Week 9: Ole Miss at LSU

Ole Miss (7-0) at LSU (6-2) Oct. 25, 7:15, ESPN 

Here’s The Deal: LSU isn’t going to go down quietly, even if this is a bit of a transitional season. 

This is a very talented, very young team that’s struggling to come up with the same performance two weeks in a row. It got blown out by Auburn, survived a street fight at Florida, and obliterated Kentucky. It struggled early against Wisconsin and Mississippi State only to come up with brilliant fourth quarters, beating the Badgers and losing to the Bulldogs. Now, despite having problems, with its consistency, LSU can become college football’s most important team over the next two weeks with Ole Miss and Alabama at home. While winning the SEC title might be out of the picture now with two losses in the division, the Tigers can make lots and lots of noise. 

Ole Miss shocked the Tigers 27-24 last season, but it hasn’t won in Death Valley since 2008. Mississippi State might be the nation’s No. 1 team, but Ole Miss leads the nation in scoring defense and has the eighth-best D in the nation allowing just 291 yards per game on the way to a 7-0 record. Beating Alabama was big, and rocking Texas A&M was great, but there’s still a lot of work to do with Auburn coming to Oxford next week and with Arkansas and Mississippi State still to deal with. Even so, if the Rebels can get by this, considering Auburn and MSU are home games, this is one of the easier remaining slates among the SEC West stars. In total control of its own destiny, Ole Miss has to keep on doing what it’s doing, with an efficient offense, stifling D, and complete confidence in key moments. LSU is talented, but if Ole Miss really is national title-good, this is the road test is has to take down. 

Why Ole Miss Might Win: Going to LSU is about as crazy as it gets, but for being a young team, the Rebels are very business-like and very strong at blocking out the outside noise. The Rebels had to deal with the largest crowd for any football game in the history of Texas – close to 111,000 at Texas A&M – and it ripped off a 21-0 first half lead like it was going through a light scrimmage. How do you stamp out crowd noise? The defense has to rock, and the run defense isn’t giving up a thing, holding Tennessee to a grand total of zero yards on 28 carries last week, and not allowing 200 yards rushing yet this year. Alabama was stuffed for under four yards per pop, and Boise State and Texas A&M didn’t do anywhere. LSU’s passing game is improving, and it’s efficient, but the offense has to run the ball to win. It’s not going to be able to do that. 

Why LSU Might Win: Ole Miss isn’t living on turnover margin, but it certainly helps when the defense comes up with 20 takeaways and turned it over just ten times. The Rebels aren’t making a slew of big mistakes, and neither are the Tigers. LSU turned it over four times against New Mexico State, and haven’t given it up more than once in any other game. Last week against Kentucky was the first time all year LSU didn’t come up with a takeaway and lost the turnover battle, and it was only -1. If the LSU defense can hold down the Rebel offense and not keep it from getting up early, and the O doesn’t make a slew of errors, this should be close.

Who To Watch Out For: The Ole Miss defense has quickly turned into an absolute killer, and even with all the NFL talent across the board, it’s senior Senquez Golson who’s having the standout year with seven interceptions and 19 tackles after making two picks and 41 stops last year. He’s not all that big at around 5-9 and 190 pounds, but he’s always around the ball, coming up with two interceptions last week against Tennessee and at least one in every game except for the blowouts over Vanderbilt and Memphis. 

What’s Going To Happen: The Ole Miss defense will pick up the slack for a mediocre day from the offense. LSU will try running the ball, it won’t work, and then the passing game will have to kick in – which is exactly what the Land Sharks want. This Rebel secondary feeds off of desperation. 

Prediction: Ole Miss 31 … LSU 13 
Line: Ole Miss -3.5 o/u: 43 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Dumb and Dumber To – 1: Manhattan Love Story … 4.5