STARKVILLE, Miss. – Ole Miss has many reasons to be grateful.
The No.8 Rebels beat rivals Mississippi State 31-21 in Game 118 of the Egg Bowl rivalry Thursday night. The victory secured Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2 SEC) her first 10-game regular season in school history in her second season only under coach Lane Kiffin and has allowed the Rebels to play almost certainly in a New Year’s six bowl game.
Here are three things we learned about Ole Miss from the Egg Bowl:
Survive a second half: The second half was about surviving for Ole Miss this month. Liberty, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt all dominated the third quarter against the Rebels. So when Mississippi State got the ball to start the third 10-6 trolling, it looked like that command could determine the feel of the rest of the game.
Then, Ole Miss’s defense forced a punt in under two minutes. Then the offense covered 82 yards in seven games in 2:35 to score its first third quarter touchdown in five games. Less than five minutes into the quarter, the Rebels forced their first punt of the night and executed their smoothest command yet to give themselves a two-possession lead.
From there, everything was in survival mode. Discs longer than normal. Third down conversions. Withstand a grueling interception that set up a touchdown in the state of Mississippi. Recovering two kicks in play. The rebels got into a winning position and held on.
Clear the story from the road: Ole Miss didn’t look good in three real road games before Thursday. Losses to Alabama and Auburn and a near loss to Tennessee didn’t prepare the Rebels too well to thrive amid the bells and rain at Davis Wade Stadium.
The atmosphere of the road seemed to affect the rebels early on. The failure of a fourth conversion to the opening disc was followed by pre-hook penalties and difficulty communicating calls and number of snapshots.
But the best way to silence a crowd on the road is to launch a rushed attack. Quarterback Matt Corral and running back Snoop Conner started finding holes late in the second, leading up to the Rebels’ first two touchdowns and doing their part to ease the hostile conditions.
What will come next? With Thursday’s win, Ole Miss secures a spot in all six New Years Bowls. The only real question left to be answered is whether that means a trip to New Orleans, Atlanta, or Phoenix. .
If Georgia and Alabama both qualify for the college football playoffs, Ole Miss will go to the Sugar Bowl. The Rebels are the highest-ranked team in the SEC outside of the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide, and the Sugar Bowl is arguably the highest-ranked team in the SEC outside of the bottom four. So with a win in Alabama in the SEC Championship or enough chaos around college football, go ahead and start making your plans for Bourbon Street.
If only Georgia makes the Playoffs, this is where things get interesting. It’s hard to imagine that one of the SEC’s top 10 teams not receiving a blanket New Year’s offer. So the question is whether the Rebels will travel to Atlanta to take on the ACC champions in the Peach. Bowl or will play a general versus general matchup in Phoenix in the Fiesta Bowl.
Regardless, this is Ole Miss’s first major appearance since the 2016 Sugar Bowl, a victory over Oklahoma State.