November 23, 2016
The 2016 edition of the Egg Bowl may end up feeling like a Big-12 or Pac-12 game, in that defense might be optional when the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University meet on Saturday, Nov. 26.
Heading into this game, the Rebels are http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/22/p3">ranked 101st in total defense, and the http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/22/p3">Bulldogs are slightly worse, at 105th in the nation. MSU gives up 455.2 yards per game, and UM allows 451.7 to opposing offenses.
Those aren’t defensive numbers normally associated with SEC defenses. Poor defense is one reason that the Bulldogs aren’t going to a bowl game and a reason that the Rebels need to win this game to go to a bowl game.
Each team will try to attack the other’s weakness on defense.
MSU will try to use its http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/23/p1">33rd-ranked rushing attack against the Rebels http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/24/p3">112th-ranked rush defense. The Bulldogs gain 212.8 yards per game on the ground, and UM is giving up 227.2 rushing yards.
UM will brings its http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/25/p1">passing attack, ranked 12th in the nation, against the http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/695/p3">119th-ranked pass defense of the Bulldogs. The Rebels average 314.5 yards in the air, and MSU gives up 279.7 yards to completed passes.
Both defenses will try to take away what the opposing offense does best. That means the Bulldogs want the Rebels to run on offense, and UM wants MSU to pass on offense.
The Rebels allow 224.5 yards per game http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/695/p2">passing for 60th in the nation. MSU is http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/25/p2">74th in the nation in passing, averaging 225.5 yards per game.
UM enters the game with the http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/23/p3">104th-ranked rushing attack, which amasses 144.1 yards per game. The Bulldogs bring the http://www.ncaa.com/stats/football/fbs/current/team/24/p2">72nd-ranked rush defense, which allows 175.5 yards per game.
Again, neither defense is very good, but they will try to force the opposing offense into what they stink the least at on defense. Either way, both offenses should have big days against these porous defenses.
Stopping each team begins and ends with the quarterback.
The Rebels must force MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to be a passer and not let him break off the long runs that he produces nearly every game. UM must not let the Bulldogs turn their quarterback Shea Patterson into a runner.
Fitzgerald is prone to miss targets in the passing game, but he is great at reading the defense during the rushing attack. Patterson brings Johnny Manziel to mind, as he scrambles to keep plays alive when the rush bears down on him. He also has a strong arm and can read defenses pretty well in limited action.
Barring injuries, this will be the quarterback matchup for the Egg Bowl for two more years since Fitzgerald is a sophomore, and Patterson is a freshman. If Patterson turns out as good as recruiting sites believe he will, he will be gone for the NFL after his junior season.
While the Rebels want to reach a bowl game, the 2016 Egg Bowl is more about the future than the present. Both programs need to fix bad defenses in a season that didn’t live up to expectations.
The NCAA investigation against the Rebels’ football program looms in the future, as well. There is no telling how severe the sanctions will be on the program.
MSU has to figure out a way to keep a defensive coordinator on campus for more than just one season. The Bulldogs haven’t had much consistency at DC for multiple seasons.
Still, a prediction has to be made on the outcome of this game, so here goes: The Rebels will be leading late, but the Bulldogs will need just a field goal to win. MSU will drive down the field to set up the game-winning kick, and the season will end as it began with the Bulldogs missing an easy field goal for the win.
Estimate of Final Score: Rebels 38, Bulldogs 37