Preview: LSU Hosts Ole Miss

LSU will close out its season against Ole Miss. This will be the first time that the Tigers and Rebels face each other in the regular-season finale since 1970. Neither LSU nor Ole Miss has finished a regular season in December since 2001.

Ole Miss enters this contest riding a three-game winning streak. However, the Rebels have not played in the previous two weeks. Their game against Texas A&M had been postponed then eventually canceled.

LSU traveled to Florida with a number of scholarship players nearly at the minimum amount mandated by the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers departed Gainesville with one of the most stunning upsets in SEC football history.

LSU leads the all-time series, 63-41-4. For the matchups in Baton Rouge, the Tigers hold an advantage of 39-23-1. LSU has won the four most recent meetings with the Rebels.

Preview: LSU Hosts Ole Miss

LSU’s rushing offense vs. Ole Miss’ rushing defense

Ole Miss held Mississippi State to 39 rushing yards on 16 carries. However, Mississippi State ranks dead last in the Football Bowl Subdivision in terms of average rushing yards per game (23.2) and rushing yards gained over the course of the season (209). MSU is also the only FBS team that averages less than two yards per rushing attempt.

Other than Mississippi State, opponents have trampled the Rebels’ defense during this season. The other seven teams on their schedule have exceeded 100 yards on the ground. Four of them gained more than 200 yards.  Additionally, all seven averaged at least three yards per carry. Half of their foes picked up more than six yards on average per rushing attempt. In total, Ole Miss has given up 217.9 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns on average per game. The Rebels’ average rushing yardage allowed per game ranks as weakest in the SEC and outside of the top 100 rushing defenses in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

LSU’s running has shown inconsistency in the ability to run the ball. The Tigers have averaged 117.7 rushing yards per game and 3.3 yards per rushing attempt, the third-lowest numbers in the SEC. They ran for three touchdowns against South Carolina but only for a total of four in their other eight contests.

Success in running the ball has served as a catalyst in LSU’s victories during this season. When the Tigers have exceeded 100 yards gained on the ground, they won all four times. Although when they fell short of that mark, they lost all five contests. When they have averaged three or more yards per rushing attempt, they have a record of 4-1. They lost all four games when opponents held them under three yards per carry.

The responsibility for rushing the ball has varied during the season for LSU. Ty Davis-Price has led the Tigers in carries (104) and rushing yards (446). John Emory Jr. ranks second in those categories with 75 attempts for 378 yards in addition to being tied with Davis-Price for three rushing touchdowns apiece. Chris Curry rushed the ball 40 times for 137 yards. Max Johnson has the same number of carries as Curry but for only 74 yards.

Ole Miss’ passing offense vs. LSU’s defensive backs

LSU’s secondary has struggled most of the season, due to inexperienced players and ineffective defensive schemes. On average, they have allowed 331 yards through the air per game. That is the highest average in the FBS. They have been torched for 300 or more yards in six of nine games.

Ole Miss has featured one of the most proficient aerial attacks in the nation. The Rebels rank fourth in the FBS in the category of average passing yards per game with 356.5. In terms of pass completion percentage and average yards per completion, they are third in the FBS with 73 percent and 10.8 yards respectively.

However, Ole Miss lost its two most productive receivers this week. Wide receiver Elijah Moore had been leading the Rebels in catches (86), receiving yards (1,193), and touchdown receptions (eight). Tight end Kenny Yeboah had ranked second on the team with 27 receptions for 524 yards and six touchdowns. Both players quit the team on Thursday in order to prepare for the NFL Draft.

What’s the motivation for these teams?

With a victory in Baton Rouge, Ole Miss would finish 5-4. That would be the Rebels’ first winning record at the end of the regular season since 2015. Another win should guarantee them a bowl berth.

Win or lose, this contest will serve as the final one of the season for LSU. A victory would not result in a bowl trip for the Tigers. However, by winning, they would avoid a losing season and the most losses for the program since 1999.

Prediction: LSU 48, Ole Miss 38