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2014 MSU Football Opponent Preview: Ole Miss

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The 2013 egg bowl was one for the ages. This one has the potential to be even better, as both teams have a ton of talent returning.

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

The players have a clock counting down the days till they play them. State fans cringe at the sight of them. Dan Mullen won't even say their name. When thanksgiving rolls around, friends and family won't even talk to each other. Bragging rights for an entire year are on the line, and the game brings out some of the craziest fans, from both sides. But they're not really worried about us though because LSU is their "real rival." They don't care about the little pups at "cow college." They're the flagship university, THE university of Mississippi. They're far, far superior to us. Let's not mention that the rivalry has been more or less even in the past 20 years (MSU leads 12-9) or that the Dogs have won 6 of the last 9 and 4 of the last 5...shhh. No no, they don't care about that. That 61-43 overall lead and those 5 star croots are all that matter. Ole Miss fans never fail to give us a good laugh.

In all seriousness though, I love this game. How could you not? It's probably the most heated rivalry out there other than Bama and Auburn. We usually find ourselves on the edge of our seats in the stadium or pacing back and forth in our living room. The game is always intense and usually comes down to the wire. Last year was a prime example of that.

The 2014 battle for the golden egg looks like it will be another fun one. It may even be the most anticipated one there has ever been. It's rare that both teams are good at the same time. Both State and Ole Miss have a chance to go into this match-up with eight or nine wins. If that happens, go ahead and hide the kids because November 29th is going to get ugly.

Let's take a look at what the 2014 Rebels will bring to the table.

Offense

Playmaker Donte Moncrief is gone but the Rebs do bring back Bo Wallace, Laquon Treadwell, and a stable of speedy running backs. Even though the defense projects to be the strength of their team, this offense is going to be dangerous as well. Bo Wallace is chasing many of Eli Manning's career passing records, and he has one of the best receivers in the SEC that will give him a chance to accomplish that. They will once again be a well balanced offense, utilizing both the passing and running game.

Laquon Treadwell is moving to the outside to replace Moncrief. Treadwell is a game changer for the Rebel offense. A lot of what they are able to accomplish or not accomplish this season will fall on his shoulders. He is the new go to guy for Bo Wallace. If Treadwell stays healthy he will have a big year. A lot of his production last year came from screen passes and making plays with yards after the catch. He will have a bigger role now playing on the outside, and he will have an opportunity to put up even bigger numbers than last year.

Treadwell is by no means Wallace's only option to throw the ball to. Doctor Vince Sanders is as reliable as they come, and tight end Evan Engram is a beast. Seriously though, it seems like Sanders has been at Ole Miss for 10 years now. As far as Engram is concerned, it was easy to see that their passing game wasn't what it used to be after he got hurt last season. He was on his way to a really good freshman year before he went down and had to have surgery. If he is 100 percent and can stay that way, he will be a force over the middle and in the red zone.

At running back, it will mostly be a dose of I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton. Both are smaller running backs, especially Walton. That's why I would expect to see a lot of counter plays and runs to the outside. The Rebs don't really have a big bruiser that can handle the wear and tear of running up the middle every play. Heck you may see them putting Robert Nkemdiche back there again sometimes. But Mathers and Walton both have great speed and that makes this rushing attack dangerous.

Up front the Rebs lost three offensive lineman from 2013. There are some solid first string guys like Laremy Tunsil and Aaron Morris but not a lot of proven depth behind them. The offensive line position is a weakness if you're trying to find one. An injury or two here could be devastating to the offense.

Overall the offense looks like it will be good but not great. They could have a special year but at the same time they are one injury away from it going down the drain. If Bo Wallace gets hurt, you're relying on DeVante Kincade who hasn't played a down of college football. If Treadwell goes down, there's not another game changer that can take over for him. At least not one that has proven it yet. With that being said, there are some very talented young guys like Quincy Adeboyejo and Markell Pack who have a chance to reach that level.

Mississippi State did a great job of shutting down the Rebel offense last season. It will take that same effort to do it again this year. The no huddle offense is tough to defend, and Freeze proved he's not afraid to throw a wrinkle or two in for this game. Here's to hoping we get to see Chris Jones stopping Robert Nkemdiche on another third down and short.

Defense

We all remember how much of a struggle it was to watch the lack of offense from both sides in last years egg bowl. That lack of offense had more to do with both defenses dominating. Don't expect this year to be much different. The majority of the Ole Miss defense is back from last season. They should be at the least one of the top five defenses in the league.

Up front the Rebs are led by C.J. Johnson, Issac Gross, and Robert Nkemdiche. Johnson is back after missing the final nine games of last season due to an ankle injury. If he can stay on the field all year it could take this defense from good to elite. Their pass rush has a chance to be scary. This defensive line was already solid without Johnson and him being back in the mix could take them to the next level. The team's sack total was down last season and Johnson will look to bring that number back up. Gross led the team in sacks last year and does a great job of getting penetration. He's one of the better tackles in the SEC.

Nkemdiche can be one of the best lineman in the country if he continues to progress. His freshman season was very similar to the one Chris Jones had, and the whole country took notice. He could be making some big money in a couple of years, but he needs to get his head on straight. Tempers flared way too much on the field last year (see the egg bowl) and off the field hasn't been much better. He has been a bit of a distraction at times. Would State love to have him? Absolutely. But boy are we much happier to have a Chris Jones.

At linebacker Serderius Bryant, Denzel Nkemdiche, and D.T. Shackelford lead the way. These upperclassmen have been solid in the middle of that defense for the past two years. In the usual 4-2-5 defense that the Rebels run, these guys can mainly focus on the run game, shooting the gap, and getting after the quarterback. Bryant and Nkemdiche are a little undersized but definitely don't play like it. They fly around the field and are constantly around the ball. Nkemdiche and Shackelford have a history of getting hurt and will need to try and stay injury free this year. There's not a lot of depth behind them.

The secondary might be the best position group the Rebels have on defense, headlined by Cody Prewitt and Tony Conner. Prewitt is an all american and Conner was a freshman all american last season. Both are great in coverage and are not afraid to lay the wood at times. With that type of speed on the back end, not many teams will be burning the Rebels on deep passing plays.

If Ole Miss can be exploited anywhere on defense, it's probably at corner. Senquez Golson has good speed but has been inconsistent at times. Mike Hilton was decent but has been practicing more at the huskie position. Like we mentioned above however, the Rebels have two of the best safeties in the SEC. Their pass defense should be just fine.

The State and Ole Miss defenses have drawn comparison from a lot of people. The similarities are definitely there, and both should be really good. Get ready, this could be another low scoring egg bowl.

The Verdict

Unforunately for MSU, the game is in Oxford this year. 13 out of the last 15 egg bowls have gone to the home team. Those are not good odds. With that in mind, and both teams being equally talented, Ole Miss will probably be a slight favorite.

It's a rivalry and we all know anything can happen. It will be a fight to the end. State's best chance to win this game is to utilize Dak's legs to keep the defense on its heels. He moved the ball effectively in this game last year and was able to create a spark coming off the bench. Hopefully we will see him play this game for four quarters this go around instead of one.

Things could change between now and the time November 29th rolls around, but from the looks of it this game could have more significance than any previous egg bowl. This could be the battle for third and maybe even second place in the west. Second place in the west would be a top 10 ranking for sure. I'm not saying that's likely or even going to happen. All I'm saying is there's a chance. Competing with the likes of Alabama, Auburn, and LSU put State and Ole Miss behind the eight ball. But LSU lost the majority of its top players, and Alabama will be breaking in a new quarterback. If State or Ole Miss is ever going to push for a west championship, the time is now.