Ole Miss Preview

This is the third of three articles posted today.  Don’t miss the other two, which are just below this one on the main page. 

LSU fans are ate up with the negativity this week after a very poor performance last Saturday against Louisiana Tech.  The offense ran the ball well and passed the ball poorly; however, the coaches kept calling pass plays.  It was maddening to watch.  The defense looked indifferent in the first half but they really tightened up in the second and played well.  But I do think some perspective is in order. 

LSU was playing with a severe “hangover” after putting everything they had into the Alabama game and coming up short.  That game is all anyone talked about all week, and that spilled over to the team.  Maybe it shouldn’t have, but it did and it wasn’t all that surprising.  Players even admitted to just going through the motions against Louisiana Tech.  LSU was also playing with their backup quarterback, backup running back, backup center, and backup tight-end.  Yea, it was just LA Tech, but it’s understandable that the offense struggled. 

LSU’s offense has not impressed this year.  However,  I felt they turned a corner after their bye week.  OK…maybe they slowly rounded a curve.  But the offense played very well against Auburn and then again against Tulane.   Neither Auburn or Tulane have a terribly good defense, but it was the style of offense that LSU used that was encouraging.  They were more aggressive in the passing game and they did a better job of getting the ball to their playmakers.  The offense played surprisingly well against Alabama until Jordan Jefferson got hurt.  And then….LA Tech.  I see the LA Tech game as the exception to the recent play of the offense.  Jefferson is supposedly back this week.  The hangover is over.  And I have a feeling that LSU’s offense will play well against Ole Miss. 

OK…

When LSU Has The Ball:

The big question leading up to this game is “How healthy will Jordan Jefferson’s ankle be?”  He has been practicing all week, and it appears that he’ll be able to go.  Much of Jefferson’s value is his mobility and ability to run with the football.  So even if he’s ready to play, will he be able to do everything we’re used to him doing?  LSU will need Jefferson at very close to 100% in order to win on Saturday.  The first downs that Jefferson picks up with his feet are invaluable. 

LSU will have to find some balance on offense against the Rebels’ tough defense, but their best bet on moving the football will be through the air.  However, the Tigers have run the ball well for three straight games.  Filling in for the injured Charles Scott, Keiland Williams had one of the best games of his career.  I, for one, was not surprised in the least.  Throughout his entire career, Williams has always performed in a big way when given significant carries (eight or more) in any one game.  LSU will need him to come through in a big way on Saturday.  He’ll be plenty motivated to finally receive an opportunity after playing behind Jacob Hester and Charles Scott over the past few yers.  Stevan Ridley will be able to spell Williams while Trindon Holliday and Russell Shepard will look for the big home run. 

Ole Miss has a good defense, but not a great one.  They have played well at times.  But they’ve also shown the ability to get lit up, as they did when they played Auburn.  Only two teams have managed to score more than twenty points against the Rebels.  Auburn scored 33 while Alabama scored 22.  I feel that LSU will have to score more than 20 in order to win.  I think they will. 

When Ole Miss Has The Ball:

Ole Miss has a number of weapons on offense, and they’re tough to defend as a result.  Everyone is talking about scat back Dexter McCluster, who broke an Ole Miss rushing record last week against Tennessee.  They use McCluster as a traditional running back, as a slot receiver, and also as the primary option in various Wildcat formations.  Last year, McCluster wasn’t a big factor against LSU.  Hopefully, that will be the case again.  Harry Coleman gives LSU a weapon to help counter McCluster’s unique skill set.  Running back Brandon Bolden is also a threat to run the ball. 

The Rebels’ passing game has been erratic.  Quarterback Jevan Snead is very streaky.  He can look great when in a rhythm but can also look awful when the offense is out of sync or when he’s pressured.  He is completing just 53% of his passes this year and has thrown a league high 14 interceptions.  He has a tendency to throw some balls up for grabs, and that’s good news for LSU’s defense who has nabbed twelve interceptions this year.  Since LSU’s bye week, LSU has 12 sacks in four games, including five last week.  Getting pressure on Snead will be key to this game.  It will be interesting to see how often LSU blitzes this week.  They like to bring Harry Coleman on blitzes off the edge, but I imagine he’ll be tasked with watching Dexter McCluster quite a bit. 

Senior receiver Shay Hodge (pictured) is quietly having an All-SEC caliber season.  He has 50 receptions, which leads the SEC, as well as six touchdowns.  McCluster is second on the team with 31 receptions.  No other wide receiver has more than 11 grabs.

I anticipate Ole Miss having some success against LSU from their Wildcat formation, but they’ll struggle in more traditional sets.  I really like the match up of LSU’s offense this week, and I have a strong feeling they’re going to play very well. 

LSU 24
Ole Miss 20

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