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Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumlee is the straw that stirs the drink for the Rebels, who have evolved into a dangerous running team as the season has progressed,

Keys To Victory

Halt Hill

The Rebels have improved in run defense this season, but LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for 172 yards on the Rebels in Oxford, a big part of a 58-37 win for No. 1 LSU.

Helaire’s 49-yard touchdown run with 3 minutes, 8 seconds left snuffed out the flickering comeback flame for Ole Miss.

Hill, the SEC’s leading rusher, is similarly built.

Mississippi State has an underwhelming passing game. Slowing the Bulldogs’ run game would be a big step toward a win for Ole Miss.

Rise up in the secondary

While Ole Miss has struggled with its passing offense, so has MSU. The Bulldogs are actually averaging about 7 passing yards fewer than the Rebels.

Ole Miss, though, has shown an ability to make opposing quarterbacks look good.

While the Rebels have made strides against the run this season they’ve slipped against the pass.

Young cornerbacks Keidron Smith and Deantre Prince each had an interception and made a couple of nice individual plays against LSU.

They have to make those plays more often and not take for granted the Bulldogs’ underwhelming passing game.

Play with anger

Control the anger, but use it. Ole Miss lost this game 35-3 at home last season, something players remember even if they don’t want to discuss it.

The Rebels need to let the emotion of the series work for them.

What To Watch

When MSU has the ball

The Rebels will work hard to get MSU quarterbacks Tommy Stevens and Garrett Shrader off their spots.

They were often successful with that approach against LSU, but Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow was able to extend plays and find targets downfield – or run for big gains as both Stevens and Shrader have shown they can do.

The Rebels will try to make the Bulldogs win with the passing game.

That strategy will require good fits in the run game and gang-tackling to slow down Hill.

When Ole Miss has the ball

Ole Miss coaches have talked about a two-quarterback system, but it’s been largely lip service of late as freshman John Rhys Plumlee has progressed.

Plumlee has completed 60.6 percent of his passes the last two weeks, up from below 50 percent for several of his first games as the starter.

Freshman running backs Jerrion Ealy and Jarod “Snoop” Conner will divide most of the carries even if senior Scottie Phillips is healthy and available as expected.

Ole Miss coach Matt Luke has said repeatedly that the Rebels would need redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Corral, the former starter, to win games, but expect the Rebels to stay with Plumlee if the run game is clicking.

Crucial Matchup

Ole Miss QB John Rhys Plumlee

vs. MSU’s front seven

Plumlee, who did not take the field until 5 minutes remained against Cal in Week 4, needs 11 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season.

The Rebels have great respect for what they call a very physical group of MSU linebackers, but offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez has often been successful in luring defenders out of position with multiple formations and counter plays.

Along the way the Rebels have improved up front.

If Plumlee can help Ole Miss control the clock and score the Rebels will have a great chance to win the game.

parrish.alford@journalinc.com

Twitter: @parrishalford

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