STARKVILLE – There’s a beauty to football where two opposite approaches to the game can produce similar results.
Mississippi State scores 32 points per game — 42 points per game this month. Ole Miss averages 36 points per outing.
Many like to compare the two offenses of the rival schools ahead of Thursday night’s Egg Bowl, but the reality is these programs produce results with opposite approaches.
Mississippi State leads the nation with 593 passing attempts this season. Ole Miss is 46 spots below MSU nationally with 361 attempts.
But for as much as Ole Miss includes the run in its game, Mississippi State is the team controlling the ball.
MSU is seventh in the nation with nearly 34 minutes of time of possession per game. With quarterback Will Rogers leading the nation in completion percentage (76), State’s utilization of checkdowns and screen passes serves as a de facto run game to open explosive threats downfield.
“A misconception or a misperception about the offenses is that they’re similar with pace,” Kiffin told Paul Finebaum a week ago. “Everybody always thinks Mike goes fast and has always gone fast just because they’re spread out. They don’t go fast at all. They’re actually one of the slower snap teams in the country… to take the clock almost down every snap.”
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Kiffin’s offense moves fast to the extent ESPN put a timer on its screen between snaps to gauge how quickly Ole Miss moved in a win against Texas A&M two weeks ago.
Ole Miss is tied-sixth nationally with 2,537 rushing yards this season. MSU (683) is four yards away from being dead last.
Ole Miss utilizes the run-pass option with Matt Corral posing just as much of a threat on the ground as his arm does through the air.
“Corral is kind of the key to it,” Leach said. “He figures out who to deal the ball to, throws it pretty well, hands it off and runs it himself. It will be exciting to see what he does there in the NFL.”
While the offenses contrast, the nucleus remains the same.
“In both, I think a good quarterback is key,” Leach said.
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Wet and cold conditions are expected for this year’s Egg Bowl, but that isn’t something Leach bats an eye at.
Leach’s Washington State teams averaged 32 points per game in the eight seasons he spent in the Pacific Northwest.
Leach says the key to a run-pass offense such as Kiffin’s is having good footing, which can be done regardless of weather conditions as is the case with programs such as Utah.
Two years ago on Fox Sports’ Big Noon Kickoff show, former Utah head coach Urban Meyer credited his quarterback Alex Smith for accidentally inventing the RPO following a missed assignment by a wide receiver.
For passing offenses, Leach points to teams such as BYU or the San Francisco 49ers where regardless of the weather, these offenses thrived.
“Candlestick Park on a cold day, that’s just a mess and it’s in a swamp there, too,” Leach said.