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Mike Leach, Lane Kiffin should make Egg Bowl competitive

When Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach became Southeastern Conference coaches this year, fans across the country circled the Egg Bowl between Mississippi and Mississippi State as immediately interesting.

That holds true because of their personalities and Kiffin’s Ole Miss offense, which ranks fourth in the country in yards per game (564.9). But these teams are deeply flawed.

Mississippi State embarrassed defending national champion Louisiana State in the season opener. Then SEC defensive coordinators started dropping eight players into coverage. The Bulldogs collapsed, scoring 21 offensive points in their next four games.

Leach eventually revoked the keys to his offense from Stanford transfer quarterback K.J. Costello and handed them to freshman Will Rogers. Rogers has been more patient, willing to settle for underneath throws.

Mississippi State scored 24 points against Vanderbilt, which wasn’t eye-popping. But putting up 24 at Georgia is pretty good. Rogers completed 76 of 98 passes in those games (77.6 percent).

Ole Miss ranks No. 120 in pass coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.

Kiffin’s offense will score, but this is a decent matchup for a Bulldogs team trending in a positive direction and fired up to play their rivals. Take Mississippi State +9½.

Four more plays (home team in CAPS):

Kansas State (+5½) over BAYLOR: The Wildcats became overvalued after beating Oklahoma to start a four-game winning streak, especially once QB Skylar Thompson suffered a season-ending injury and receivers Josh Youngblood and Malik Knowles decided to transfer. But running back Deuce Vaughn (415 rushing yards, 370 receiving yards on 20.6 yards per catch) is still playing. Baylor linebacker Terrel Bernard is out for the season, and the Bears are at far less than full strength on offense. Baylor is 1-5 and not strong enough offensively to deserve this kind of respect.

GEORGIA TECH (Pick) over Duke: After facing offenses such as Central Florida, Clemson, Notre Dame and Louisville, the Yellow Jackets get major class relief in the form of the Blue Devils. The Yellow Jackets are 23rd in rushing explosiveness rate and 80th in rushing explosiveness allowed, and the Blue Devils are 43rd and 103rd in those stats. Georgia Tech has struggled with turnovers, but Duke ranks No. 126 in turnover margin (minus-11). I would favor Georgia Tech by a field goal at a neutral site.

Vanderbilt (+14½) over MISSOURI: Freshman QB Ken Seals has averaged 300 passing yards in Vanderbilt’s last four games. The Commodores have covered the spread by double digits in three consecutive games. Vandy played Florida tougher than Missouri did a few weeks ago, and last week the Tigers struggled to put away a South Carolina team that has essentially given up on the season. Missouri has failed to score more than 20 points in six of its seven games, and now the team is favored by more than two touchdowns.

Southern Methodist (-12½) over EAST CAROLINA: The Mustangs are not nearly as threatening at the skill positions as they were during the first half of last season. But East Carolina gave up 51 to Central Florida, 49 to Georgia State and 55 to Cincinnati. SMU has put up 65, 60, 51 and 47 points in games this season. QB Shane Buechele, running back Ulysses Bentley IV and receiver Rashee Rice are enough to hammer the East Carolina defense and cover this number, which should be more than two TDs.

Last week: 2-2

Season: 24-29

Christopher Smith of AL.com and BetOnline is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow @cfblocksmith on Twitter.

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