Tigers look to remain undefeated by slowing down Rebels' explosive offense
The Ole Miss (3-1, 0-1 SEC) vs. No. 5 LSU (4-0, 1-0) showdown on Saturday in Death Valley is a classic college football collision matching the Rebels' high-flying offense against the Tigers' tough-as-nails defense. The contrast in styles of play adds up to a chess match on the gridiron and excitement for each fan base.
The Rebels head to Baton Rouge for what could be their second-toughest game of the 2018 season. Ole Miss turned in a surprising dud against No. 1 Alabama two weeks ago, falling 62-7 at home. Even with Rebels senior quarterback Jordan Ta’amu being held to 133 passing yards against the Crimson Tide, the Ole Miss offense is still one of the best in the nation, averaging 523 total yards per game. The Rebels got back on the winning track in Week 4 with a 38-17 home win over Kent State.
LSU takes the field against Ole Miss with the most impressive college football resume so far this season with road wins over then-No. 8 Miami (33-17) and then-No. 7 Auburn (22-21). The Tigers got their third non-conference game of the season out of the way last week with a commanding 38-21 win over Louisiana Tech. The Tigers roared to victory behind 218 yards and five touchdowns on the ground as sophomore Clyde Edwards-Helaire took another step forward as a rising star in the SEC.
Ole Miss at LSU
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 29, at 9 p.m. ET
Spread: LSU -11
Three Things to Watch
1. "Defensive Back University" (DBU) vs. "Nasty Wide Outs" (nWo)
Early in the 2018 season, the Tigers have fallen away from the DBU moniker, allowing 244 passing yards per game, a big difference from the 188 yards per game a year ago that ranked 21st overall among FBS teams, but that will not slow down the trash talking. The Rebels have a four-headed monster receiving corps to contend with led by A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Braylon Sanders, and DaMarkus Lodge keeping up the nWo label. This is a marquee college football matchup.
Averaging 348 passing yards per game, Ole Miss is licking its chops seeing the Tigers' secondary. Louisiana Tech gunslinger J’Marr Smith just dropped 330 yards with three scores on LSU with one pick in 50 pass attempts.
2. Landshark defense vs. LSU rushing attack
Statistically, Ole Miss’ defense has improved to date against the run over a year ago but has yet to get into the heart of SEC action. The Rebels are still one of the worst against the run allowing 191 yards per game and, other than Alabama, have not faced hard-nosed rushing attacks. This showdown will be a big challenge for Mississippi.
Entering the season, the big question was who would take the place of Derrius Guice in LSU’s backfield. As the season has worn on, senior Nick Brossette is the lead back having rushed for 409 yards with five touchdowns; but Edwards-Helaire is emerging as a reliable option after burning Louisiana Tech for 136 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns.
3. RB Scottie Phillips vs. QB Joe Burrow
The exciting part of the game will be watching Ole Miss’ passing attack against LSU's pass defense and the Landshark defense trying to slow down the Tigers' ground game, but the outcome could rely on how Rebels’ running back Scottie Phillips and Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow perform. Phillips is second in the SEC in total rushing yards with 467 yards and five touchdowns. Burrow has been slow and steady averaging 183 passing yards per game. Burrow’s 49 percent completion rate is unimpressive, but he is taking care of the ball sans a pick in 106 attempts.
Ole Miss gives up on average 315 passing yards, while LSU limits the opposition to 91 rushing yards per game.
With a quarterback like Jordan Ta’amu paired with nWo in an offense like Ole Miss', the Rebels can always be in games if given time to throw the ball. Jordan Ta’amu was harassed by Alabama and made to look ordinary completing 7-of-22 pass attempts for 133 yards with one touchdown and two picks; look for LSU to do the same if possible. The Tigers struggled against Louisiana Tech's pass offense, but now they know the areas that need to be fixed in the secondary and with the pass rush.
LSU has won six out of the last eight meetings, including the last two. Make it three in a row.
Prediction: LSU 38, Ole Miss 28
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.