Predicting the Battle for the Golden Egg each year is a lot like flipping a coin. You seemingly always have a 50-50 shot, no matter what the records of Mississippi State and Ole Miss are. Nonetheless, the Cowbell Corner Crystal Ball is back in action today and it's time to try and foresee what will happen in Oxford.
The fact of the matter is that the perception of this game changed a lot seven days ago. After looking completely lifeless for weeks, MSU went to Georgia last Saturday and punched with the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division bunch of Bulldogs. State nearly pulled off a massive upset, but more importantly for the long haul, MSU looked the part of a team starting to jell and take steps forward.
The most encouraging aspect of it all for MSU was that Mississippi State didn't just hang with Georgia because of turnovers or Georgia mistakes. No, State simply went blow for blow with one of the nation's best teams. MSU's offense finally appeared to crack the code against a defense playing primarily zone. Mississippi State's offensive line played probably its best game of the season. MSU isn't a juggernaut offensively now by any means, but it certainly seems like the Bulldogs are figuring things out.
Now if State can move the football against Georgia, it only stands to reason that MSU should have success against Ole Miss because, quite frankly, the Rebels haven't provided much more resistance defensively this year than plain old air. Ole Miss enters Saturday's game dead last in the SEC and 125th in the country in total defense. The Rebels allow more than 535 yards per game on average. Given those numbers, it's no surprise Ole Miss is also last in the conference in scoring defense and 124th in the country, allowing nearly 41 points per game.
If MSU can hang 24 points and 358 yards of offense against Georgia's premier defense, logic would seem to think the Bulldogs can do much, much more against the Rebels. Here's guessing that State has indeed made offensive progress, the Georgia game was no fluke and MSU is primed for its best offensive showing since rolling in the season opener down at LSU.
If that happens, the big question becomes this. Can State's defense slow down the Rebels enough? Ole Miss leads the SEC and is third in the country in total offense. Perhaps the thing that should most send a shiver up State fans' spines is that the Rebels average more than 350 yards a game passing. After Georgia found a ton of success against MSU through the air last week against what has become a depleted State secondary, it sure feels like Ole Miss is going to get chances to hit big plays and the Rebels are likely to hit on several.
It ultimately feels like this game is destined to become a shootout that is finally decided by which defense can force a costly turnover or two or halt a series. This has the makings of one of those games where punters are barely needed and it's a track meet all day long with both teams moving the football down the field at will.
In Oxford, as powerful as the Ole Miss offense is, a shootout would seem to favor the Rebels. However the fact of the matter is that for as bad as MSU has been offensively at times this season, Ole Miss has been even worse defensively. Some of that has been ignored or forgotten about by some because of the exciting brand of football the Rebels play under head coach Lane Kiffin.
And yes, there's more than a solid chance Ole Miss is again terrible defensively today, but the Rebels more than make up for it by racking up the yardage and points. But it really does feel like Mississippi State found something in Georgia. The Bulldogs found some confidence. They finally looked like a group that has bought into Mike Leach's way of doing things. Here's guessing that momentum continues into today and MSU pulls off the upset. State scores a bunch and MSU defensive coordinator Zach Arnett draws up a scheme good enough to get the key turnover or stop needed to give the Bulldogs a third straight Egg Bowl win.
Cowbell Corner Prediction: Mississippi State 45, Ole Miss 42
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