It’s the Egg Bowl, and everyone who watches this game or at least pays attention to it will be thinking about the dog-pee 15-yard penalty by Ole Miss which cost the Rebels dearly in the 2019 game won by the Bulldogs. Avoiding something stupid will be an obvious key for both teams, but beyond that, what must Mississippi State to do have a chance in this game?
By Matt Zemek
1 – Where there’s a Will, there’s a way
After a long period of slumber, the good Mississippi State offense reemerged against Georgia this past Saturday. The passing game once again clicked. The quarterback began to survey the field properly again and make the right reads. The main pillar of a winning performance from Mississippi State is a reborn passing game akin to what we all saw against LSU back on September 26. If the Bulldogs can get that – or something very close to it – they can match Ole Miss score for score in a shootout.
Here’s the key point, though: The quarterback against Georgia was not K.J. Costello, who started the LSU game and seemed to give Mississippi State a lot of potential.
No, the quarterback who lit up Georgia was freshman Will Rogers, who completed 41 passes for 336 yards and looked as though he belonged on the field against Kirby Smart’s defense.
Costello went through a brutal stretch of several weeks, but if the Georgia game – and Will Rogers’ standard of play – represents the caliber of offense Mississippi State will bring to the field in the Egg Bowl, the Bulldogs have a very realistic chance of winning. The obvious limitation here: Ole Miss has game film on Rogers. MSU can’t spring him as a surprise the way it did versus Georgia.
2 – Third down and red zone defense
Let’s be honest: Ole Miss is going to move the ball. The Rebels are going to get their fair share of first downs, yards, and even points. This isn’t going to be a 16-13 or 17-10 kind of game. The key for Mississippi State is to be especially good in high-leverage situations. Forcing a few field goals instead of allowing touchdowns, and creating enough stops in third-and-medium situations (third and five, third and six), could give the Bulldogs enough of a cushion so that their offense can win this game. MSU doesn’t have to be great on defense, but it does need to be good on the most important 10 to 15 plays of the day.
3 – Secondary responsibility
Mississippi State had a lot of trouble covering Georgia’s receivers this past Saturday, and with the score tied at 24 in the second half, MSU had a decent chance to force Georgia to punt. However, a Georgia receiver got well behind the Mississippi State back line of defense on third and 20. The safeties took a nap. Suffice to say, this cannot happen against Ole Miss, or MSU will be roasted.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 3:00 PM CT (4:00 PM ET). You can watch this Mississippi State football game on the SEC Network.