Oh, how much things can change in just two weeks. Prior to the Nov. 7 meeting with Alabama, the LSU Tigers were 7-0 and ranked No. 2 in the initial College Football Playoff poll. That same day, the No. 18 Ole Miss Rebels were still in control of their destiny in the race for an SEC Western Division title. However, the Crimson Tide dominated LSU 30-16 and the Rebels lost to Arkansas 53-52 in overtime. One week later, the Razorbacks whipped the Tigers 31-16 to eliminate LSU from SEC Championship contention.
Two teams that were both ranked among the nation’s top five earlier this season are in desperate need of a victory in the 104th Magnolia Bowl.
College Football Podcast: Week 12 Preview
LSU at Ole Miss
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Ole Miss -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can the Ole Miss defense contain Leonard Fournette?
LSU running back Leonard Fournette is the nation’s leading rusher this season with 1,474 yards on 214 carries — a hefty 6.9 yards per carry. Fournette also ranks second nationally with 17 rushing touchdowns. However, Fournette has lost his stranglehold on the Heisman Trophy because he gained just 31 rushing yards on 19 carries against Alabama two weeks ago (1.9 yards per attempt). Last week against Arkansas, Fournette ran for 91 yards, giving him two straight performances in which he failed to reach 100 yards after seven straight games of 150 rushing yards or more.
Simply, Fournette and the LSU offensive line were beaten up by both Alabama and Arkansas, and containing the talented sophomore was the key to victory for the Crimson Tide and Razorbacks. If the Ole Miss defense — which has held opponents to 125.7 rushing yards per game this year and boasts elite talent in the form of Robert Nkemdiche and Tony Conner — has similar success, the Rebels are very capable of picking up a victory.
2. Tre’Davious White and the LSU secondary versus Laquon Treadwell
Because of their history of producing NFL defensive backs (32 LSU defensive backs have been selected in the NFL Draft since 1966), LSU has taken to the nickname “DBU.” This year’s Tiger secondary also has its fair share of talent, including Tre’Davious White, Jamal Adams, Jalen Mills and Kevin Toliver II — all of whom are likely to play on Sundays in the future. But the Tigers have a heavy burden this week trying to contain likely future first round draft pick Laquon Treadwell and the Ole Miss passing attack.
Treadwell leads all SEC receivers with 68 catches and 1,002 receiving yards. The 6-foot-2, 229-pound junior also has six touchdown catches. Combined with quarterback Chad Kelly, who leads the SEC with 3,224 passing yards and 23 TDs, and fellow receivers Cody Core (500 receiving yards, 3 TD), Quincy Adeboyejo (483 receiving yards, 7 TD) and Damore’ea Stringfellow (385 receiving yards, 3 TD), the Rebels are the most talented passing team LSU has faced this season.
3. Les Miles on the hot seat
LSU head coach Les Miles has never lost three straight games since taking over the program in Baton Rouge 11 years ago. However, as a 4.5-point underdog against the Rebels, Miles is in danger of dropping his third straight game this weekend — and doing so would put Miles firmly on the hot seat. Despite a 110-31 record at LSU, which includes the 2007 national championship, reports out of Baton Rouge say that Miles is “coaching for his job” over the next two weeks. A victory over Ole Miss would quiet some of the criticism that has been building.
Ole Miss needs a victory to keep its hopes alive for a spot in the SEC Championship Game, so the Rebels are motivated for this rivalry matchup. And, because Ole Miss scheduled a late-season bye week, the team should be well rested and prepared for the Tigers. Those factors, paired with the home field advantage and a suddenly struggling LSU squad, should give the Rebels the edge.
Prediction: Ole Miss 27, LSU 24
— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Allen's work on college football can also be found on SaturdayBlitz.com and FanSided.com. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.