deddrick thomas ole miss 18 (2)

Wide receiver Deddrick Thomas (2) and the MSU offense scored five touchdowns against Ole Miss last season, while the Bulldogs’ defense kept the Rebels out of the end zone.

Keys to Victory

Find end zone early

Mississippi State has been outscored 69-34 in the first quarter of its Southeastern Conference games this season. The Bulldogs have been able to win both SEC games in which they outscored their opponent in the opening quarter.

Stop the running Rebels

Ole Miss leads the league averaging 261.5 yards per game and run for over 400 in each of the last two games. MSU might consider having one of its linebackers or star safety spy on quarterback John Rhys Plumlee to keep the Rebels honest in the run game.

Don’t turn it over

The Bulldogs have the second-most turnovers in the SEC this season with 10 interceptions and 10 lost fumbles. State lost the previous Egg Bowl played in Starkville in 2017 due to five turnovers.

What to Watch

When MSU has the ball

The Bulldogs are averaging 410.6 yards and 28.2 points per game and possess the top tailback in the conference in Kylin Hill, who leads the league with 1,215 yards.

Hill has eclipsed 100 yards rushing seven times this season and needs 176 yards to tie the school single-season record.

Ole Miss has the league’s worst pass defense, allowing 293.7 yards. The Rebels do rank second in the SEC averaging 2.7 sacks per game and have forced at least one turnover in nine games this season.

When Ole Miss has the ball

The Rebels are only throwing for 189.4 yards per game with Plumlee and Matt Corral combining to complete 56 percent of their throws with nine touchdowns and five interceptions. Elijah Moore’s 64 catches are more that the rest of Ole Miss’ receivers combined and his 108 targets top the SEC.

Mississippi State’s defense gets a boost with defensive tackle Lee Autry, linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and safety Marcus Murphy returning to starting roles this week. Those three players have only been on the field together in two games this year.

Crucial Matchup

Ole Miss run game vs. MSU run defense

The Rebels have run over over 400 yards in each of the last two games including 389 yards and six touchdowns by Plumlee. Running backs Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner each have a 100-yard game over that span as well.

MSU has only surrendered 200-plus rushing yards in a game this season (Auburn, 217; Texas A&M 207).

Twice this season, the Bulldogs have held their opponent under the century mark on the ground (LSU, 86; Abilene Christian, 27).

Twitter: @loganlowery

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