Vegas NCAAF Game Preview & Pick: Mississippi State vs Ole Miss

The only college football game on Thanksgiving this year is the famous Egg Bowl between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Ole Miss Rebels. Kickoff is at 7:30 EST on Thursday, November 28 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. The game will be broadcast for all to see on ESPN.

Current odds list the Bulldogs as 2.5-point favorites at home with an over/under of 58.5 points. Click here for a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.

Mississippi State vs Ole Miss Vegas Preview & Game Predictions

For Mississippi State, this game will decide whether the Bulldogs get to a bowl game in 2019 or not. It’s been a trying season for Joe Moorhead in his second season in Starkville. The Bulldogs endured a four-game losing streak in the middle of the season and are just 2-5 in SEC play this year. But they have won two of their last three games to get back to 5-6 and give themselves a chance to qualify for a bowl the final weekend of the season. A win on Thursday will send Mississippi State to a bowl game for the 10th consecutive season while a loss will end their season at the hands of their rivals.

Of course, Ole Miss has nothing at stake in this game except for pride. The Rebels haven’t been to a bowl game since 2015, in part because of a postseason ban. However, the program’s bowl ban ended after last season. The Rebels just weren’t good enough to get to six wins this season. Non-conference losses to Memphis and Cal combined with a 2-5 conference record have Ole Miss sitting at 4-7. At this point, the only way for the Rebels to salvage their season is to force their in-state rivals to also stay at home during bowl season.

This battle over the Magnolia State dates all the way back to 1901 and is one of the longest-running rivalries in college football. There has been no shortage of compelling games in this series, including last season a fight broke out at the end of the third quarter that resulted in four players being ejected. With this game being the first meeting since that brawl, tensions in this game are likely to be high.

In terms of results, things have been balanced lately with the two sides splitting the last eight meetings. The road team has actually straight games in this series, including a 35-3 blowout win for Mississippi State last season. Of course, that means the Bulldogs haven’t held serve against the Rebels on their home field since 2013.

Vegas Free NCAAF Betting Pick: Mississippi State -2.5

To be honest, it feels weird to be taking Mississippi State as a favorite. However, the Rebels have been far worse this season. The best win Ole Miss has this season came against a 3-8 Vanderbilt team. I know crazy things can happen in rivalry games, especially this one. But with the spread at less than a field goal, I think the Bulldogs will find a way to win by enough points to cover.

The one thing I can’t reconcile with Ole Miss this season is how pathetic they’ve been on defense. To be fair, hey’ve been able to stop the likes of Vanderbilt and New Mexico State. But other than that, the Rebels have been gashed on a weekly basis. Most teams have been able to run the ball effectively against them, but the Ole Miss defense could be even worse when it comes to defending the pass.

It’s in the passing game where MSU should be able to take advantage of the Ole Miss defense. The quarterback position for the Bulldogs has been like a rollercoaster this season. But Penn State grad transfer Tommy Stevens has taken back the starting job from Garrett Shrader late in the season. Stevens hasn’t posted impressive numbers this season, but he’s more of a pocket passer compared to Shrader. Against a porous Ole Miss secondary, he should give the Bulldogs the best chance to win the game.

Of course, the Mississippi State rushing attack isn’t bad either. Despite a lack of team success, running back Kylin Hill has put together an outstanding season, rushing for over 1,200 yards and gaining close to six yards per carry. He’s gashed some of the weaker teams MSU has faced this season, so I think he’ll have another big game against the Rebels. With a reliable rushing attack to support him, it should be a little easier for Stevens to complete some passes and push the ball downfield against the Ole Miss defense.

In fairness, there’s a decent chance the Rebels turn this game into a shootout. Ole Miss is outstanding at running the ball behind freshman quarterback John Rhys Plumlee, who’s a far better runner than a passer. Also, the running back tandem of Jerrion Ealy and Scottie Phillips is akin to lightning in a bottle. But even when Matt Corral gets some reps at quarterbacks, the Rebels don’t have enough of a passing game to stay balanced and keep scoring in a shootout. That could end up being the difference in the game.

Admittedly, the Mississippi State defense hasn’t exactly been impressive this season. But the Bulldogs have played better defensively at home, and I trust them to get stops more than I trust the Ole Miss defense. For neutral observers, I expect plenty of points in this game. But in the end, I think Mississippi State will get some separation and get the win.

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