Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen won his first Egg Bowl game in 2009 and he proclaimed "there is only one team on the rise in this state." During the Bulldogs' nine-win season and second Egg Bowl under Mullen in 2010, the ball coach proclaimed "We're never losing to this team again."
Entering the 2012 version of the battle for the Golden Egg, Dan Mullen has held true to that promise as the Bulldogs are 3-0 against their instate rivals, winning by an average of 17 points over that time.
First year Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze has done a great job this year with the Rebels (5-6, 2-5) and has his team one win away from bowl eligibility and would love to flip the script this year against the Bulldogs (8-3, 4-3).
The game is a home game for the Rebels, they have three heart breaking losses this year and are on the verge of being a really good football team. But—for all the pomp and stance and hoopla surrounding the Rebel program, they still have to play the game Saturday night at 6 pm CT on ESPNU.
Dan Mullen and his seniors are yet to lose a game to the Rebels and today we look at three reasons why the Bulldogs will win their fourth straight in the series.
Tyler Russell is just better than Bo Wallace
In a game of this magnitude, where both teams are looking for an edge, you need not look any further than the quarterback position. Both Tyler Russell for Mississippi State and Bo Wallace of Mississippi have looked fantastic at times this year. Both have put up big numbers and both are the leaders of their teams.
Wallace albeit an exciting player tends to be a turnover machine. Wallace is last in the SEC with 14 interceptions and when you look for an edge it starts at the quarterback position and I take Russell every day and twice on Sunday.
LaDarius Perkins is a Rebel killer
Sometimes in sports certain players play bigger in certain games, and that can be said for Mississippi State running back LaDarius Perkins. Perkins has been a thorn in the Rebels' side the last two years via the running game, the passing game and special teams. If you combine the 2010 and 2011 stats for Perkins he has racked up 405 yards and four touchdowns against the Rebels thus far.
Personnel wise on defense the Rebels have not changed all that much since they last saw Perkins and yes the Rebels look better from a schematic standpoint but look for Perkins to again rise up on the biggest stage of the year for the Bulldogs.
Protect the ball, Protect the Egg
Offense, defense and special teams are the three main components of a football game but if there is a fourth it is turnover margin. Mississippi State is the top team in this category in the South Eastern Conference. The Bulldogs have forced 28turnovers this season while only allowing 12, and this is a big reason the Bulldogs have won eight games.
Their counterparts from Oxford, however, have created 24 turnovers but also coughed up the football 24 times. Yes Hugh Freeze has shown he knows how to move the football, but when you cough up the football a little over two times a game on average, that is not good.
Look for the Bulldogs to continue as they have all year long protecting the football and getting their share of turnovers.
I will be the first to tell you I was wrong about Hugh Freeze. He has his team playing hard, with passion and on the verge of a bowl berth. However, many have made Mississippi State out to be soft, and a paper tiger so to speak due to their schedule, and that is hardly the case.
Dan Mullen understands and has always understood the value of a rivalry game. During his time as head coach at Mississippi State and as offensive coordinator at Utah and Florida, Mullen is 10-0 in rival games.
Tyler Russell has played outstanding this year for the Bulldogs and will outshine Bo Wallace this Saturday. LaDarius Perkins has played exceptional in this series and that should not change either.
When you combine that with the Bulldogs' ability to protect the football it equals a Bulldog win.
Yes, the Rebels will play hard, and yes it is in Oxford, but Mullen understands these types of games and I fully expect him to hoist the Egg Bowl Trophy for the fourth straight time this Saturday night.
Bulldogs 24, Rebels 20