GAMEDAY PREVIEW: Ole Miss At Mississippi State

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Kentrell Lockett and the Rebel seniors play their final game today.
Kentrell Lockett and the Rebel seniors play their final game today.

Nov. 26, 2011

Gameday Central | Scouting Report | Gametracker

TV: ESPNU | Ole Miss Radio Network (Sirius 220, XM 199)

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Ole Miss Rebels will be looking to play spoiler to the Mississippi State Bulldogs and their bowl hopes this evening when the Magnolia State rivals clash at Davis-Wade Stadium in Starkville for the annual Battle for the Golden Egg.

Kickoff is slated for 6:00. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

This game will be the 108th meeting of one of the nation’s most-played rivalries. Ole Miss holds a 60-41-6 advantage in the series dating back to 1901. The Ole Miss-Mississippi State series is tied with the Michigan-Ohio State series for the 15th longest in NCAA Division I-A history. The rivalry is also tied for the eighth longest uninterrupted series.

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt will be coaching his final game at Ole Miss. Nutt is 10-3 all time against Mississippi State, including winning 10-straight against the Bulldogs from 1999-2008.

Led by the duo of Brandon Bolden and Jeff Scott in the backfield and a talented group of young receivers, the Rebels will look to rebound from a three-point performance against LSU last week, facing a Mississippi State defense that ranks seventh in the SEC in points allowed (21.5 points/game) and ninth in total defense (369.9 yards/game).

"The first thing that stands out is that their defensive line is outstanding," Nutt said. "Fletcher Cox, Kaleb Eulls and Josh Boyd; those guys are really good. If you watch them play, they get to the football; they are physical and do an excellent job."

The Bulldogs also feature a pair of linebackers who rank among the top-five tacklers in the SEC, in Cameron Lawrence and Brandon WIlson. Lawrence is the conference's third leading tackler, having already posted 100 stops on the season. Wilson, a senior, ranks fifth with 89 tackles.

The MSU secondary suffered a heavy blow two weeks ago when safety Nickoe Whitley went down for the season; however, the Rebels will still have to contend with cornerback Johnathan Banks, who ranks second in the SEC with five interceptions.

On the other side of the ball, Mississippi State ranks ninth in the SEC in scoring offense (25.0 points/game) and sixth in total offense (358.5 yards/game)

"Their offensive line is big, strong and they move well. They have been through three different quarterbacks. It will be interesting to see which one they use. It is going to come down to stopping the run."

Vick Ballard leads the Bulldog rushing attack, averaging 5.5 yards per-carry. The senior sits at 865 yards for the season and will be looking to top the 1,000-yard mark.

Tyler Russell has received the starting nod at quarterback in four of the last five games. The sophomore has thrown for 1,034 yards, eight touchdowns, and four interceptions, while completing 53.5 percent of his passes. Chris Relf started each of the first five games and is the Bulldogs' third leading rusher, but has struggled with interceptions. Relf suffered a concussion two weeks ago and did not play against Arkansas last week. Sophomore Dylan Favre has played in nine games and is also likely to see action.

The Rebels will counter with a young defense that included four true freshmen in the starting lineup last week against LSU. A freshman has led the Rebels in tackles each of the last three games. Safety Cody Prewitt, in particular, has come on strong as of late, totaling 22 tackles in the last three games since earning his starting spot.

In a series that has typically been back-and-forth between the two schools, Ole Miss will be looking to avoid dropping a third straight game to the Bulldogs.

"The first year coming here we beat them 45-0 and beat them nine out of ten years at Arkansas," said Nutt. "But, all it takes is one loss against them. Then you understand the importance of it much better. I understand it fully. We understand the emphasis that needs to be put on this game 100 percent."

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