Egg Bowl matchup features two productive rushing attacks

<p>
              Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill (8) runs past Abilene Christian players on his way to an 88-yard touchdown pass reception during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
            </p>

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — The Egg Bowl will likely be decided by which team best runs the ball — Mississippi or Mississippi State.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise since both teams rely heavily on their rushing attacks.

Ole Miss (4-7, 2-5 SEC) has rushed for 261.5 yards per game and leads all Southeastern Conference teams. Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5) averages 228.5 yards rushing per game to rank third in the SEC.

The in-state rivals run the ball in different ways. While Mississippi State relies on running back Kylin Hill, Ole Miss has a more diverse rushing attack that features quarterback John Rhys Plumlee.

Hill leads the SEC with 1,215 rushing yards and will need another big performance Thursday as Mississippi State tries to become eligible for a 10th consecutive bowl appearance.

“He is a very good player and does a great job making people miss, breaking tackles, yards after contact, all of those things he is very good at,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said.

Luke added that Mississippi State quarterbacks Tommy Stevens and Garrett Shrader also can carry the ball. The Rebels have had to prepare for both; Moorhead said both Bulldogs’ quarterbacks could play Thursday.

There is no 1-2 punch for Ole Miss, Plumlee’s the Magnolia State quarterback who really has made a name for himself lately with his running ability.

Plumlee has rushed for 989 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He ran for 212 yards and four touchdowns in a 58-37 loss to No. 1 LSU (No. 2 College Football Playoff ) two weeks ago.

“He’s fast,” Mississippi State safety Jaquarius Landrews said. “I’ve never seen a quarterback run like that. He has a lot of confidence in himself and he knows what he’s doing. We just have to put a spy on him and play our game in the secondary.”

Injuries to Mississippi State’s offensive line hindered the Bulldogs early in the season. As the line has gotten healthier, Mississippi State’s rushing attack has improved.

The Bulldogs have rushed for a total of 1,020 yards over their last three games.

Some other things to know heading into Thursday night’s Egg Bowl:

ROAD TRIP

The visiting team in the Egg Bowl has won the past four meetings, including back-to-back Ole Miss victories at Starkville in 2015 and 2017.

UNFRIENDLY RIVALRY

The Egg Bowl has long been a heated rivalry and last year’s meeting proved it hasn’t calmed down much.

In Mississippi State’s 35-3 win in Oxford, a fight between the teams broke out following the last play of the third quarter. It initially began with Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram and Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown, who are in the NFL now.

Four players were disqualified following the skirmish. Unsportsmanlike penalties were given to every player on the field during the fight.

RUSHING TITLE

Hill is in a tight competition for the SEC rushing crown. His 1,215 yards rushing give him a lead over LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire (1,146) and Georgia’s D’Andre Swift (1,130).

TURNOVER BATTLE

Mississippi State has 20 takeaways, tied for the third-highest total in the SEC. Ole Miss has committed just 12 turnovers, tied for the third-lowest total in the SEC.

FRESHMEN PACE REBELS’ OFFENSE

The Ole Miss offense has been spearheaded by freshmen this season. It hasn’t just been Plumlee doing the heavy lifting.

Jerrion Ealy has rushed for 640 yards and five touchdowns. Ealy also has 17 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.

True freshmen or redshirt freshmen have produced 88.1% of the Rebels’ total offense, a figure that leads all FBS teams.