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GREGG ELLIS: Bulldogs will win
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<a href='http://www.djournal.com/pages/story.asp?ID=73650&pub=1&div=Sport' target='_blank'>http://www.djournal.com/pages/story.asp?ID...pub=1&div=Sport</a> s

11/26/2004 8:54:04 AM
Daily Journal




STARKVILLE - For the last two seasons, acknowledging Ole Miss was the clear-cut favorite going into the Battle for the Golden Egg wasn't exactly going out on a limb.


In fact, you could probably make a strong case for the past four years.


Eli Manning certainly was a factor, along with the overall talent level favoring the Rebels.


But as the two teams prepare to line up Saturday for the 101st time in this storied rivalry, calling out a unequivocal favorite would be like singling out the absolute best team to face Southern Cal in the Orange Bowl - Auburn or Oklahoma.


In both cases, it appears to be anybody's pick.


But there has to be an advantage, right?


Some will say because of Saturday's showdown unfolding at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss has the edge. Then again, the Rebels haven't exactly been fearsome at home, as their 2-3 record would indicate.


Then there are those who like Mississippi State's chances because of its play down the stretch, one that featured a stunning win against Florida that sent Ron Zook packing. However, the Bulldogs make the 90-mile trip to Oxford with a two-game losing streak.


For every pro, there's a con, which is usually the case in this series.


So the question begs: Who do I think will win?


Anybody got a coin?


OK. I call heads, with heads being MSU.


Flip.


Well, I'll be, sports fans. It's indeed heads.


You can't argue with the coin, so I say, advantage Bulldogs.


Why?


Let's start at quarterback, where MSU is far more stable with Omarr Conner.


With each game, he has improved, and against Arkansas the sophomore from Macon had one of his best outings of the year, completing 20 of his 27 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns.


Second, there's the Jerious Norwood factor.


Without question, he has established himself as one of the top running backs in the league.


His 102.6 average is second only to Florida's Ciatrick Fason, but in the last five games, no one has been more dangerous.


During that span, he's eclipsed the 100-yard mark four times, including, a career-high 201-yard clip against UAB, followed by a 174-yard junket against Florida.


Now, look at Ole Miss' run defense, which is yielding 196.1 yards, ranking 11th in the Southeastern Conference.


It could be like a kid on Christmas morning for Norwood, who topped 1,000 last week against Arkansas.


If only it was this easy, but a flip of the coin isn't realilty.


Instead, this game will come down to the team that's more prepared, makes fewer mistakes and catches the key breaks.


As for which team that will be, ask me Saturday night.


Sorry, that's the best I can do.





Gregg Ellis (gregg.ellis@djournal.com) covers Mississippi State for The Daily Journal.
11-26-2004 12:59 PM
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