Postgame Points : Ole Miss 38, Mississippi State 27
1. Rivalry Rout
The first postgame point this week is that the Ole Miss Rebels are Egg Bowl champions again!
No. 18 Ole Miss jumped out to a 28-3 halftime lead on No. 21 Mississippi State on the way to a 38-27 rivalry rout of the Bulldogs in Starkville. The win marks the first Egg Bowl victory for Ole Miss in Starkville since Eli Manning led the Rebels to victory at Davis Wade Stadium in 2003.
The Rebels claim the Egg Bowl trophy for the second straight season, and Ole Miss has won 3 of the last 4 games against their in-state rivals under Coach Hugh Freeze. Since the Bulldogs won 3 straight Egg Bowls from 2009-2011, this rivalry has shifted in favor of the Rebels.
2. Strong Finish
With the big victory over the Bulldogs, the Rebels end the regular season at 9-3 for the second year in a row. After the heartbreaking home loss to Arkansas, Ole Miss was able to finish the season strong with wins over Top 25-ranked rivals LSU and Mississippi State.
The Rebels have made a statement to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee that they are worthy of a bid to a New Year’s Six Bowl for the second consecutive year. Bowl bids will be announced on Sunday, December 6.
The Rebels have a solid resume for consideration by the Selection Committee. Ole Miss owns wins over 4 teams ranked in the Top 25 at the time of their meeting in LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and SEC West champ Alabama. The Rebels won 2 of those 4 SEC clashes on the road. Further, Alabama is playing as good as any team in the country. If the Crimson Tide claim the SEC crown on Saturday and make the playoff field, it is a boost for the Rebels’ resume.
3. SEC Standings
Ole Miss finishes the season with a 6-2 record in conference play. It is the most league wins by a Rebel team since Eli Manning and the 2003 squad went 7-1 and won a share of the SEC West title with Nick Saban‘s national champion LSU team.
At 6-2, the Rebels finish alone in second place in the SEC West behind Alabama. In the overall SEC standings, the Rebels sit third behind Alabama and Florida, both of whom had a 7-1 league mark. Yet, Ole Miss is playing like the second-best team in the league, while Florida has looked dismal in the past month. As well, the Rebels possess a much stronger resume than the Gators, with four wins over ranked opponents to the Gators one win over a ranked team, which was Ole Miss.
In fact, Ole Miss is ranked ahead of Florida in this week’s AP Top 25 poll. If Florida loses to Alabama badly, the Gators will drop even more in the polls. Thus, the Selection Committee could very well select Ole Miss for a New Year’s Six bowl instead of Florida.
4. Defensive Dominance
The Ole Miss defensive line deserves much credit for manhandling Mississippi State’s offensive line throughout the night.
The Rebels’ defensive dominance started with the guys up front in the trenches, who made Saturday night a miserable experience for Dan Mullen, Dak Prescott, the Bulldogs offense, and Bulldogs fans in the stands at Davis Wade Stadium. Ole Miss was extremely physical, dominated the line of scrimmage, and delivered some body shots in the Egg Bowl.
The Landsharks recorded a season-best 7 sacks and registered 9 tackles-for-loss against the Bulldogs. The Rebels pushed back the State offensive line almost at will in the first half and were constantly in the Bulldogs backfield.
Robert Nkemdiche played like an All-American, producing 1.5 sacks and 4 tackles in the game. Without a doubt, Nkemdiche was at his best in two of the biggest wins for the Rebels this season against Alabama and State.
Seniors Channing Ward and C.J. Johnson each contributed 4 tackles and a sack in their final outing against their in-state rivals. Junior D.J. Jones added 5 tackles and a sack for the game. Woodrow Hamilton, Breeland Speaks, and Marquis Haynes each had a sack against the Bulldogs.
Senior Mike Hilton registered 10 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss, and broke up a pass in his last game against State. Demarquis Gates chipped in with 9 tackles, a quarterback hurry, and a forced fumble. Chief Brown recovered a fumble, broke up a pass, and had 8 tackles. Senior Trae Elston recorded 7 tackles and broke up a pair of passes, while Tony Bridges took an interception 45 yards to the house to give Ole Miss a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.
5. Offensive Output
The Ole Miss offense was almost perfectly balanced against Mississippi State. The Rebels actually ran for more yards than they passed for against the Bulldogs. Ole Miss churned out 243 yards on the ground and 236 yards through the air.
The Rebels had 479 yards of total offense on 67 snaps, for an average of over 7 yards per play.
The Ole Miss offensive output was due in large part to the Rebels’ big guys dominating the line of scrimmage. The offensive line did not allow a sack during the game and opened holes that helped Rebel runners average 6.6 yards per carry. As with the defensive line, the Ole Miss offensive line played physical, hard-nosed football in the trenches. It was the recipe for success in the Egg Bowl.
Chad Kelly was spectacular, once again. The junior from Buffalo, New York completed 21 of 30 pass attempts for 236 yards, no interceptions, and 2 touchdowns. Kelly added 74 yards rushing and 1 touchdown, while Jaylen Walton led the Rebel rushing attack with 93 yards on 16 carries. The versatile Walton had 5 receptions for 34 yards, as well.
Jordan Wilkins contributed 54 yards and a rushing touchdown, and Akeem Judd added 24 yards. On one of Judd’s runs, he flattened a State linebacker. It was more proof of how physically dominating Ole Miss was on this night.
Damore’ea Stringfellow was the top receiver against the Bulldogs. He hauled in 5 passes for a career-best 84 yards and 2 touchdowns. Laquon Treadwell grabbed 4 receptions for 22 yards, while senior Cody Core caught 3 balls for 17 yards. Tight end Evan Engram had 2 receptions for 43 yards, and Quincy Adeboyejo caught 2 passes for 36 yards.
Feature image credit: Cameron Brooks, The Daily Mississippian