MSU: The Matchups

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have proven over the years records don't always matter. Most of the time they actually do, but there are times when they don't. Like last year.

MSU dominated Ole Miss 41-27, coming in with four wins. Ole Miss had eight and was playing for a more lucrative bowl situation.

This year, it's reversed. Ole Miss, with four wins, packs its football bags after this one and waits for offseason workouts. State, with seven, makes bowl plans for somewhere.

The nuts and bolts of it all come down to a Bulldog team that has protected the football and taken advantage of opportunities.

The Rebels, meanwhile, have lost turnover battles throughout the campaign and have given up quite a few big plays on defense and special teams, and also allowed the opposition to score an average of 35 points a game.

Records don't matter sometimes in the one-game, big-picture scenario. But statistics like those above tell a season-long tale.

For Ole Miss (4-7, 1-6) the pain of a losing season can be diminished at least in part with a win over MSU. For State (7-4, 3-4), it's a chance to perhaps move up in the bowl pecking order and finish .500 in Southeastern Conference play.

Ole Miss offense in brief: The Rebels continued to show vast improvement on offense from the early portion of the season in last weekend's 43-36 loss at LSU. An offensive line so suspect early and injury-riddled, has grown up and played well, allowing for some impressive numbers, especially in the running game. Ole Miss continues to rank second in the league in rushing at 221 yards per outing, second to Auburn's impressive 308.

Jeremiah Masoli

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has one more college football experience, and he says he understands the importance of this one. If the Rebels can move the ball and score as they are capable against the Bulldogs, Ole Miss has a good chance to win. But the MSU defense, while statistically nothing special, has been solid all season. The Dogs rank ninth in total defense in the SEC, fifth in rushing defense, and eighth in passing defense.

Ole Miss defense in brief: The Rebels haven't stopped anybody all season. Tulane scored 13 points, Louisiana-Lafayette 21, and Alabama 23. Those are the best efforts, at least from a scoreboard perspective, for the unit allowing nearly 36 points a game. What appeared to be, heading into the season, the Rebels' best area has turned out to be anything but. However, several key seniors want to go out a winner and get the Golden Egg back to Oxford after a one-year absence. Their attitude and effort may determine the outcome of this once since anything less than an all-out defensive effort probably won't be enough, even against an MSU offense that is near the bottom of the league in passing (10th). But the Rebels are vulnerable to the pass, allowing 243 yards through the air. So State may be able to also have some success in that department.

Ole Miss wins if...the Rebels can match the intensity, focus, and hate-filled attitude MSU displayed last season in Starkville. The Rebs haven't played the proverbial "complete game" this season. Defensively they've given up points aplenty and yardage in chunks. Masoli will have to display more of the magic that has helped his team have a chance. Brandon Bolden, who could pass the 1,000-yard mark for a season, and his running back mates will need to continue to run well behind the ever-improving line. The receivers, who will miss Melvin Harris this game, will have to step up. If Ole Miss can somehow force MSU into even a small handful of turnovers, they've got a chance to pull the upset and get the Egg back.

MSU wins if...the Rebel defense isn't able to stop the MSU option attack, much like they couldn't last season. The Bulldogs ran the ball at will on Ole Miss, especially in the second half. They've built on that attack this season and have controlled the football in numerous games and given their team a chance to win almost every time they've teed it up.

Chris Relf

If the Bulldogs don't turn it over (they haven't much this season, especially in their wins), then Ole Miss is in trouble. The Rebs have to get some help from State in terms of miscues and turnovers, on the MSU end of Hollingsworth Field.

MSU offensive player to watch: Chris Relf, quarterback. He makes everything go, or not. He's started every game, is second on the team in rushing with 56 yards per game and four touchdowns (behind running back Vick Ballard), and was the second-half catalyst in last year's win over Ole Miss. He's passed for 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns at a 55 percent accuracy rate.

MSU defensive player to watch: Chris White. The defensive leader for the Bulldogs, White has started all 11 games, has 96 tackles, 47 of them solos, from his linebacker spot. He's recorded six sacks and two interceptions. He's got 14 tackles for loss and has been at the forefront of an improved Mississippi State defense in 2010.

Noteworthy: Ole Miss leads the Golden Egg series 54-23-5, dating to 1927 when the trophy first appeared. The overall series, which began in 1901, has Ole Miss up 60-40-6. The home team has won 10 of the last 11. Ole Miss has taken five of the last eight overall. Ole Miss leads 21-10-3 in games played in Oxford. The Rebs have won five straight at home against State.

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