One week removed from being on the losing end of a one-point game to Arkansas, Ole Miss found itself on the other end when wide receiver D.K. Metcalf caught a touchdown with five seconds left to give the Rebels (4-5) a 37-34 win over Kentucky.
Louisiana (4-4) heads to Oxford following last week’s 19-14 win at South Alabama. The Ragin’ Cajuns have won three of their last four games and are just two wins away from securing back-to-back bowl appearances.
Ole Miss is a perfect 4-0 against Louisiana as the Rebels have dominated the head-to-head meetings for the most part. The last game between these two teams was in 2014 when Ole Miss won 56-15.
Louisiana at Ole Miss
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 11 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Ole Miss -18.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu
Rebels fans had a collective gasp when it was announced that star sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson would miss the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury against LSU last month. In stepped Ta'amu (above, right) and the junior college transfer hasn’t disappointed. Last week against Kentucky he finished with 382 passing yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner to D.K. Metcalf. Prior to that against Arkansas, Ta’amu had 368 yards through the air while adding 76 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Ta’amu should be able to continue his success through the air against a Louisiana defense that’s giving up 252 passing yards per game to rank in the bottom third among FBS teams (tied for 96th).
2. Louisiana RB Trey Ragas vs. Ole Miss’ poor run D
Even though interim head coach Matt Luke is now in charge, the Rebels’ run defense is just as porous as it was under Hugh Freeze last year. Entering this game, Ole Miss is 126th nationally against the run at 256 rushing yards per game. Only three other teams have fared worse in this department. Even though the Rebels won last week, Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. gashed them for 176 yards and three touchdowns.
Ragas is fourth in rushing in the Sun Belt with 626 yards and his seven touchdowns on the ground are good for a tie for third. A freshman, Ragas ran for 84 yards on 17 carries in the Ragin’s Cajuns’ win over South Alabama last week. He has three other games with more rushing yards, including a season-high 130 against Tulsa on Sept. 9.
Besides all of the yards, Ole Miss also has surrendered 22 rushing touchdowns. Only 15 other FBS teams have given up more, one of those being Louisiana (25).
3. Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown
A star at Starkville High School, Brown decided to stay in the Magnolia State but not close to home when he spurned Mississippi State, among other programs, and signed with Ole Miss. After having a limited impact as a freshman, Brown has blossomed in his sophomore season. He leads the SEC in receiving yards with 830, is tied for first in receptions (84) and tied for second with seven touchdown catches. His yards and yards per game (92.2) are good enough to also place him among the top 15 receivers in the nation.
Whether it’s been Patterson or Ta’amu at quarterback, Brown has been a reliable target. He had a team-high seven catches for 65 yards and a touchdown last week against Kentucky. Louisiana has had its issues against the pass and the Ragin’ Cajuns will no doubt have their hands full trying to slow down the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Brown on Saturday.
Ole Miss has yet to lose to Louisiana in four previous matchups, yet this is the type of game that can make a coach queasy. The Ragin’ Cajuns still have plenty to play for, needing just two wins to become bowl eligible, and could have a running back in Trey Ragas capable of taking advantage of the Rebels’ underwhelming run defense.
With that said, a lot will have to go wrong for Ole Miss to fall victim to an upset at home. Even with no Shea Patterson at quarterback, Jordan Ta’amu has shown himself to be plenty of capable and the Rebels have too much firepower on offense for Louisiana to overcome.
Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Louisiana 17
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.
(Top photo courtesy of www.ragincajuns.com)