By Casey Gisclair
LSU’s November schedule has been as grueling as advertised. After two straight losses, the Tigers are trying to salvage their season and still have an outside shot at a New Year’s Six bowl game.
The final two weeks of the season, however, do not get much easier for the Tigers, with two conference games against hungry opponents desperate to end each of their seasons on a high note.
The Tigers’ next foe is an Ole Miss squad that still has an opportunity to make it to the SEC Championship should the Rebels win out and both Alabama and Arkansas lose one more conference game.
For now, LSU has to focus on snapping its two game losing streak in the 104th edition of the Magnolia Bowl rivalry.
LSU OFFENSE vs. OLE MISS DEFENSE
The LSU offense is spiraling out of control. The Tigers ran the football better against Arkansas on Saturday night, but stats won’t show it because the team’s offensive line blocked nothing but air all night and let quarterback Brandon Harris get pounded over and over again. Sacks that crippled the team’s yardage totals and stalled out drive after drive Saturday night.
When Harris was protected, he had a better than average game, hitting 21 completions for 271 yards and a touchdown. That efficiency and big play threat allowed Leonard Fournette to get consistent yardage, but not any big plays.
Fournette only generated a few yards past 10 yards on the night with a long of just 13 yards. Against Ole Miss, it’s not going to be easy – especially if LSU doesn’t block.
The Rebels are a fearsome bunch that tally sacks at will. Marquis Haynes is the ringleader with 8.5 sacks on the season, but Robert Nkemdiche isn’t too shabby either, owning 5.5 stops for a loss and bottling up countless other plays. The Ole Miss defensive line is really good. LSU’s offensive line has to show a little heart or this will be a long, long game.
Advantage: Ole Miss
LSU DEFENSE vs. OLE MISS OFFENSE:
I think everyone just about understands by now that the LSU defense is a scam. The Tigers defensive line is as small as any defensive line in the SEC, if not the country, and they are getting bullied pretty easily these days by some of the better offensive line groups in the country.
Against Alabama, it was incredibly lopsided with Derrick Henry reaping the benefits to the tune of 210 yards and three touchdowns. Against Arkansas on Saturday night, it was Alex Collins who looked like a star, generating 141 of Arkansas’s 299 rushing yards as a team in the Razorbacks’ comfortable victory.
LSU cannot allow an opponent to get 7.5 yards per carry if you expect to thrive in the SEC. The good news is that Ole Miss isn’t a big power running team, but the bad news is that they can move the ball on just about anyone they face in the country.
Quarterback Chad Kelly is a gunslinger, and he is a near-lock to get about 300 yards and a few touchdowns in each game. In the running game, the Rebels rely on Jaylen Walton to do a lot of the dirty work with Akeem Judd mixed in, as well.
The key matchup in this game will be how well the LSU defense can handle Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Treadwell is a polished, star-studded receiver who already has more than 1,000 yards this season.
Now is LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White’s time to shine, but in what has been a pretty disappointing season for White and the LSU defense as a whole, we won’t cross our fingers crossed just yet.
Advantage: Ole Miss
Ah, LSU special teams: the unit that never met a punt or kickoff it has been able to cover without a big play. I never envisioned a day when the Tigers would be this inept in one of the three phases of the game.
I know that LSU is young, but to routinely allow 25, 30 or even 40-yard returns in every, single game is absolutely inexcusable. Last week we said that we would not favor LSU’s special teams unit over anyone for the rest of the season, and we’re sticking to our guns.
This one, too, has merit, though. Ole Miss uses Walton as a return man, and he’s pretty dangerous. The Rebels also employ Gary Wunderlich, who is a pretty steady hand at kicker.
Advantage: Ole Miss
If we’re picking Ole Miss to have the advantage in every, single phase of the game, how do you think we’re picking this game to go? LSU is doing the traditional Les Miles pattern – quitting and shutting down shop after a loss to Alabama.
The Tigers have one tangible skill that they do above average: they run the football well. Besides for that, they are below average at passing offense, rushing defense and special teams. It’s hard to beat really good teams when you have those negatives working for you – especially on the road. Ole Miss scores a ton in this one and wins a semi-shootout.
Ole Miss 38, LSU 27
No. 17 LSU Tigers (7-2, 4-2) vs. No. 25 Ole Miss (7-3, 4-2)
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (59,347); Oxford, MS
Saturday, Nov. 21; 2:30 p.m.
TV: CBS; Radio: 98.1 FM