Both teams are at the bottom of the SEC in scoring offense. Mississippi State has just nine touchdown passes and Ole Miss just eight. The Rebels are 10th in pass defense and the Bulldogs 11th. The two teams are tied for ninth in the conference in turnover margin and both have earned 171 total first downs.
MSU is 8th in passing offense and 12th in rushing offense in the SEC, while Ole Miss is 8th in rushing offense and 12th in passing offense respectively. The Bulldogs are 11th in total offense and the Rebs 12th. Ole Miss quarterbacks have been sacked twenty seven times and Bulldog signal callers have found the turf twenty eight.
I am not sure if there has ever been a more equal matchup.
There will be no television cameras, no game day crew, no bowl implications and most people around the country won't give the game a passing thought. In the grand scheme of things, the season finale for State and Ole Miss is just another game on the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen, but for the fine folks who hail from the great state of Mississippi it means everything.
Everyone from Pisgah to Possumneck, from Hot Coffee to Hernando and all points in between will care who wins. It's time for bragging rights for the Magnolia State. It might be a battle between two losing teams, but they are our two teams. The winner of this one can say, "We had a bad year, but we're still better than you!"
Both teams have been beset by a bout with the injury bug this season. The Rebels have had some issues on defense especially up front and the Bulldogs have had their injuries in the offensive back field. This time of year everyone is beat up, but those two appear to have been handed the business end of the stick.
State can make Omarr's job a bit easier by eastablishing the run. The Rebs will certainly counter by loading the box and daring State to pass. If Omarr can get time, his receivers, led by Tony Burks, should be able to get open against a Rebel secondary that has struggled to make plays.
Anthony Dixon has really come on in the second half of the season. Dixon is second among all SEC freshman in rushing yards and has eight touchdowns on the season. His durability and toughness will be tested this week and he must respond for the Bulldogs to win.
The Bulldog defense will look to stop Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, who may be the SEC newcomer of the year. The Indiana transfer has added some much needed pop to a running game that has struggled the past couple of seasons. Limiting the Rebel running game and forcing the Rebels to throw will be a key objective.
Brent Schaeffer has shown flashes, but he has made big plays for both his team and his opponents this season. Brent is at his best when he scrambles to buy time and the defense breaks down. Half of Schaffer's eight touchdown passes have come in this fashion. Brent is completing just 47% of his passes, but he has been hurt with some drops from his young wide outs. Even the most ardent Rebel supporter will admit Brent has not lived up to his billing yet.
Getting pressure on Schaeffer will be key, but he is more dangerous outside the pocket than he is in it. The Rebel offensive line has improved dramatically as the season has gone along. The unit did give up a handful of sacks last week, but a pair of those were more coverage sacks then anything else.
This should be a close game. A game of field position and special teams. The punters and returners will figure prominantly in the decision. Both punter McAdams and Park have struggled with inconsistency this season. The returners Green and Pegues have had some big days and set their offenses up nicely. Whomever makes the first big mistake on special teams, will likely find themselves facing some adversity.
The X factor in the game is the gimmick play. The Bulldogs have been vulernable to some of this and have been caught napping on some throw back passes for touchdowns against South Carolina and Arkansas. I expect Ole Miss to throw out some more Hugh Freeze wrinkles this week. The Rebels have had some success with the gimmicks, fake punts and onsides kicks. It would be naieve not to expect a dose or two of some unorthodox offense from the Ole Miss.
I would imagine if every State and Ole Miss fan were honest, they are all concerned about the game. If Mike Henig were healthy I would say the Bulldogs would win by a couple of scores, but with Henig on the shelf and a less than healthy Omarr Connor behind center the game is going to be tight.
There has been a lot of talk about Connor's health, but knowing Omarr, if he can walk he will play. Not only will he play, he will give it everything he has. Expect the same intensity from all of the seniors on both sides of the rivalry. Willis and Wicker want a win just as bad as Culberson and Robinson do. Someone is going to go home unhappy and I think it's going to be Ole Miss.
It won't be a thing of beauty, but I wouldn't expect to see Marshay Green get too many touches on kickoffs. Green was a key factor in the game with LSU. State will look to control the field position and give the Rebels the long end of the field. If State can control Green-Ellis much like they controlled McPhadden, then Omarr and company will be able to put some points up.
Whoever makes the most mistakes will lose this game.
Mississippi State 17 Ole Miss 13
LSU vs. Arkansas
Ten wins for Arkansas? I don't think anyone saw that coming. The Hogs win the west and all is well in Nuttville. Houston has done a great job with that program and the Razorbacks will be a team to contend with next season.
LSU is mad and on a mission to prove they are the best team in the west. Despite a sleep walking preformance last week, The Tigers will be ready for this one. The Hogs better pray for rain.
LSU 28 Arkansas 24
Florida vs. Florida State
Florida has a chance at a national chamionship and the Seminoles would love to derail their chances. FSU will be up and ready especially on defense.
The Gators need to take care of business and worry about Arkansas next week. This game will be a true test for Urban Meyer and staff. I get the feeling that FSU really wants Florida. If the Gators don't match the intensity early, it could be trouble.
Florida 27 Florida State 21
South Carolina vs. Clemson
I don't think Clemson is quite as good as their 8-3 record appears. I am just not sold on them. They have done well against the middle of the pack in the ACC, but not so well against the stronger teams this season.
Spurrier understands rivlary games better than anyone. He will have his team ready and if they can get some strong play from Jasper Brinkley and put pressure on Clemson QB Will Proctor they can pull the upset.
South Carolina 24 Clemson 20
Kentucky vs. Tennessee
This one could turn into a fire fight. A pair of great offenses will be on display, but the bowl bound Wildcats gave up 40 points to UL-Monroe. How does that happen?
Look for Tennessee to make some stops early and get out in the 3rd.
Tennessee 35 kentucky 17
Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
The home crowd will be rocking and Georgia fans have more to smile about after beating Auburn. Their team will be ready this week too.
Georgia 24 Georgia Tech 21
Well, that's the season!?! We wanted a perfect week last week and we got it. The 7-0 week gives us a 79-13 mark on the season. A perfect week this week is probably asking too much. There are some very, very good games on the schedule.