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November 28, 2013
Bulldog Keys To Victory and Prediction: Ole Miss
Mississippi State is coming off a scary overtime victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Bulldogs had to insert true freshman Damian Williams into the overtime period where he immediately made an impact with a 25-yard touchdown run to win the game for the Bulldogs, 24-17. The win kept MSU's season alive and set up the opportunity to become bowl eligible with a win against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving.
Who: Ole Miss (7-4, 3-4) vs. Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5)
Where: Starkville, Miss. ; Davis Wade Stadium
When: Thursday, November 28, 2013; 6:30 on ESPN
Series Record: Ole Miss leads, 61-42-6. The Last Time: OM: 41-24, in Oxford 2012
It's that time once again. The Bulldogs and rebels are back at it and the roles are nearly completely reversed from a year ago. The Bulldogs are now the ones playing for their season with a bowl game on the line and looking for redemption after being embarrassed a season ago. MSU has some odds stacked against them, however. Playing with their backs against the wall and in front of their home crowd in a rivalry game is a big deal, but no one seems to know who will step behind center and if they'll be effective or not to beat the Rebels.
It's the biggest game of the season and one of Dan Mullen's biggest games of his coaching career. MSU has a solid foundation for a solid team the next two seasons and that foundation gets even stronger with a Bulldog win and a bowl game later next month. My keys to victory: Control the tempo, Finish in the Redzone, Keep the Crowd in it.
Control the Tempo : Only one team in the conference has controlled the time of possession better than Mississippi State has this year and that is Florida. Now, that doesn't always translate in wins as each of those two teams have losing records at this time but it allows you to control the tempo of the game a dictate what happens. MSU will likely win this battle because of how its offense runs compared to Ole Miss as the Rebels like to move fast. The big opportunity is for the Bulldogs to get Ole Miss off the field quickly with three and outs or stalled drives and wear their defense down.
MSU has flown under the radar defensively with what they've been able to do getting solid offenses off the field. If they're forcing three and outs early, they have the chance to really build a lead on Ole Miss and get their heads down quickly.
Finish in the Redzone: On paper, this will be a pillow fight when the two offenses get inside the redzone. Ole Miss ranks 12th in the SEC and MSU 13th in redzone offense scoring just 75 and 72% of the time respectively. If Dak Prescott were playing this game, I would think that the Bulldogs have a better shot of getting into the endzone because it seems the offense stalls when the field is shorter with Tyler Russell.
If Prescott is out, MSU either needs to turn to Josh Robinson or Ashton Shumpert or give Damien Williams the opportunity in the read option set. If the Bulldogs score consistently in the redzone, they're going to be looking good for a win.
Pressure Wallace and Keep Outside Lanes Clogged : At the end of the day, the ball game really hinges on the play of Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace. The 2012 Egg Bowl was a coming-out party for Wallace. The junior has cut his interceptions in half this season and has been more poised in the pocket. Where Wallace gets his confidence is hitting several bubble screens to Laquon Treadwell and slip screens to his running backs so the post routes down field will open up.
The Bulldogs first half to get to Wallace and hit him so he doesn't get comfortable in the pocket. Wallace has struggled in his career when he's been in the pocket taking hits. MSU then has to get penetration on those bubble screens by jumping the routes or closing outside running room after the catch or during the run. The Rebels haven't been as effective running the ball between the tackles.
Prediction: This has been one of the toughest picks of the season for me. The Bulldogs have everything to play for with a bowl game on the line. If we all knew for a fact that Prescott and Russell were healthy, I think I have a hard time picking against MSU. But something tells me that Dan Mullen has something up his sleeve. After picking Ole Miss to win earlier this week, I'm flipping my pick. Bulldogs when back the egg. MSU, 27-21
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