It is Egg Bowl week as the Ole Miss Rebels face the Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-6) in a game with bowl implications on the line that neither team can really afford to lose.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Take advantage of the short week
This Thursday night contest should favor Ole Miss by virtue of the fact that the Rebels had an open date last weekend. While the Bulldogs only faced FCS school Abilene Christian – a game they ended up winning 45-7 – that contest was closer through a couple of quarters than it had any right to be. In other words, the Bulldogs didn’t get to just turn up and win, they had to work for it a little bit.
While FCS schools might not be the best competition, the fact remains that the Mississippi State players will be dealing with knocks and bumps and bruises from that matchup that the Ole Miss players simply will not this week. This should make Ole Miss the fresher of the two schools come the fourth quarter.
We all know what happened last year in this one. The Rebels lost 35-3 and they – along with the Bulldogs – lost their cool. The end of the third quarter brawl was a bad look for both teams, with seven ejections and every single player on both teams being assessed with a blanket unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The coaches and staff weren’t much better.
The Rebels need to play smart and let the Bulldogs lose their heads. There is nothing more infuriating than a team winning with class, so the Rebels need to stay away from stupid – and cheap – penalties and take advantage of what that brings.
Run the ball
The plan that has been in place all year shouldn’t change here. Use John Rhys Plumlee as a runner, minimize his passing deficiencies, and get the ball into the hands of his horde of capable running backs. The script for an Ole Miss win isn’t secretive or pretty, but it is – at its best – a very effective way to win a game. This is a team that could easily be 7-4 right now and the running game is the biggest reason for that.
If the running game gets going with big plays – no team in the country has more 30+ yard runs in 2019 – then the Bulldogs won’t keep up.