football

Ole Miss - Mississippi State match-ups

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The Match-Up: This is the 105th meeting of
one of the nation's most-played rivalries. Ole Miss holds a 59-39-6 advantage in
the series dating back to 1901.  Ole Miss holds a 53-22-5 advantage in the
"Egg Bowl." The home team has won eight of the last nine games. Ole Miss has
taken four of the last six in the series, although MSU won 17-14 in last year's
meeting. State holds a 9-8 edge in the 17 meetings since the series returned to
campus sites in 1991, after being played yearly in Jackson from 1973-1990. The
Rebels hold a 20-10-3 advantage in games played in Oxford and have won four
straight.
At stake: 
Ole Miss won the inside track for a Cotton Bowl invitation with a 31-13 whipping
of LSU last Saturday.  However, winning that game in Death Valley will lose
its luster if the Rebels can't take care of Mississippi State.  While all
eyes are on the Cotton Bowl, it could get even better for the Rebels in the form
of a invitation to the Capital One Bowl should Georgia lose to Georgia Tech,
South Carolina fall to Clemson and Alabama wins over Auburn.  Aside from
bowl positioning, obviously bragging rights are at stake and the outcome could
influence some in-state recruits.  At least 100 prospects and family
members are expected, with at least a couple of dozen being of the high profile
variety.
Keys to the Game:
1) Keep the momentum.  The Rebels have played nearly
flawlessly since coming off an open date and beating ULM,
59-0, on Nov. 15.  2) Treat it as a rivalry game. 
This is State's bowl game and a 5-7 record could keep
Sylvester Croom in Starkville for another year, whereas a 4-8
record likely will mean at least major staff changes. 
Mississippi State will come out ready to play and Ole Miss
must match the Bulldogs' initial intensity.  3) Put it
away early.  The longer State hangs around, the longer
they have a chance of winning the game.  The Rebels need
to score early and often in all phases of the game to send a
message that the Rebels have the most and best talent.
Ole Miss rushing versus the
Mississippi State
ground defense:  Houston Nutt has fared well
against Mississippi State, never losing to the Bulldogs and
last year, his Razorback team put up 429 yards of offense on a
very decent State defense in a 45-31 win.  Granted, Nutt
doesn't have Darren McFadden any longer, but he's certainly
made do with a relatively inexperienced junior and a cast of
other running backs.  Ole Miss is No. 32 in rushing offense
among the 119 Division I teams, running for 180 yards a game. 
Junior Cordera Eason had back to back 100 yard rushing games
against Auburn and ULM before falling off to 60 yards last
week against LSU.  He'll carry the load again for Ole
Miss against a State team that  is ranked No. 65 in rushing defense, giving up
a respectable 144 yards
a game. Nutt has found a way to run for a least 100 yards in
every game this season and while he went to the air early against LSU,
look for him to take it Mississippi State early on the ground
to get the running game established. 
Senior Bulldog linebacker Dominic Douglas is the SEC's leading
tackler with 100 total stops. Ole
Miss' offensive line has improved week to week and the Rebels
should find some success on the ground against the Bulldogs.
Advantage: Ole Miss
Ole Miss passing versus the Mississippi State secondary:  The big news
coming out of practice is that Rebel quarterback Jevan Snead has a bruised
shoulder - suffered late in the first half against LSU.  Snead's passing
production did fall off in the second half, but whether that can be attributed
to the injury or LSU's defensive adjustments is not clear.  Snead had his
best day as a Rebel against LSU, hitting on 16 of 25 passes for 274 yards with
no interceptions and two touchdowns and isn't expected to be limited by the
injury on Friday.  Senior receiver Mike Wallace also had
one of his better days, hauling in five passes for 99 yards.  Overall all,
Snead sprayed the ball around to eight different receivers.  Ole Miss is
ranked No. 59 in passing, throwing for 212 yards a game and will face a
Mississippi State team that is ranked No. 14 in pass defense, giving up 170
yards a game. Senior safety Derek Pegues
has two interceptions and six pass break-ups.  While Ole Miss has one of
the better receiving corps in the SEC and Snead seems to be coming into his own,
State's ranking in pass defense must be acknowledged and respected.  Key
for Ole Miss to win this battle will be finding success on the ground that will
allow Snead to hit on some play action passes.
Advantage: Even
Mississippi State rushing
versus the Ole Miss ground defense:  It's no big
secret - Mississippi State's offense has been anemic. The Bulldogs are ranked
No. 105 in total offense and No. 113 in scoring offense, only putting up about
16 points a game on the board.  The team did have what may have been a
breakout game last week against Arkansas with 445 yards of offense that was
balanced with running and passing. State is ranked No. 95
in rushing, averaging 115 yards a game.  The workhorse in the backfield is
junior running back Anthony Dixon, who ranks fifth in the SEC in rushing at 77.5
yards per outing and has scored seven touchdowns.  The Bulldogs will face
and Ole Miss defense that is ranked No. 9 nationally in
rushing defense, giving up just 97 yards a game.  Last week against LSU,
Ole Miss held a team averaging 180 yards a game to just 37 yards on 29 attempts
- an average of 1.3 yards a rush.  If the Rebels come to play, the
defensive line and linebackers should have no problem shutting down State's
running game.
Edge: Ole Miss
Mississippi State passing versus the Ole Miss secondary:
 Mississippi State is ranked No. 91 in passing
offense, throwing for 182 yards a game. 
Junior quarterback Tyson Lee has emerged as the starter, completing 148-of-251 passes for 1,470 yards, seven
touchdowns and four
interceptions. Junior wide receiver Brandon McRae is fourth in the conference in
receptions with 50 for 512 yards and three scores.  State will face an Ole
Miss secondary that
has improved over recent
weeks to a respectable No. 84 ranking, giving up 220 yards a game through the
air.  The Rebel defensive front has improved from week to week and has to
been one of the top lines in the SEC, if not the country.  The group
disrupted LSU's passing game and their quickness off the ball puts pressure on
the quarterback and helps to offset a secondary that has been subject to be picked on
during the season.  The teams that have had the most success against Ole
Miss passing include Memphis and South Carolina, teams that went to a
three-step drop by the quarterback in order to get the ball off quickly. If
State employs a five or seven-step drop, the Rebels have demonstrated an ability
to get to the quarterback routinely in that scheme. Still the Rebels have had
some problems in the secondary, and are subject to give up big chunks of
yardage.
Edge: Even
Special Teams: Often overlooked
in the Rebels' successful season is the improvement on special
teams.  But it's a given that it's not overlooked by
Houston Nutt and special teams coordinator James Shibest
The Rebels gift wrapped an Egg Bowl trophy to State last year
thanks to 75-yard touchdown on a punt return.  This
season, the Rebels have improved in every aspect of special
teams.  Ole Miss is No. 52 in punt returns at just over
nine yards a return (State is No. 108 at 5.5 a return), No. 37
in kick returns at 22 yards per return (State is No. 89 at 19
yards a return), and No. 38 in punt return defense giving up just
six yards a return (State is No. 103 at 12 yards a return).
The Rebels are No. 26 in net punting at 39.5 yards a kick
(State is No. 108 at 37 yards a kick) and Joshua Shene is rated
No. 26 in field goals hitting on 15 of 17 while State's Adam
Carlson is ranked No. 98 and has hit on seven of 13 attempts.
Edge: Ole Miss
Weather forecast:
Mostly cloudy. High 56F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph. 10%
chance of rain.
Broadcast information:
TV: Raycom Sports (Dave Neal, play-by-play; Dave Archer,
color analyst; Dave Baker, sideline reporter); Available on
ESPN Gameplan and ESPN360.com. The CSS replay of the game will
be Sunday at 1 p.m. RADIO: Ole Miss Radio Network (David
Kellum, play-by-play; Harry Harrison, color analyst; Stan
Sandroni, sideline reporter). Satellite radio: XM 199; Sirius
210. WEB: OleMissSports.com will provide live audio through
RebelVision, live stats and an in-game blog. The official
Rebel athletics website will also provide a full game recap,
photo gallery and live postgame coverage.
 
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