This week’s matchup with LSU vs Ole Miss is going to be entertaining.
First off, it’s a rivalry game. Many Rebel fans will tell you that apart from the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State, LSU ranks second on the list of teams they hate. In fact, this is set to be the 112th meeting between these two schools. This makes the Tigers the second-most-played opponent by Ole Miss, only trailing Mississippi State.
Secondly, this season sees this game being played the very week after Ole Miss just played Alabama. That makes it the back end of an extremely tough two-week period.
Third, it’s the first game since the Rebels picked up their first loss of the season (last week’s catastrophe against the Crimson Tide.) Ole Miss needs to find a way to bounce back in a major way, and they may have the chance to do it this weekend in Oxford.
What To Expect
As we’ve previously covered, Ole Miss has a plethora of problems. And many of them got exposed last week against Alabama. If they can show improvement in those areas, there’s a chance for success. If not, LSU is likely to walk into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and have Rebel fans leaving early. So for Ole Miss, what can we expect to see?
Ole Miss Offense
The Rebels offense is going to have to get going. And based on what we’ve seen this season, it likely won’t be on the ground. Especially when you consider that LSU has a defensive line that features Mekhi Wingo, Harold Perkins Jr., and Maason Smith. Smith and Wingo are probable first-round picks in next year’s NFL Draft. Perkins Jr. is a likely first-round pick the following year.
With the knowledge that Ole Miss has struggled to run the ball this year already, moving the ball on the ground against that front doesn’t seem like a winning strategy. This is where quarterback Jaxson Dart comes into play. Dart has plenty of talent and has had a solid year so far. But in last week’s loss to Alabama, the wheels came off. Part of that is due to the offensive line, but Dart himself had multiple missed passes, as well as multiple bad reads that arguably cost the Rebels a few points.
If the coaching staff opens up the playbook, and the offensive line gives Dart decent time to survey the field, he should be able to have success. If there’s one part of the Tigers defense that struggles, it’s in the secondary. Ole Miss has to be able to take advantage of that weakness.
Ole Miss’ Defense
In all honesty, Ole Miss could virtually copy and paste the defensive game plan for last week, and just use it again. LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels is extremely similar to what they saw from Alabama’s Jalen Milroe last week. The one difference is that Daniels is a better passer.
Last year against the Tigers, the Ole Miss defense let Daniels absolutely shred them. He went 21-28 for 248 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He also added 121 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Needless to say, that can’t happen this season. Daniels is good enough that you can’t stop him in both facets, but you have to be able to limit at least one of his ways of beating you.
Last week against Alabama, Ole Miss used freshman linebacker Suntarine Perkins as a spy on Milroe throughout virtually the whole game. Using that method, the Rebels held him to 28 yards on 16 carries. This week should look similar.
Slow down Daniels’ ability to run the ball, and trust your secondary to play well enough to win the game.
For LSU, the answer should be to take a page out of Alabama’s book from last week. The Crimson Tide used a mix of run and pass early on, and had moderate success. But with bigger athletes, by the second half, Alabama had worn down the Ole Miss defense. This allowed them the ability to lean heavily on the running game in the second half, which worked wonders.
If the Tigers can have similarly moderate success through the air, by late in the game, the running lanes will be open. This is where the designed quarterback runs will be available, as well as just handing off to running back Logan Diggs.
If LSU can win the battle in the trenches, they’re going to be able to put up points. If they follow the Alabama blueprint, they should do just that.
As we already addressed, the LSU defensive line could easily have a field day in this game. The worst part of Ole Miss’ team is their offensive line. Arguably the best part of LSU’s team is the defensive line. With this huge advantage at the line of scrimmage, the obvious goal would be to eliminate the Rebels’ rushing attack.
However, since the Ole Miss rushing game has been nonexistent all year, instead, the goal for LSU should be to use the pass rush to disrupt Dart in terms of throwing the ball and force the Rebels to beat you on the ground. We’ve seen no evidence at all that Ole Miss is capable of that.
If the Tigers can force much of the Rebel offense to come from running the ball, they’re going to have real success.
While there are observable keys to the game for both teams, it’s rare that both teams manage to stick to them. In this case, expect Ole Miss to continue to struggle on the offensive side of the ball. Games are oftentimes won at the line of scrimmage, and LSU just has to great of an advantage in that aspect, especially with their defensive line.
Expect Ole Miss’ defense to step up, and put some pressure on Daniels, but in the end, it won’t be enough. The Tigers hit the 30-point mark midway through the fourth quarter, and that proved to be just enough to get them over the edge.
It ends up being a hard-fought, reasonably close game, but at the end of the day, the Tigers come into Oxford and leave with a big conference win.
LSU 31, Ole Miss 23