Mississippi State (7-4, 3-4 SEC) looks to end the 2022 season off on a high note as it takes on Ole Miss (8-3, 4-3 SEC) in the annual Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night.
Finishing out his third year as the head coach of the Bulldogs, head coach Mike Leach has yet to beat the Rebels during his tenure. He is looking to change that as they travel to Oxford this week in the regular season finale.
With the rivalry game just a couple of days away, here are three ways how Mississippi State can come away with a victory.
Execution of the Offense
Mississippi State's win over ETSU last Saturday showed Mike Leach's offense at its best. The 56-7 victory saw quarterback Will Rogers throw for 301 yards and five touchdowns before being pulled out of the game in the fourth quarter.
The receiving room also shined in the victory as wide receiver Lideatrick "Tulu" Griffin scored two touchdowns and averaged 13.3 yards per reception after initially busting things open with a 58-yard kickoff return to set the Bulldogs up with solid field position in their first drive.
Despite high points like the many the team saw in the rout of the Buccaneers, Mississippi State's offense has been on and off over the course of the season, and could run into some trouble against Ole Miss on the road.
In last year's Egg Bowl contest, the Bulldogs offense sputtered as they continually dropped many potential touchdown passes, despite Will Rogers' best efforts to keep the game alive in the 31-21 defeat.
The offense that shows up to play in Oxford will be vital in a Bulldogs victory, and fans will have to hope that the offensive woes from last year's matchup are a thing of the past.
Stopping Ole Miss' Running Game
The Rebels running game has been on fire this season and could pose a threat to the Bulldogs in their home. Even in the midst of last Saturday's loss to Arkansas, Rebels running back Zach Evans ran for 207 yards and one touchdown, averaging 12.2 yards per carry.
Star freshman running back Quinshon Judkins also took significant snaps as has so often been the case as he's garnered Heisman Trophy attention, rushing for 214 yards and one touchdown. Judkins is now the program's all time single season rushing yard leader, surpassing John Kayo Dottley in 1949.
The Rebels currently lead the SEC in rushing yards (3,061) and yards per game (278.87), ranking third nationally in rushing offense.
Mississippi State ranks sixth in the SEC in rushing yards allowed (1,645) and seventh in points allowed (268). It's no secret the Ole Miss ground game is lethal this season and the Bulldogs could be in some trouble is they aren't able to address it.
Stopping Jaxson Dart
Ole Miss starting quarterback Jaxson Dart isn't a perfect successor to Matt Corral from last season, but has led the Rebels to some key victories this season. The USC transfer has posted 2,363 yards this season with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions as the Rebel's starting quarterback.
As previously mentioned, though, Dart isn't perfect. He has posted a 60.4% completion rate this season, which hardly compares to Rogers' 68.1% completion rate.
Dart will also have to deal with Bulldogs cornerback Emmanuel Forbes Jr, who became both the FBS and the SEC all-time leader in interceptions returned for a touchdown. He totals 14 interceptions over the course of his career to this point.
While preparing for ETSU, Bulldogs defensive coordinator Zach Arnett noted during a press conference last week that Ole Miss' offensive philosophies were similar to the Bucs in some ways.
"I think there’s a lot of similarities, personnel wise and what they do, to what we’ve seen the last couple of weeks," Arnett said. "Eleven personnel and 12 personnel, power run game, play action pass off it, boot game. Actually, there’s some similarities in some of their play concepts to what we’ll see next week too. It’s a good matchup for us, in terms of what we’ve seen and what we might see. "
With this in mind, the defense could adjust to Dart's weaknesses, something that could prove be very important in order to walk away with the Golden Egg on Thanksgiving night.