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After Mississippi State and Ole Miss leave Davis Wade Stadium on Thursday night, there might be a better sense of which of the two teams is better. The stakes are high, with bowl bid considerations for both,
But the stakes are also high for the quarterbacks on an individual level, with a chance to show which one rules Mississippi. Ole Miss' Matt Corral and Mississippi State's Will Rogers have each put together impressive seasons.
Who is the better quarterback, though?
The Clarion Ledger's Mississippi State (Andy Kostka) and Ole Miss (Nick Suss) reporters debate:
Andy Kostka: The debate over which quarterback in Mississippi is best can often be distracted by NFL draft projections and national honors such as Heisman Trophy odds. But let's distill the debate down to its roots: Between Matt Corral of Ole Miss and Will Rogers of Mississippi State, who has had the better season?
And choosing anyone but Rogers would overlook his 4,113 passing yards and 34 touchdowns — both of which broke Dak Prescott's program records. Rogers throws the ball more than most quarterbacks, but he has also taken care of the ball at a rate better than most, completing 76% of his passes with a 1.4% interception rate. His performances the last few weeks have been exemplary, too, leading a 25-point comeback victory at Auburn with a school-record six touchdown passes.
Nick Suss: It's impossible to argue production between these two. Rogers has thrown more touchdowns in his last five games than Corral has all season. If you're just looking at the passing numbers, it's a rout.
It's worth looking at the raw numbers for a second. On a pure yards per play basis, Rogers is averaging 6.49 and Corral is averaging 7.64. In other words, Ole Miss averages more than a yard per play more when Corral runs or throws than when Rogers does. Corral has 552 yards rushing compared to Rogers' minus-74.
Just as Rogers is insulated in the raw stats by his Air Raid offense, Corral is insulated by his tempo offense in the rate stats. It's an argument that comes down to usage, before we even get into the way both of these guys have played through injuries to themselves and their teammates.
AK: One of the main reasons Rogers wound up at Mississippi State instead of Ole Miss is because of that tempo and the need to run the ball. Ole Miss hired Rich Rodriguez before the 2019 season as its offensive coordinator — a short-lived hire. But Rogers knew he wouldn't fit in Rodriguez's read-option offense because Rogers is more of a pocket passer. That led him to Starkville, and while Rogers didn't know Mike Leach would become the coach when he enrolled early, the Air Raid fits Rogers' skillset.
Corral can run. But what Rogers has done as a more one-dimensional quarterback perhaps makes the gaudy numbers more impressive. Defenses know what's coming. The Bulldogs average 62.1 yards rushing, second-fewest in the country. So Rogers faces drop-eight coverages on the regular, and yet he's still picking them apart.
And while Corral has played through an ankle injury, Rogers sprained his right shoulder against Alabama on Oct. 16 — a minor sprain, but one he still played through, grimacing on each throw. He threw three interceptions against the Crimson Tide, but that performance was an anomaly for Rogers.
NS: With Corral, it's less about his injury and more about everyone's injuries. He came into the year knowing he'd throw to fifth-year seniors Dontario Drummond and Braylon Sanders and star junior Jonathan Mingo. All three have missed games. Against Auburn and Liberty, there were times all three were hurt at the same time.
That's not mentioning that tight end Chase Rogers and guard Ben Brown are out for the year or how running back Jerrion Ealy, tight end Casey Kelly, center Orlando Umana and guard Caleb Warren have all missed time.
Corral has had to play behind 10 different starting linemen and has keyed in on six different receivers to produce 100-yard games. And, oh yeah, he started three games without being able to move his feet.
Just like it's indisputable that Rogers has produced more, it's also indisputable that Corral has produced more in spite of the circumstances.
AK: Much of Rogers' success is because the team around him has improved. The consistency of the offensive line is a main factor. Unlike Corral, Rogers has been behind a line that has changed just once this year, with Cole Smith starting over Kwatrivous Johnson the last four games. Beyond that change, the line has remained the same, with potential first-round NFL draft pick Charles Cross leading the group at left tackle. The receiving corps at Mississippi State is deep and has been devoid of many major injuries.
Rogers is quick to point out those contributions. He knows he doesn't do this on his own. But his steady improvement along with the rest of the team has enabled the Bulldogs offense to hit its stride the last few weeks, entering the Egg Bowl hot.
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NS: I've said it before and I'll say it again: Anyone looking at the numbers and saying Corral has had a better season is trying to find something that isn't there. But look beyond the numbers and you'll see why Rogers is a good quarterback having a good season and why Corral is a few months away from being a multimillionaire. They're both very good, but Corral is a more complete player.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Will Rogers or Matt Corral: Who's the best quarterback in Mississippi?