The biggest college football game of the year in Mississippi is upon us.
As per usual, it is not without drama, hate, and slander.
The 2020 edition of the Egg Bowl is just one day away, and it seems to be a matchup of two teams that have quickly gained a little bit of momentum late in the season.
For Ole Miss, they come off high-octane wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina in which the offense simply could not be stopped. Quarterback Matt Corral has quietly put up a spectacular season and has positioned himself as one of the best signal callers in the SEC.
Receiver Elijah Moore has himself in the conversation for the Biletnikoff Award, and the defense has made small strides, which doesn’t always say much for a unit that ranked dead last in almost every major defensive statistic category possible.
As for Mississippi State, we all know the story. After shocking defending national champions LSU week one in Baton Rouge, the Mike Leach hype train quickly got derailed with a long stretch of poor offensive outings.
However, like the Rebels, the Bulldogs have gained a little bit of momentum. After a close win on Homecoming over Vanderbilt, Leach’s squad went into Athens four players under scholarship requirements to play and went toe-to-toe with a top-15 Georgia team.
What’s the takeaway?
Per usual, throw stats, records, and any preconceived knowledge out the window for this one.
One thing that is fair to expect is a easing of tensions on the field. Despite the past shenanigans that have plagued this rivalry game, Leach and Lane Kiffin seem uninterested in joining the mudslinging.
Simply put, they both plan to go out Saturday and do what they always do: try to win a football game.
Logically, things seem to be trending the way of Ole Miss this season. The offense has fully gotten back into its groove after the stinker in Fayetteville, received a bye before Saturday while MSU had to face Georgia, and has safety Otis Reese, who Coach Kiffin outright called the best player on defense for the Rebels, eligible to play for the first time this season.
Yet, this seems like the exact type of game Leach has made a career out of during stops at Washington State and Texas Tech. The games where momentum seems to not be trending the right way or where lack of talent could seem to be a problem is usually when the Air Raid somehow works it’s magic. It would not surprise me to see more of this in Oxford on Saturday.
The final aspect to mention is records both coaches share. One of Leach’s biggest caveats at Washington State was his record against rival Washington. He only won once in eight tries against the Huskies.
As for Kiffin, in his last stop at USC, he beat rival UCLA two out of three times before promptly getting fired at a tarmac in his fourth year before he got the chance to face the Bruins again.
Finally, the one time the two coaches matched up?
Leach got the better of Kiffin with the Cougars besting the Trojans 10-7 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2013.
Jon Ross Myers, editor
The Ole Miss offense vs State defense. Does Kiffin
rush three and drop eight to help cure some of his defensive woes? Otis Reese makes a difference in this defense. Plus, I don’t think State has anyone to cover Elijah Moore.
Final: Ole Miss 34-20
Jared Redding, contributor to Mississippi Sports
I think rust will obviously affect Ole Miss cause of the week off early in the game. State played their heart out last week on the road. I think Ole Miss will have plenty of opportunities to score, but will leave points on the board cause said rust. The addition of Otis Reese will be huge for Ole Miss in the secondary. On the flipside, I like for Walley to have an outstanding game, but not enough.
Final: 41-35 Ole Miss
Peyton Taylor, contributor to Mississippi Sports
This is going to be the most entertaining game of the weekend, first off. A high-scoring affair (yes, Bulldog fans, get ready for sirens) that comes down to which defense can get a stop first in the second half. While the Bulldogs have the better defensive unit, the multiple opt-outs over the season worries me about their depth. Like the two before me, I think Reese makes a major impact play late to help seal it up for Rebels and bring the Golden Egg back to Oxford for the first time since 2017.
Final: Ole Miss 38-30