There may not be a trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game on the line, but the Egg Bowl is here, and in-state bragging rights are once again up for grabs. In what could be a shoot-out, the Rebels have one more chance to become bowl eligible and the Bulldogs are eagerly awaiting the chance to deny them that 6th win. Both teams may not have had their season go according to plan, but no matter what this game will always mean just as much to both teams and their fans. Here are 3 keys for the Rebels to follow in their quest to win their 3rd straight Egg Bowl.
Run The Ball – We Know…We’re tired of hearing it too.
The Rebels have struggled to run the ball this season, averaging just 144 YPG on the ground. Ranking 104th in the nation, the Rebels have to find creative ways to run the ball. Behind an injury-plagued offense line, it’s been challenging to run the ball effectively putting more pressure on Chad Kelly and Shea Patterson. The Rebels may need to test the edge with a speed back like Eugene Brazley or even receivers like Markell Pack to help open up holes in the middle of the line. In last years 38-27 Egg Bowl victory, the Rebels were able to rush for 243 yards and keep the Bulldog defense off balance all game long. This year, the Bulldogs rank 71st in run defense, so the Rebels may have opportunities to rip off long runs, but the 5 and 6 yards runs on 1st down may hold the key to this year’s matchup.
Protect Shea Patterson – And catch the ball when he throws it.
In last Saturday’s loss against Vanderbilt, Shea Patterson got hit more than you’d like to see a true freshman in just his second start get hit. While his style of play lends him to taking on more hits than a traditional drop-back passer, the Rebels must work to protect their young quarterback especially in a rivalry game where things can often get chippy. Vanderbilt was able to get to Patterson early and often, leading to missed throws later in the game. Patterson must also learn to stay in the pocket rather than rolling out at the first sign of trouble. When he does break the pocket, his receivers must continue to work to get open downfield. When Patterson throws it, receivers need to catch it (what a concept). Momentum killing drops were a noticeable problem for the Rebels against Vanderbilt, a problem that they must clean up against the Bulldogs.
Slow Down Nick Fitzgerald – Time to find out what this young defesne is made of.
There’s no doubt that the Bulldog offense goes through Nick Fitzgerald, leading the team in both passing and rushing. Just 15 yards away 1,000 on the ground Fitzgerald presents the Rebels with the same problems that Dak Prescott did in defending him. Fitzgerald’s running ability will force the Rebels to play man coverage in certain situations, meaning it’s time for the young guys in the secondary to grow up. The Bulldogs have one of the SEC’s best receivers in Fred Ross, containing him will be no easy task, but someone has to step up or else the Rebels are in for a long day. While the Rebels were able to shut down Prescott and Bulldogs a year ago, this is not the same defense. Playing young guys at key positions epically in the defensive backfield, the Rebels must overcome the defensive woes from this season and make plays to stop an offense that can put points on the board. Veterans like Fadol Brown, Marquis Haynes and Tony Conner will lead the way, but the young guys must follow as they work to put this tough season behind them, and keep the Golden Egg in Oxford.
Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.