Ole Miss (2-9) at Mississippi State (5-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 26th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Davis Wade Stadium (55,082) -- Starkville, Mississippi. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Ole Miss 1-6, Miss St. 2-3. Away Record: Ole Miss 1-3, Miss St. 3-3. Neutral Record: Ole Miss 0-0, Miss St. 0-0. Conference Record: Ole Miss 0-7, Miss St. 1-6. Series Record: Ole Miss leads, 60-41-6.
GAME NOTES: With a victory over rival Ole Miss Saturday night in their annual Battle for the Golden Egg, the Mississippi State Bulldogs can become bowl eligible for the second straight year.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 44-17 loss at third-ranked Arkansas last weekend, but they will be glad to play this game on their home turf. All of the team's losses this year have come in conference against teams currently ranked in the top-25 of the latest BCS standings. In fact, each of Mississippi State's losses for the last two seasons have come against ranked teams.
Meanwhile, this marks the final game at Ole Miss for head coach Houston Nutt, who announced earlier this month that he would resign at the end of the season. Nutt has gone 24-25 in his four years at the school, but the Rebels have lost a school-record 13 straight SEC games dating back to last season. After announcing his resignation, the team was dealt a 27-7 home loss to Louisiana Tech on Nov. 12 and then suffered a 52-3 rout at the hands of LSU last weekend, also in Oxford.
Ole Miss has a 60-41-6 edge in the all-time series, although Mississippi State has won the last two meetings.
If the Rebels are to send coach Nutt off with a win in his finale, they'll have to find a way to put some points on the board after totaling just 10 points over their last two outings. The team enters this contest ranked 114th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in both total offense (288.5 ypg) and scoring offense (17.3 ppg). In seven of the Rebels' nine losses, they failed to eclipse 13 points, and on four of those occasions they were held to single digits. Last week's contest against top-ranked LSU was over not long after it started. Just 28 seconds into the game, Zack Stoudt was intercepted by Ron Brooks, who returned it 46 yards for a 7-0 Tigers' lead before many fans could settle into their seats. Stoudt was replaced by Barry Brunetti after completing just 3-of-8 attempts for 17 yards. However, Brunetti did not fare much better, completing only 5-of-10 passes for 30 yards although he did rush for a team-high 74. The Rebels finished with just 195 yards of total offense and never ventured into the red zone.
Defensively, Ole Miss was punished by an LSU ground attack that churned out 353 yards and four touchdowns for the game. The Tigers averaged a healthy 7.1 yards per rush as a team despite not having a single 100-yard rusher for the game. With the running game working so well, their quarterbacks attempted only eight passes for the game, and they completed each one. LSU reached pay dirt on four of its first five drives to build a 35-3 halftime lead, then emptied the bench for much of the second half. All told, it was Ole Miss' least competitive defensive effort since a 52-7 loss to Alabama, which kicked off the team's current six-game losing streak. On the season, the Rebels rank 94th in the nation in total defense (428.6 ypg) and 96th in points allowed (32.2 ppg). They have largely struggled to generate much of a pass rush, ranking 107th in sacks (1.18 per game) as opposing quarterbacks have often found ample time to sit in the pocket and find open receivers.
That defense will now face a Mississippi State offense that has struggled to move the ball in back-to-back losses, albeit against second-ranked Alabama and third-ranked Arkansas. The Bulldogs hung around for a while last week against Arkansas, as they trailed 14-10 until the Razorbacks tacked on 10 more points in the final two minutes of the opening half to take a 24-10 lead into the locker room. However, Mississippi State opened the second half with three straight three-and-outs, and the Razorbacks began to pull away. MSU finished with just 211 yards of total offense and held the ball for only 24:39, thanks to a 5-of-16 showing on third down. The team was without starting quarterback Chris Relf, whose status is questionable for this weekend as he continues to deal with concussion-like symptoms. Redshirt freshman Dylan Favre split reps with sophomore Tyler Russell last week, although the two combined to complete only 15-of-31 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown.
The Bulldogs were able to limit the damage on defense for much of the first half. Late in the second quarter, junior cornerback Johnthan Banks came up with a sack and forced fumble, which teammate Fletcher Cox returned inside the Arkansas' 30. Shortly after, Favre ran into the endzone to make it a 14-10 game. A couple of series later, Cox blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt to keep the Bulldogs within four. And although Arkansas was eventually able to open the floodgates in the second half, part of that can be attributed to the Bulldogs' ineffective offense, which in turn kept the defense on the field for long stretches. Junior linebacker Cameron Lawrence registered a game-high 10 tackles in the loss, while Banks had seven to go along with a few big plays. On the season, Lawrence paces the squad with 100 tackles, which also ranks third in the conference. Cox leads the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
The Bulldogs are trying to hold the Egg Bowl Trophy for the third straight year, which has not happened since they posted four consecutive wins over Ole Miss from 1939-42. They've got some questions on the offensive side of the ball, particularly at quarterback, but then again so do the Rebels.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Mississippi State 30, Ole Miss 14
11/23 17:06:28 ET