(4) Mississippi State Bulldogs (-2.5, 49.5 o/u) at (19) Ole Miss Rebels
The 87th edition of the “Egg Bowl” takes place this Saturday, as the No. 4 Mississippi State Bulldogs visit the No. 18 Ole Miss Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (3:30 p.m. Eastern).
The Bulldogs have won four of the last five meetings in this great rivalry and are favored (-2.5) to make it five out of six.
But there is more than just intrastate bragging rights at stake for Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs.
Mississippi State currently holds the fourth and final playoff spot in the CFP rankings. A loss on Saturday would put them on the outside looking in come January, though. The Bulldogs (10-1 on the year) also need just one more win to reach 11 for the first time in school history.
Strangely, the Bulldogs may be hoping that Alabama – the only team ahead of them in the SEC West standings – wins on Saturday and claims a berth in the SEC title game. That way, the Egg Bowl would be the last game for Mississippi State before bowl season, and the Bulldogs wouldn’t have to risk a loss in the SEC Championship.
Of course, that only becomes relevant if they can triumph this weekend.
Quarterback Dan Prescott leads the Bulldogs offense with 2,714 yards and 23 touchdowns, along with 891 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. He was firmly in Heisman Trophy contention until a three-interception game against Alabama (where the Bulldogs trailed 25-13 late in the fourth, but managed a late major to at least cover the spread).
On the ground, running back Josh Robinson has had a solid year for the Bulldogs, racking up 1,084 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Mississippi State will need both Prescott and Robinson to perform at a high level on Saturday, as they’ll be facing the best defense in the nation. Ole Miss surrenders just 13.5 points per game and has held five opponents to single digits.
That said, there is some cause for concern on the Rebels’ sideline. The stout defense has given up 30 points or more in two of the last three, including a 30-0 shutout against Arkansas last weekend. And, after a 7-0 start, the Rebels have lost three of their last four and plummeted in the rankings.
While the playoffs are out of reach for Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss, dashing the title hopes of the Bulldogs would be a nice way to end the season. It would also solidify their chance at a strong bowl game come Christmas.
Saturday’s game will be the first Egg Bowl since 1999 in which both teams are nationally ranked. Expect the Bulldogs to keep the trophy for another year and remain in the all-important top-four of the CFP rankings.
(Photo credit: Chris Lawrence (flickr) “We are the champions” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)