red Zone
Ole Miss will give up plenty of passing yards to Mike Leach’s Air Raid. The key is to stand tall in the red zone after State dinks and dunks down the field. Similarly, MSU will give up a lot of yards to Ole Miss. It’s a matter of preventing the 60-yard touchdown play and then making a stand near the goal line. This game should have plenty of points. Three-point kicks are glorified punts in this game unless they carry enormous end-of-game or end-of-half value. Generally, field goals will feel like defeats for both offenses.
3 – Composure
This is a ferocious rivalry, but with a rivalry comes overcooked emotions. We have seen bad mistakes turn this rivalry, and that comes from getting caught up in the heat of the moment. The best piece of advice about rivalry games: Hate the opponent enough to do whatever it takes to beat it. Want to beat State? Show restraint and discipline during the game. Then celebrate after the job is done. That’s the only way to treat a hated rival. Crave victory rather than a display of taunting or showboating. The taunting can come after triple-zeroes are on the scoreboard clock.