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Ole Miss' New Year's Six Bowl Odds Hang on Egg Bowl

The Rebels' inconsistencies on offense lead to questions heading to Egg Bowl

Good can always be good enough. It's not against Vanderbilt, the consistent bottom-dweller of the SEC. 

Sure, No. 12 Ole Miss claimed the 31-17 victory over the Commodores at home Saturday evening. Quarterback Matt Corral leaves Vaught-Hemingway a champion. The seniors can bask in the glory of knowing a nine-win regular season has been accomplished. Fans saw an undefeated season on The Grove.  

Rebels' coach Lane Kiffin wants more. He expects more from this roster. If the Rebels play like this in Starkville against in-state rival Mississippi State, Kiffin can expect one thing. 

A loss without question. 

"Very conflicting game," Kiffin said postgame. "I'll get the negative out first. Poor second half, again. One score on offense which has been an issue as of late. And then you get really lopsided when on third and fourth downs, we go 1 of 9, they go 12 of 26."

The third quarter has been an Achilles heel at times for Ole Miss (9-2, 5-2 SEC) at times this season. Over the past four games, the Rebels have been outscored 24-6, including near two comebacks made by Liberty and No. 16 Texas A&M at home. 

Corral did his part, but the scouts will look at the film instead of the production of this game. He threw for a substantial 326 yards, but only found the end zone twice, connecting with running back Jerrion Ealy in the first quarter and wide receiver Dontario Drummond in the second quarter. 

The deep ball was limited. Both scores came from inside the red zone, and his longest completion of the day was a 45-yard completion to Jahcour Pearson. 

"I get a lot of credit for coming in here and what's happened and the change and the wins and losses and all that stuff compared to where it was before," Kiffin said of his QB. "I would argue that he deserves more credit than me for that. 

"He's had a lot to do with changing the mindset of the people around here. I think we've helped him with that. I think he kind of has taken over for us."

Yes, Corral could very well be remembered for his efforts in Oxford. Not even the great Eli or Archie Manning could produce a record the Rebels are one game away from achieving.

Should Ole Miss win Thursday night, it would mark the first 10-win regular season in program history. Kiffin, who is now at the height of head coaching rumors, all but could walk into Rebels' athletic director Keith Carter's office with a blank check. 

"Sign here?" says Kiffin. 

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"Yes sir." would be the correct response from Carter. 

The way Ole Miss looked in the second half should scare Mississippi State in the slightest. They are the one four-loss team in the College Football Playoff rankings for a reason. 

One loss should be a win following its controversial call against Memphis on the road. Another very well could have swung the Bulldogs' direction on a later date against LSU. 

But the Bulldogs are hot. They're 7-4 and on a five-game winning streak. Quarterback Will Rogers just broke Dak Prescott's touchdown record and became the first 4,000-yard passer in program history. 

Oh, there's also Mike Leach: the fun-loving uncle who likely has an anecdote on something with the Pilgrims celebrating Thanksgiving with a dish that hasn't been custom at the table since the 1800s. All he's done in 2021 is dish out wins and witty comments. 

Kiffin poked the bear last week on College Gameday, calling him the "best offensive coach in America." Time to live up to that sentiment, or eat crow. 

"I know you want to hear we're going to do some magic thing this week because we're playing Mississippi State," Kiffin said. "But we've just got to prepare really well."

That might not be enough. Corral, who took to Twitter to announce his plan to leave for the NFL Draft, is limited due to his ankle injury. The supporting cast hasn't been the most reliable since Kiffin's return to Knoxville in Week 8. 

Mississippi State is surging. Ole Miss is stumbling. The result? A lopsided win for the Bulldogs at home? 

Yes, it is possible. And the Rebels' locker room knows it, too. 

"If we play like that against Mississippi State, we're going to get blown out," Corral said. "That's just the reality of it."

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