Scouting the Schedule, Game 12: Mike Leach and Mississippi State seek a much-needed rivalry win at Ole Miss

Editor’s Note: This is the 12th and final part of our Scouting the Schedule series, which breaks down each game of Mississippi State’s 2022 football program. Part 11 looked at what the state of East Tennessee will bring to Starkville.

The state of Mississippi may still be pondering the dropped passports and missed opportunities that tipped the 2021 Egg Bowl in Ole Miss’ favor.

The Bulldogs’ early momentum fizzled out in a 31-21 loss as the Rebels maintained their hold on the Golden Egg Trophy. MSU hasn’t won it since Mike Leach was hired.

And with an NFL draft exodus in Oxford, the Bulldogs appear to have a good shot in 2022.

Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral? He’s a Carolina Panther. Offensive Line Wrecking Defensive End Sam Williams? A Dallas cowboy. Running back Snoop Conner and three Ole Miss linebackers were also drafted.

Coach Lane Kiffin has made amends on the transfer portal, but the Rebels’ losses appear significant compared to their peers in the state.

MSU will have to rely on their returning talent to secure a much-needed Egg Bowl win at Oxford.

Mississippi State ends the regular season with a matchup against Ole Miss on Thanksgiving Day, November 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Ole Miss quick facts

Record 2021: 10-3 (6-2 SECONDS)

Coaches: Lane Kiffin, third year

ESPN Football Power Index: #17

all-time streak: 64-45-5, Ole Miss leads

Last meeting: November 25, 2021

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Ole Miss has a nearly 20-game lead in the all-time in-state rivalry encounter, but much of that success was a long time ago.

The Rebels didn’t lose a game to the Bulldogs from 1947 to 1963 – thanks to three ties along the way. A similar stretch took place after a 12-game MSU winning streak when Ole Miss went undefeated from 1926–35.

However, since 2000, the state of Mississippi has won ten times. Ole Miss has only won 12. And on points, the series is one of the 15 closest encounters between MSU and any opponent.

Season 2021

The Egg Bowl win gave Ole Miss his first 10-win season since 2015, though the Rebels failed to beat Baylor with a tied corral in the Sugar Bowl.

The Rebels’ other losses came in Alabama and in Auburn as Ole Miss kept the pace to secure a New Year’s Six Bowl bid.

Kiffin’s team survived Arkansas in a 51-50 shootout, defeating Tennessee and LSU and scoring a big win over Texas A&M at Oxford before defeating Mississippi State to end the regular season.

Corral threw for 3,349 yards and 20 touchdowns against five interceptions, adding 614 yards and 11 points on the ground. The California native’s performance was enough to get him drafted by the Panthers in the third round.

Running backs Jerrion Ealy (768 yards, five touchdowns) and Snoop Conner (647 yards, 13 touchdowns) will not return, with Jacksonville picking Conner in the fifth round.

Ole Miss lost all top three wide receivers as of 2021 — Dontario Drummond (1,028 yards); Braylon Sanders (549 yards) and Jahcour Pearson (392 yards). Jonathan Mingo, teammate of MSU quarterback Will Rogers at Brandon High School, is the Rebels’ top return after rushing for 346 yards in six games in an injury-plagued season.

On defense, Williams was Ole Miss’ top NFL draft pick and went to Dallas in the second round after 16 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. The Tennessee Titans defeated leading tackler Chance Campbell (109 tackles, 12.5 for losses) in the sixth round.

Important additions

The Ole Miss 2022 signing class is ranked 23rd nationally according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings.

Germantown defenseman Zxavian Harris is the best of the Rebels’ seven four-star players, closely followed by New Jersey cornerback Davison Igbinosun. Georgia Edge rusher Jaron Willis is also in the US Top 200.

However, Ole Miss’ transfer class is considered the second best in the country. The Rebels got quarterback Jaxson Dart and tight end Michael Trigg from USC. They have running backs Zach Evans (TCU) and Ulysses Bentley (SMU). They picked up safety Ladarius Tennison and tight end JJ Pegues – an Oxford native – from Auburn.

Mississippi State wide receivers Malik Heath and Jacobi Moore also joined Ole Miss, as did UCF receiver Jaylon Robinson, Georgia Tech edge rusher Jared Ivey and other players.

Theo DeRosa covers Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.

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