No. 19 Ole Miss, No. 23 Mississippi State set for Egg Bowl
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) This year's Egg Bowl is a much-anticipated matchup between ranked teams with impressive offenses featuring solid quarterback play and talented receivers.
On the defensive side of the ball, it's safe to say No. 19 Mississippi (8-3, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) and No. 23 Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3) each have a few holes they need to address.
The Rebels and Bulldogs have been working on schemes in hopes of at least slowing down the offenses. Even if it's a high-scoring game like many expect, a well-timed defensive play might be what turns the momentum.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said he's been impressed with Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, who leads the SEC with 3,504 yards passing. The Bulldogs will try to counter with a talented defensive line that includes A.J. Jefferson and Chris Jones.
Mullen said preparing for Kelly is difficult because many of his best plays aren't planned so game tape doesn't help.
''I think what he does outside of their offense is where he presents problems,'' Mullen said. ''He brings improvisational skills. When the play breaks down, he is a very deceptive runner. He makes people miss. He can avoid pressure. He keeps plays alive and breaks tackles.''
Ole Miss had some success against Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott in a 31-17 win last season.
''We were really able to disguise coverages and show different things and have him confused'' last season, Ole Miss senior defensive back Mike Hilton said. ''We're going to work on that this week and hopefully have the same results.''
But Hilton said he expects that to be difficult because Prescott is ''a lot more accurate'' and ''better at reading coverages.''
The Rebels could use a big game from sophomore defensive end Marquis Haynes, who leads the team with 13 tackles for a loss and 8 1/2 sacks.
Here are some other things to watch in the Egg Bowl on Saturday:
BIG ARMS: The Egg Bowl should feature plenty of good quarterback play. Ole Miss' Chad Kelly leads the SEC with 3,504 yards passing while Mississippi State's Dak Prescott is having another great season with 3,159 yards passing, 23 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
BIG TARGETS: One reason Kelly and Prescott are so good is they have very talented receivers. Ole Miss has 6-foot-2 Laquon Treadwell, who has caught a league-high 72 passes for 1,060 yards and eight touchdowns. Mississippi State counters with the 6-foot-2 Fred Ross, who has caught 69 passes for 816 yards and four touchdowns and 6-foot-5 De'Runnya Wilson, who leads the Bulldogs with nine touchdown catches.
HISTORIC MATCHUP: Ole Miss and Mississippi State are meeting for the 112th time on the football field. It's just the sixth time that both teams have been nationally ranked for the rivalry game. Ole Miss has a 62-43-6 advantage in a series that dates back to 1901, but Mississippi State has won four of the past six. The home team has won 10 of the last 11.
FREEZE VS. MULLEN: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has a 4-2 record in the Egg Bowl since coming to Starkville in 2009. Mullen won his first three Egg Bowls against Houston Nutt, but since Hugh Freeze arrived at Ole Miss things have changed. The Rebels have taken two of the last three in the series, including a 31-17 win in Oxford last season.
TITLE IMPLICATIONS?: If Auburn upsets No. 2 Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Saturday, the Egg Bowl suddenly becomes even more interesting. That's because Ole Miss can win the SEC Western Division title if Alabama loses and the Rebels find a way to beat the Bulldogs. Ole Miss has never been to the SEC championship game since the league split into two divisions in 1992.
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