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Per the data: Why Ole Miss can beat Mississippi State AND give you an ulcer

Haven’t met your deductible yet? YOU’RE IN LUCK!

NCAA Football: Abilene Christian at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

I think I speak for a bunch of Ole Miss fans when I say this is the worst week of the season. If I could cancel this game permanently, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, life sucks, then it’s over. Beat MSU.

Here’s how:

17th in Rushing SP+

Make no mistake, Kylin Hill is really good. When he’s spelled by Nick Gibson and the pair of Mississippi State quarterbacks, it can be a lethal combo. Hill is an extremely hard runner who has logged a ton of carries this season, but his 1,210 yards and 10 touchdowns rank first and third respectively in the conference. Ole Miss ranks 35th in rushing SP+ defense, so this is a matchup to key in on early. If Ole Miss can keep Hill from falling forward for an extra yard or three, that’ll be a key cog in forcing State’s offense off the field.

59th in Passing SP+

The Bulldogs are pretty average passing the ball, and with the Ole Miss defense falling at 60th here, that’s great news for the Rebels. If Garrett Shrader or Tommy Stevens combine for more than 200 yards, things get dicey for Ole Miss.

MSU defense is 75th in Rushing SP+

Here’s the part Ole Miss fans will want to hear.

The Bulldogs are in the bottom half nationally in stopping the run, and the Rebs are exceptional (13th) at moving the ball on the ground. For all the crap Rich Rodriguez geta, and much of it is deserved, he knows how to run the dang ball.

Of course, John Rhys Plumlee is the main reason for this, but the three-headed monster of Scottie Phillips, Jerrion Ealy, and Snoop Cooner has been dominant as well. Plumlee, Ealy, and Phillips each rank inside the top five in the SEC in yards per carry, and Conner isn’t far behind at 23rd.

MSU 85th marginal explosiveness defense

This has been State’s kryptonite. They struggle stopping big plays, and since Plumlee has taken over under center, that seems to be all Ole Miss can do (2nd nationally). Plumlee ranks only behind Lynn Bowden Jr., a wide receiver turned quarterback for the Kentucky Football Wildcats, when it comes to yards per carry (7.27). His longest dash of the season is 75 yards and we saw against LSU he can get there in a hurry. If the Tigers didn’t have anyone fast enough to catch Plumlee, I doubt the Bulldogs do either.

MSU is 110th in standard down sack rate offense

The Bulldogs struggle keeping folks out of their backfield when they pass on standards downs, and the Rebels are great— 17th nationally— at getting to the quarterback. In fact, 7.6 percent of dropbacks end in a sack for the Ole Miss defense. If the slower Stevens plays, that would play right into what the Landshark Defense is trying to accomplish.

MSU is 129th in big play rate defense

Part of me says it’s a lack of speed, but I sort of want to attribute this to Willie Gay and Lee Autry only playing three games so far this season. The MSU defense is average at best without them, and bordering on great when they’re on the field.

They’re playing Thursday night.

Even still, 129th in any statistic is so bad that two players can’t correct it overnight. The Bulldogs allow opposing offenses to gain 20 or more yards on over 11 percent of plays. That’s over 1-in-9. That’s the type of thing where Plumlee must take advantage.

MSU is 109th in third-and-long percentage offense

Finally, because the Bulldogs are so reliant on Hill getting hard yards, they often fall into third-and-long situations if he’s stopped behind the line on first or second down. The Bulldogs face third-and-long 54(!) percent of the time, and third-and-short just 8.7 percent of the time (97th nationally).

The Rebels, by contrast, are pretty dang good (46th) at forcing teams into those third-and-longs. They’ve struggled with keeping teams from converting, but that’s against offenses that feature Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow. None of those guys are playing Thursday, luckily. They’ll need to keep State’s best player from mattering, and forcing Shrader or Stevens into obvious passing situations is a good start.

Much like last week, this will not be fun. We will not enjoy this. No matter what