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Thursday College Football Preview

Thursday Night College Football – Mississippi State at Mississippi

Mississippi State and Mississippi will be playing on Thanksgiving night for the second straight season as one of nation’s longest uninterrupted rivalries will be featured in the final Thursday night regular season game of the season. The Egg Bowl features great intensity and has featured numerous memorable games in recent years. Here is a look at Thursday Night Football between Mississippi and Mississippi State.

Match-up: Mississippi State Bulldogs at Mississippi Rebels

Venue: At Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi

Time/TV: Thursday, November 22, 7:30 PM ET ESPN

Line: Mississippi State -11, Over/Under 59

Last Meeting: 2017, Mississippi (+15) 31, at Mississippi State 28

After a post-game brawl in 1926 Ole Miss and Mississippi A&M (now Mississippi State) created a Golden Egg trophy for the victor although the rivalry game wasn’t referred to colloquially as the ‘Egg Bowl’ until 1979. While both programs have had some ups and downs the 2014 meeting was one of the high points of the rivalry with two highly ranked teams with #19 Ole Miss upsetting then #4 Mississippi State 31-17. This year’s game doesn’t carry the same weight but the intensity on the field will remain strong.

After a messy off-season in 2017 Matt Luke took over as the interim head coach for Ole Miss with the Rebels finishing 6-6 after winning this season finale vs. a ranked Mississippi State squad for the third win in the past four years of this rivalry. Luke was retained to lead the program moving forward and it has been an up-and-down season. A win this week at home will get the Rebels to 6-6 again though Mississippi is still in the midst of a postseason ban.

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There were big changes for Mississippi State ahead of this season as Dan Mullen departed after nine solid seasons in Starkville, taking over at Florida. Joe Moorhead was hired to lead the program following a four-year stint as Fordham’s head coach from 2012 to 2015 while serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Penn State under James Franklin the previous two years.

Moorhead inherited a great senior quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald to lead his offense but while Fitzgerald has been productive, he hasn’t had the same statistical success he had in his best season in 2016. He’ll likely surpass his rushing and passing totals from last season by the end of the season but his per carry average has gone down substantially, as has his passing completion rate.

Despite Moorhead’s offensive background the Bulldogs are 7-4 mainly thanks to the SEC’s second best scoring defense, allowing just 16 points per game in league play. 28 points allowed at Kentucky in the SEC opener has been the season high allowed by the Bulldogs, who held Alabama to a season low 24 points earlier this month. Mississippi State has only scored 17 points per game on average in SEC play however as the least productive offensive team in the entire SEC.

Mississippi has averaged nearly 37 points per game this season although just 25 points per game in SEC play. The Rebels are surrendering more than 36 points per game however and in SEC play that average is nearly 42 points per game as this matchup will feature a great clash of style and pace.

Mississippi is just 1-6 in SEC play only beating Arkansas and that win featured a wild comeback, trailing by nine with five minutes to go. Ole Miss has lost the past four games but two of those results have been single-score games including losing in overtime last week at Vanderbilt.

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Jordan Ta’amu has been very productive at quarterback for the Rebels as he’ll likely eclipse 4,000 yards passing this week, while posting nearly 9.6 yards per attempt. Ta’amu isn’t the ground presence that Fitzgerald is but he has rushed for 366 yards while Scottie Phillips is close to 1,000 rushing yards out of the backfield. A. J. Brown leads a talented receiving corps with 81 catches for 1,259 receiving yards, the fifth most yards nationally.

Mississippi State can clinch a winning season in SEC play with a victory this week to get to 5-3 with Mullen surprisingly only topping 4-4 in SEC play once in nine seasons in 2014. The Bulldogs would also finish at worst tied for third in the SEC West with a win with Mullen only finishing above 4th place in that 2014 season to potentially boost its bowl standing.

2016 Meeting: This was a bowl elimination game between 5-6 teams last season in Oxford. It was a back-and-forth first half with a 27-20 lead for Mississippi State. That score held until just over five minutes to go in the third quarter before the Bulldogs went on a 28-0 run the close the game for a somewhat misleading 55-20 final result. Mississippi State had just a 566-528 yardage edge and benefitted from a 2-1 turnover edge including a 4th quarter pick-six. Nick Fitzgerald rushed for 258 yards and accounted for five touchdowns while current Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson threw for 320 yards for the Rebels but had two interceptions to match his two touchdowns.

Last Season: Mississippi took an early 10-0 lead but the Bulldogs got a pair of field goals before halftime to trail 10-6.  A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf scored on receptions of 77 yards and 63 yards from Jordan Ta’amu in the final eight minutes of the third quarter as the Rebels led 24-6. Mississippi State made a late rally to close to within three points with just over a minute remaining but didn’t get the on-side kick attempt. Mississippi State had a 501-355 edge in yardage and a 27-11 edge in first downs but had five turnovers.

Historical Trends: Ole Miss owns a 21-17 S/U and 22-15-1 ATS edge in this series since 1980 including winning and covering in four of the past six meetings. Mississippi State won 55-20 two years ago in Oxford but is 2-7 S/U and 2-6-1 ATS in the last nine road meetings in this series. This will be the biggest road favorite spread for the Bulldogs in this series as far back as there is data to 1980. Mississippi State is 1-5 ATS in the past six games as a double-digit favorite including losing 28-7 at Kentucky this September in the most recent instance. Mississippi is 0-5 ATS in the past five games as a home underdog including going 0-2 S/U and ATS this season. Mississippi is 8-5 ATS as a double-digit home underdog since 2006.

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