No. 8 Ole Miss powers past Mississippi State, secures New Year's Six bid in Egg Bowl win

Nick Suss
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

STARKVILLE — Ole Miss has a lot to be thankful for.

The No. 8 Rebels beat rival Mississippi State 31-21 in the 118th matchup in the Egg Bowl rivalry. The win secured Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2 SEC) its first 10-win regular season in school history in just its second season under coach Lane Kiffin and set up the Rebels to almost certainly play in a New Year's Six bowl game.

LOOKING BACK:Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State football: Our scouting report, prediction for the Egg Bowl

THE QB BATTLE:Who's the best quarterback in Mississippi: Will Rogers or Matt Corral?

CORRAL'S LEGACY:To understand Matt Corral's Ole Miss football legacy, start with his three Egg Bowls

Here are three things the Clarion Ledger learned about Ole Miss from the Egg Bowl.

Surviving a second half

Second halves have been all about surviving for Ole Miss this month. Liberty, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt all dominated their third quarters against the Rebels. So when Mississippi State got the ball to start the third quarter trailing 10-6, it felt like that drive could determine the feel of the rest of the game.

Then Ole Miss' defense forced a punt in less than two minutes. Then the offense went 82 yards on seven plays in 2:35 of game time to score its first third-quarter touchdown in five games. Less than five minutes into the third quarter, the Rebels forced their first punt of the evening and ran their smoothest drive yet to give themselves a two-possession lead.

From there, it was all survival mode. Longer-than-normal drives. Third down conversions. Withstanding a back-breaking interception that set up a Mississippi State touchdown. Recovering two onside kicks. The Rebels put themselves in position to win and held on. 

Erasing the road narrative

Ole Miss didn't look good in three true road games before Thursday. Losses at Alabama and Auburn and a near-loss at Tennessee didn't set the Rebels up too well to thrive among the cowbells and rain at Davis Wade Stadium.

The road atmosphere seemed to affect the Rebels early. A failed fourth-down conversion on the opening drive was followed by pre-snap penalties and difficulty communicating calls and snap counts. 

But the best way to silence a road crowd is with a rushing attack. Quarterback Matt Corral and running back Snoop Conner started to find holes late in the second quarter, leading to the Rebels' first two touchdowns and doing their part to ease the hostile conditions.

What will come next?

With a win Thursday, Ole Miss all but guarantees itself a spot in the New Year's Six bowls. The only real question left to answer is whether that means a trip to New Orleans, Atlanta or Phoenix.

If Georgia and Alabama both qualify for the College Football Playoff, Ole Miss will go to the Sugar Bowl. The Rebels are the SEC's highest-ranked team other than the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide and the Sugar Bowl is guaranteed the SEC's highest-ranked team outside the final four. So with an Alabama win in the SEC championship or enough chaos around college football, go ahead and start making your plans for Bourbon Street.

If only Georgia makes the playoff, that's where things get interesting. It's hard to imagine a top-10 SEC team not getting a New Year's Six at-large bid. So the question becomes whether the Rebels will head to Atlanta to face the ACC champs in the Peach Bowl or play an at-large vs. at-large matchup in Phoenix in the Fiesta Bowl.

Either way, it's Ole Miss' first major bowl appearance since the 2016 Sugar Bowl, a win over Oklahoma State.

Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or nsuss@gannett.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.