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MSU, Ole Miss, USM try to bounce back in week 12

photo by news mississippi

The college football season is nearing its end as we’ve reached week 12. Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss all lost last week, and are hoping for a better outcome this time around.

Arkansas #21 Mississippi State
photo by News Mississippi

One week after a shutout loss to Alabama, the Mississippi State offense will look to get back on track against an Arkansas team that has yet to win a conference game this season. The Bulldogs are a 21 point favorite in their final home game of the season, and on Senior day, look for Nick Fitzgerald to have a vintage performance as he faces a struggling Razorback defense.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, head coach Joe Moorhead talked about what Fitzgerald has meant to the program and to him in his first year in Starkville.

“Seeing him grow, seeing him embrace the things that we are asking him to do, particularly things that are a little bit different than what he has done in the past and just how he has handled prosperity and adversity. Through the good times, he has helped the team fan that flame, through the tough times, as a team as an offense and personally, he has never gone in the tank or started pointing at other people. Like all of us in this program, we want to be thumb pointers and not finger pointers. He has taken ownership of the bad games and worked to resolve the issues and improve from there.”

The Bulldog defense held Alabama to their lowest season totals in both points and yardage last week, so they should be able to handle the Razorback offense with little trouble. Arkansas put up 17 points in their loss to LSU last week, and two of their touchdowns came when the game was out of reach. If the Bulldog offense can give the defense a cushion early, they should be able to coast to a victory.

The Bulldogs are already bowl eligible, but two wins to round out the season will put them in position for a much better bowl game.

It will be an early kick at Davis Wade Stadium at 11 a.m.

Ole Miss @ Vanderbilt
Photo courtesy of Telesouth Communications Inc.

Ole Miss has lost three straight games, and they’ll be in Nashville to take on Vanderbilt. The Commodores are also struggling as they have lost 4 out of their last 5 games meaning that two teams desperate for a win will take the field on Saturday.

The Rebels could be without RB Scottie Phillips, so look for QB Jordan Ta’amu to be more involved in the running game along with freshman RB Isiah Woullard. The Rebels also got Eric Swinney back, and he could see an increased workload as well.

The Rebels won’t be going to a bowl game regardless of the outcome of their final two games, but finishing the season with two wins would go a long way in recruiting moving forward. Ole Miss will likely put a lot of stock into next week’s Egg Bowl, so they cannot get caught looking ahead.

In their last two losses, the defense has played well early on and faded late. If they can put together a complete game against the Commodores, the Rebels may be able to pick up their first win in a while.

During their rough stretch, Vanderbilt has given up at least 30 points in 4 of their last 5 games. The Rebel offense should be able to find room to maneuver, but they’ll have to fix their red zone woes and finish drives in the end zone.

Missed opportunities and inconsistencies on both sides of the ball have doomed the Rebels in recent weeks, and head coach Matt Luke knows it.

“I think when you’re not winning games, there’s a lot of things you go back and point to, there’s opportunities to win football games,” he said. “We can’t miss field goals. We can’t turn the ball over in the red zone. Those things are glaring when you’re not winning games”

Kick off in Nashville is set for 6:30.

Louisiana Tech @ Southern Miss
M.M. Roberts Stadium at Southern Miss. 

Earlier this week, Southern Miss announced they will not play a 12th game after Hurricane Florence caused them to cancel their matchup with App State in week 3.

At 4-5 on the year, the Golden Eagles have to win their final two games to become bowl eligible. USM will try to take a step in that direction at home against Louisiana Tech. An important factor for USM moving forward is the health of starting QB Jack Abraham. Tate Whatley has made two straight starts, and head coach Jay Hopson hasn’t chosen a starter for this week.

If Whatley lines up under center once again, he has his coach’s support.

“He’s tough as nails,” Hopson said. “Tate’s a tough guy, he really is. He’s got a lot of grit and to be as young as he is with the things he does, he’s going to be a special football player in time. I love him to death and I love his spirit. That tough spirit is Southern Miss spirit. You could tell Tate was a competitor and tough guy [when we recruited him].”

Louisiana Tech is 7-3 on the year with two of those losses coming against SEC opponents. In last week’s win, Tech’s RB Jaqwis Nancy rushed for 3 TDs. If USM can contain the ground game, they’ll force the Bulldogs into obvious passing situations, and QB J’Mar Smith has struggled with interceptions this season.

This will be the final home game for USM’s senior class, and Hopson appreciated the fight that they’ve shown during their time on campus.

“Those guys are soldiers. They keep fighting. The reality is we’ve just got to play hard and keep fighting and competing like we’re doing. That’s one thing I love about this football team, these guys are fighting. There’s no quit in these guys. They continue to battle back.”

Kick off is set for 2:30.

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