- Ole Miss and Mississippi State have finished each of the last seven seasons within 3 1/2 wins of each other.
- There hasn’t been an Egg Bowl winning streak in nearly a decade; Mississippi State won last year’s 35-3.
- Ole Miss has two new coordinators, but proven coaches: Rich Rodriguez on offense and Mike MacIntyre on defense.
Recently, sportsbooks have posted a new set of college football props for the 2019 season: head-to-head win totals, which pit two teams against each other over the course of the regular season, often with a handicap.
One that immediately stands out is Ole Miss vs Mississippi State, which has Hail State favored by 3.5 games.
Ole Miss vs Mississippi State Head-to-Head Win Total 2019
|Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss||2019 Head-to-Head Win Totals Odds|
|Mississippi State -3 .5||+105|
|Ole Miss +3.5||-125|
The two flagship programs of the Magnolia State are always going to be compared to one another on the local scale, where rabid fan bases with serious hate for each other will never forget the score of the most recent Egg Bowl.
Comparing the two on the field recently has been a tricky exercise, as Ole Miss has worked through NCAA violations, ensuing recruiting restrictions, and the coaching drama that came with it, all while rival Mississippi State concluded its most successful coaching tenure, then handed the program to a worthy successor.
With this head-to-head win total, it is easier to compare the two as they enter the 2019 season. It’s also easier to profit, as I think this line — unlike the most recent Egg Bowl — favors Ole Miss.
Looking at the schedule, I expect Mississippi State to start 4-0 with wins over Louisiana-Lafayette in New Orleans before a trio of home wins over Southern Miss, Kansas State, and Kentucky.
The Kentucky game will be on Sept. 21. The Bulldogs only have one home game between then and Nov. 16, when they welcome Alabama to Davis Wade Stadium. This is where things can get sideways on a Bulldog group that has a solid talent base, yet has questions to answer on both lines of scrimmage and the make-or-break wide receiver position.
That’s ✌️DAWGS on the Butkus Award Watch List! ?
— Mississippi State Football (@HailStateFB) July 22, 2019
Getting to face Auburn early (Sep. 28) does help the Bulldog cause, as does Tennessee (Oct. 12) still looking up at Mississippi State in terms of overall talent level. However, LSU (Oct. 19) is supposed to have all the pieces coming together this year and the Bulldogs have to go to College Station (Oct. 26) without proven Aggie killer Nick Fitzgerald. The former MSU quarterback had nearly 11-percent of his career rushing touchdowns in three games against Texas A&M (5/46) and nearly the same for his passing touchdowns (6/55).
All of that being the case, Mississippi State will have a difficult time getting to 10-2 on the year. A 9-3 record is possible on the high end, while 8-4 is likely the best-case scenario for Ole Miss backers.
But even if Mississippi State reaches that 9-3 ceiling, Ole Miss is a team that has its sights set on a bowl game — which is all it needs to come inside the 3.5 wins.
New Coaches, New Destination for 2019 Rebels
Most of the 2018 offense is gone and the 2018 defense was awful, so all hopes of the Rebels in a bowl game is in the hands of their new coordinators: Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre.
Rodriguez’s job is in finding the right pieces more than finding the right system. The recruiting imbalances that will be MacIntyre’s problem to solve on defense will be Rodriguez’s blessing on the other side. His quarterback, Matt Corral, is decided, and now it’s up to him to find the right blend of four-star wide receivers to make his system explosive.
|Ole Miss 4 & 5-star recruits (last 3 classes)||According to the 247Sports Composite|
MacIntyre’s job, clearly, is harder. The numbers show the Rebels didn’t have much in terms of defensive talent — 113th in the nation in yards per play allowed last year, 99th in 2017 and 100th in 2016 — but talent isn’t all Ole Miss has been missing.
The Rebels were simply out of place, aligned incorrectly, and easily deceived by basic offensive tricks at times in 2018. My guess is just having an established defensive mind in the building will change that, and small changes can make significant statistical gains for teams at the bottom of the rankings.
When in Ole Miss’ situation, where a top-20 offense is more likely than not, taking a defense from awful to average can mean a couple of extra wins — it certainly would have last year in the overtime loss to Vanderbilt and the four-point loss to South Carolina.
The catch: Ole Miss has no room for mistakes.
Tricky games with Memphis, Arkansas and Cal are three of the first four. The New Mexico State game near the end and the Oct. 5 home game against Vanderbilt are the Rebels’ best chances to reach the sixth win needed for a bowl game, but any loss in the first four forces Ole Miss to do something it may not be capable of doing, such as beating Missouri on the road, Auburn on the road or upsetting Texas A&M at home.
Numbers Game Favors Ole Miss
Having run through it all, I still believe the math to be pretty simple here. I believe Mississippi State to finish either 8-4 or 9-3, meaning Ole Miss has to win either five or six games to come within the 3.5. Since Mississippi State has to reach its ceiling and Ole Miss has to hit the floor for this bet to lose, I like the Rebels’ odds.
Anyone optimistic on Ole Miss’ new coordinator hires and/or Tennessee or Auburn at their home fields should take a look at this one.
SBD’s NCAAF Head-to-Head Win Totals Coverage
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