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NCAAF

Nov 26, 2019

Ole Miss at Mississippi State

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Mississippi State and Mississippi will be playing on Thanksgiving night for the third straight season as one of nation’s longest uninterrupted rivalries will be featured in the final Thursday night regular season game of the season.

The Egg Bowl features great intensity and has featured numerous memorable games in recent years. Here is a look at Thursday Night Football between Mississippi and Mississippi State.

Mississippi Rebels at Mississippi State Bulldogs

Venue: Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi
Time/TV: Thursday, November 28, 7:30 PM ET ESPN
Line: Mississippi State -2½, Over/Under 58
Last Meeting: 2018, Mississippi State (-11½) 35, at Mississippi 3

After a post-game brawl in 1926, Ole Miss and Mississippi A&M (now Mississippi State) created a Golden Egg trophy for the victor although the rivalry game wasn’t referred to colloquially as the ‘Egg Bowl’ until 1979. While both programs have had some ups and downs, the 2014 meeting was one of the high points of the rivalry with two highly ranked teams with #19 Ole Miss upsetting then #4 Mississippi State, 31-17. This year’s game will not go down as one of the meaningful or impactful games in the series but the intensity on the field will remain strong.

After a messy off-season in 2017, Matt Luke took over as the interim head coach for Ole Miss with the Rebels finishing 6-6 after winning this season finale vs. a ranked Mississippi State squad for the third win in the past four years of this rivalry. Luke was retained to lead the program moving forward and is now 9-14 the past two years with this year’s campaign falling short of a bowl bid at 4-7.

The Rebels have covered in six of the past seven games however and this has been an intriguing offense that has scored at least 27 points in five of seven SEC games including scoring 31 on Alabama and 37 on LSU. Despite being only 2-5 in SEC play, Ole Miss is only -34 in scoring in conference play and is +2 in scoring overall despite the 4-7 overall record. Mississippi is 0-4 S/U on the road, but has gone 3-1 ATS.

The offense has been transformed with John Rhys Plumlee moving into a more prominent role at quarterback. Plumlee doesn’t have a ton to offer in the passing game and the offense still goes with the original starter Matt Corral in passing series situations. Plumlee has electric speed however and the 6’0” freshman has racked up 989 rushing yards on 7.3 yards per carry this season including many long touchdown runs. He has proven to be a tough matchup for several SEC defenses stocked with NFL talent, rushing for 109 yards vs. Alabama and 212 yards vs. LSU.

On the season, Mississippi has a good chance to finish with more than 3,000 rushing yards. Freshman Jerrion Ealy has starred in the backfield in recent weeks as well with 7.2 yards per carry and the Rebels could wind up with four different players topping 500 rushing yards this season. Elijah Moore has been the only meaningful contributor in the passing game with 64 catches for 815 yards. As it stands, Mississippi is fourth in the nation in yards per game rushing with 266 yards per game, fifth nationally averaging 5.8 yards per rush as it isn’t surprising that the Rebels have been a good spread team even with poor defensive numbers.

There were big changes for Mississippi State ahead of last season as Dan Mullen departed after nine solid seasons in Starkville, taking over at Florida. Joe Moorhead was hired to lead the program following a four-year stint as Fordham’s head coach from 2012 to 2015 while serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Penn State under James Franklin in 2016 and 2017. Moorhead inherited a great senior quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald to lead his offense last season in an 8-5 campaign, but this season has been more challenging.

At 5-6, Mississippi State needs to win this game to make a 10th straight bowl game. Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens did not provide a seamless transition with mediocre numbers this season. Stevens has been back in the lead role in recent weeks after giving way to freshman Garrett Shrader for several games in the middle of the season. Surprisingly, the Bulldogs have had a higher passing percentage and more yards per pass attempt this season than last season, but the touchdown count has been lower while the sack and interception counts have been higher. The rushing numbers are similar to last season for the team, mostly leaning on Kylin Hill who has 10 touchdowns and more than 1,200 yards this season as a junior.

The lesser results for Mississippi State can be pinned on a big decline defensively. The Bulldogs were second in the SEC last season allowing only 115 points in eight games. This season, Mississippi State has allowed 236 points to already have doubled last season’s conference total. Mississippi State ranks 112th nationally allowing 6.4 yards per play and is 94th nationally allowing 4.8 yards per rush.

None of the losses have been notably bad for Mississippi State with defeats on the road vs. Auburn, Tennessee, and Texas A&M, along with three home losses to Kansas State early in the season as well as lopsided losses at home vs. LSU and Alabama. Last week while Ole Miss was off, Mississippi State was able to pad its numbers with a 45-7 win over FBC Abilene Christian. The Bulldogs put up 577 total yards, but did inflate the score with two touchdowns in the final six minutes.

Last Season:

Mississippi needed to win the finale last year to reach 6-6, but hosting the Egg Bowl things went poorly with a 35-3 loss to close the season at 5-7. Mississippi State had a 420-189 yardage and a 3-0 turnover edge and it was 21-3 at halftime. The big disparity that seems unlikely to repeat this season was an edge of 309-37 in rushing yards with the Rebels held to only 1.3 yards per rush.

Ole Miss Trends:

Ole Miss owns a 21-18 S/U and 22-16-1 ATS edge in this series since 1980 including winning and covering in four of the past seven meetings. Mississippi has S/U wins in the past two trips to Starkville in 2015 and 2017, winning as a 14-point underdog in the last road meeting two years ago. Since 2007, Mississippi is on a 21-14-1 ATS run in the road underdog role. Mississippi hasn’t won S/U as a road underdog since the Thanksgiving meeting in Starkville two years ago with seven S/U losses the past two seasons, though with three ATS wins in a row heading into this game.

Mississippi State Trends:

Since 2011, Mississippi State is on a 27-15 ATS run as a home favorite including an 8-2 S/U and ATS mark the past two years under Moorhead. This will be just the second time under Moorhead with a home favorite price of 3 or less, a role the Bulldogs are on a 5-1 ATS run in since 2010.

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