The game we've been waiting for Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach were brought in to coach in the Magnolia State has finally arrive. It's Egg Bowl Day.
Despite a global pandemic, a string of SEC protocols that have made playing a typical weekly slate challenging and a myriad of other difficult 2020 conditions, we've finally gotten to the first meeting between Leach and Kiffin in the Egg Bowl.
There's plenty of factors that will go into deciding this game, one in which Ole Miss will welcome the visiting Bulldogs as a 10 point home favorite. However here our The Grove Report's three most important factors, plus our final predictions for the 2020 matchup.
1. The Matt Corral – Elijah Moore Connection
There hasn't been a more impressive, surprising or productive duo in college football this season than Corral and Moore. For Mississippi State to have a change to pull off the big upset, they're going to have to find a way to slow down the Ole Miss quarterback and slot receiver duo.
Some teams have attempted a strategy of letting Moore eat and making other Rebels beat them. That hasn't worked – Moore is leading the nation in receptions (10.6) per game and is third nationally in yards per game (150.6). In games where Moore goes over 200 yards, Ole Miss is 2-1 with the only loss coming to now No. 6 Florida. In games where he scores multiple touchdowns, Ole Miss is undefeated.
2. Development and Performance of True Freshman QB Will Rogers
For State to have a shot, they're going to have to score with Ole Miss. For State to score against Ole Miss, they're going to need a lot from a true freshman.
Now, Mike Leach is an offense guy. He's a quarterback guy. He's a passing game guy. Well thus far in Starkville, his offense has stunk because his passing game has stunk and he hasn't found quarterback that he liked. At least that final part might have changed with true freshman Will Rogers out of Brandon, Miss.
The true freshman will make his third start today in the Egg Bowl. Rogers is 1-1 in his first two starts, beating a lowly Vanderbilt team but scoring 24 on Georgia in a one-score loss. He's completing over 77-percent of his passes.
3. Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner vs. the Mississippi State front-seven
As important as Corral and Moore are, Ole Miss still runs the ball on 58.3-percent of plays. (For reference, State throws over 77-percent of the time).
On aggregate this season, Ealy and Connor are averaging 134.4 rushing yards per game and two score on the ground. Meanwhile, Mississippi State's strength is probably their rushing defense. Ranking No. 15 nationally in yards per carry allowed (3.21), they trail only Georgia in the SEC in that category. State is going to have to find a way to get Ole Miss off the field – it starts with linebacker Erroll Thompson and the run-stuffing unit.
I just find it hard to believe that a true freshman quarterback, even in a Mike Leach system, is going to be able to keep up with an Ole Miss offense averaging 41.0 points per game. Rogers makes one too many mistakes to keep it close and Matt Corral finally gets his first Egg Bowl win.
Final score: Ole Miss 38 – Mississippi State 24 (Ole Miss covers, under hits)
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