No. 23 Ole Miss looks for second-straight win over No. 25 LSU in Magnolia Bowl
Earlier this week, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze explained how grateful he is to LSU’s interim head coach Ed Orgeron for hiring him on his staff back in 2005 when Orgeron was the Ole Miss head coach. Now, Freeze has to put aside his admiration for Orgeron and prepare his Rebels for yet another tough conference road game.
At the start of the 2016 season, Ole Miss was in the conversation of teams vying for a Southeastern Championship and a possible spot in the College Football Playoff. Since then, the Rebels have had to readjust their goals and play for more than just postseason success.
Quarterback Chad Kelly made it clear the Rebels still have plenty of motivation to win.
Chad Kelly, Ole Miss quarterback
Another tough test
The 25th-ranked Rebels (3-3, 1-2 SEC) didn’t come out on top against Florida State, Alabama, and Arkansas but had their chances to come away with signature wins against the AP Top 25 programs as they led all three teams at some point during the games. Freeze admitted the road loss to the Razorbacks didn’t sit well with him, his staff, or his players. But in order to bounce back with a win, Ole Miss will have to play an LSU team on the road that is averaging 43.5 points per game on offense since Orgeron took over for Les Miles as the Tigers’ head coach.
No. 23 LSU (4-2, 2-1) will be the Rebels’ fifth top-25 opponent in seven games. Ole Miss is 1-3 against ranked teams this season, and Freeze feels Saturday’s showdown against the Tigers will be tougher to coach than past games based on the current standings in the SEC Western Division. The Rebels currently sit at sixth in the standings.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze
While Ole Miss’ offense has moved the football efficiently, its defense has had trouble preventing explosive plays. Against Arkansas, the Rebels’ defense gave up 34 points and 429 yards of total offense – with 180 of those yards coming on the ground from Rawleigh Williams.
Ole Miss will face another program that relies on its running attack. Orgeron mentioned this week he could possibly use running backs Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice in the backfield at the same time against the Rebels’ run defense.
Fournette was questionable coming into the week of Saturday’s home game (8 p.m., ESPN) but will give it a go according to Orgeron, who has monitored Fournette as the game approaches. Fournette has rushed for 386 yards this season. Guice leads the team with 564.
“We’re going to let him do all he can,” Orgeron said, “and he’s going to tell me, ‘Hey, coach. I’m 100 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent. These are the things I can do.’
“We’ll run the plays he’s able to run. The plays he’s not able to run, we won’t run them. But we’ll play both. I think they’re both outstanding backs.”
Since 2014, Ole Miss is 7-1 coming off a loss (2-0 this season). This game marks the 105th meeting between the Rebels and LSU, dating back to 1894. The Tigers are Ole Miss’ second-most played opponent behind Mississippi State. LSU holds a 59-41-4 advantage in the series. Since the rivals started playing for the Magnolia Bowl Trophy in 2008, the series is tied 4-4.
The Rebels have played more games in Baton Rouge (64) than at any other opponent’s site. Ole Miss’ last win at Tiger Stadium was a 31-13 triumph in 2008.
Changing things up a bit
Freeze’s primary focus this week has been on his defense, which currently ranks 104th in the nation in total defense. Freeze decided to adjust things a bit within his coaching staff during game week, giving defensive graduate assistant Christian Robinson the responsibility of coaching the middle linebackers.
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack worked with the stingers (outside linebackers).
Though Robinson has been in the position for only a couple of days, Freeze gave his assessment on how Robinson has fared thus far.
Hugh Freeze on Christian Robinson working with middle LBs
Fadol Brown makes the trip
When asked this week if he thought senior defensive end Fadol Brown, who has been out most of the season with an injury, would make the trip to Tiger Stadiu, Freeze said: “I would think so, he was close last week. I think he will be able to go this week.”
The Rebel Walk has learned Brown did indeed make the trip to Baton Rouge.
Ole Miss and LSU will kick off in Baton Rouge at 8:00 p.m. (CT) today. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.