Veteran sports writer Parrish Alford takes a look at the Week 11 matchups for Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Last time out pick record was 3-0, making 21-5 overall for the 2023 season.
Let’s take a look at the Week 11 matchups for Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
No. 9 Ole Miss at No. 2 Georgia
Time: 6 p.m. TV: ESPN
As the Rebels prepare for the biggest non-Alabama game of the Lane Kiffin Era they hope the “eyes” have it.
Georgia’s numbers can be overwhelming.
The Bulldogs have won 26-straight games, the third-longest win streak in SEC history.
They’ve won 36 straight in the regular season.
The Bulldogs are 43-4 in Athens under Kirby Smart and have won their last 12 home games against ranked opponents.
Among those 12 wins against ranked foes was a 51-13 win over No. 20 Kentucky on Oct. 7.
But that game is an outlier.
The eye test has shown a different Georgia team. Not a weak Georgia team, just not one with the week-in, week-out dominance that might be expected of a No. 1-ranked back-to-back national champion.
Struggling teams have hung around with Georgia. South Carolina lost 24-14 in Athens but was only three points back until near the middle of the fourth quarter when Georgia’s Cash Jones scored on a 13-yard run.
It took all the Bulldogs had to win at Auburn. That game was tied at 20 with 2:52 left when Carson Beck passed 40 yards to Brock Bowers.
Missouri isn’t a struggling team. The Tigers were 7-1 and ranked No. 12 by The Associated Press when they lost 30-21 in Athens. Again, it was a three-point game in the middle of the fourth quarter.
There’s ample evidence to conclude Georgia can be had.
The Bulldogs have missed their tight end Bowers the last two weeks and will again this Saturday. It’s a huge loss; Bowers was No. 4 on Mel Kiper’s Big Board of NFL draft prospects when he went down with a foot injury at Vanderbilt.
Without him Georgia put up 486 total yards and 315 passing yards in a 43-20 not-that-close win over Florida in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs had 385 total yards and 254 passing yards against Missouri.
But Bowers’ absence will be a help for Ole Miss on third downs where the Rebels have sometimes struggled defensively including in last week’s thrilling 38-35 win over Texas A&M. The Aggies were 5-for-11 on third downs and converted third downs with 7, 10 and 13 yards to go.
The Rebels need a great defensive showing against Georgia’s many other weapons. Pressure against Beck, who’s completing 72.2 percent with only four interceptions, would be nice.
But for Ole Miss, an upset will depend on Kiffin and the offense.
The Ole Miss defense is much improved under first-year coordinator Pete Golding and has been an integral part of this 8-1 start, but offense is what Kiffin does.
It’s his calling card, and that side of the ball needs to have a special game against a team that ranks No. 14 nationally against the run, No. 8 in pass defense efficiency and No. 7 in scoring defense.
You have to do hard things to win big games.
The SEC West path got a little tougher for Ole Miss last week when LSU didn’t win at Alabama, but the Rebels can stay in contention for a playoff spot and solidify their status as a New Years Six bowl team with a win.
Georgia can be had, and the Rebels are capable of winning this game. The eye test has shown us this.
It’s also shown us a Georgia team that has repeatedly made the plays to hold off challenges to the throne.
Prediction: Georgia 31, Ole Miss 30
Mississippi State at Texas A&M
Time: 6:30 p.m. TV: ESPN2
It’s hard to envision the Mississippi State offense having much success against what has been a stout Texas A&M defense most of the season.
The possible return of the Bulldogs’ regular QB1 – as teased by MSU coach Zach Arnett at his Monday presser – would be a morale lift for a team that has averaged less than eight points in the three games he’s missed, but Will Rogers would have several things working against him.
For starters, he’d likely show some rust from the shoulder injury that sidelined him late in State’s 41-28 win over Western Michigan on Oct. 7.
Even when in full health this season Rogers has been a little off his game at times in a different system under new offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay. He’s completing passes at a 61.4% clip with 1,275 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Rogers would also be playing before 100,000 plus on the road. That’s the least of these problems, but a consideration nonetheless.
Offense has been a struggle with Vanderbilt transfer Mike Wright behind center. Freshman Chris Parson got in the mix last week. Honestly, he should have been used sooner.
Rogers, if available, clearly gives the Bulldogs their best chance to win. They can use Rogers, but they can also use running back Woody Marks who has missed the last two games and played banged-up at Arkansas the week before.
The Aggies’ QB situation is less dire but not perfect. Max Johnson sustained a rib injury in last week’s 38-35 loss at Ole Miss.
A&M coach Jimbo Fisher earlier this week said he expected Johnson to play.
While taking shots from the Ole Miss defense – sometimes for holding the ball too long – Johnson was 31 for 42 passing for 305 yards and a touchdown. The Aggies likely would have won the game had he not thrown an end zone interception after they’d reached the Ole Miss 5 on their opening drive of the third quarter.
About that defense …
The Aggies lead the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss while ranking near the top of the league in most categories.
They showed a chink in the armour against Ole Miss giving up 518 yards and at least one touchdown in each quarter.
Part of the Rebels’ consistency was due to the acrobatic catches of wide receiver Tre Harris. State’s not equipped to challenge A&M in the same way.
The Rebels also got 102 yards from running back Quinshon Judkins, and for the first time this season A&M gave up more than 100 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in the same game.
The Bulldogs held a solid Kentucky rushing game to 3.8 yards per carry, but the secondary’s tendency to give up big plays was there as it has been all year.
One of Kentucky’s touchdowns in a 24-3 win was a pick-six thrown by Wright.
Fisher’s detractors are growing more vocal. Beating Mississippi State won’t make them sing his praises, but losing to the Bulldogs would amplify them many times over.
Prediction: Texas A&M 28, Mississippi State 12
Recipe of the Week
Another slow cooker favorite.
- 2 pounds of ground beef, browned and drained.
- 1 large onion chopped.
- 1 can Rotel tomatoes.
- 1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce.
- 1 can whole kernel corn.
- 1 16-ounce can of hominy.
- 1 24-ounce can of baked beans. (Sometimes we had a little brown sugar to the beans.)
Brown beef and onion together. Mix all ingredients in the slow cooker, and cook for eight hours.
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