Preview: Ole Miss travels to No. 5 LSU for Magnolia Bowl matchup
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss travels to Baton Rouge to play LSU today in what will be the 107th all-time meeting between the Rebels and Tigers. The Magnolia Bowl, as the contest between the two has been called since 2008, is one game where you can throw out the rankings and records and prepare to watch some hard-nosed, gritty football.
Even though the Tigers, who lead the series 61-41-4, enter the game ranked 5th in the country, this could still be one of the most competitive games of the year for both teams.
Sure, doubters will point out LSU’s monster defense that is only allowing an average of 91.3 rushing yards per game and only 244 yards per game through the air. They’ll remind you the TIgers’ secondary is so good that the school is called “DBU” for defensive back university. They’ll add that LSU’s linebackers are among the best, with Devin White leading the SEC in tackles with an average of 9.8 per game. (He is 240 pounds and one of the fastest in the country at his position.)
Yes, one could go on listing the bona fides of the LSU defense, but over the years it seems as if the game, itself, has not been about the stats or analytics, but rather the competitive fire between the two teams. Ole Miss and LSU play HARD against one another. It is a dogfight—no matter the ranking, location, or any other factor you might throw in.
Ole Miss offense to test “DBU”
And if we’re going to talk about the LSU defense—we must go ahead and add that they’ll be tested by the Nasty Wide Outs (NWO) as the Ole Miss wide receiver corps is known. Look for WR Coach Jacob Peeler’s unit to be ready to play. A.J Brown, D.K. Metcalf, and DaMarkus Lodge have all experienced this environment before, and they know they must be a key part of the game for the Rebels to be successful.
Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu is ranked in the top ten nationally in multiple categories—including passing yards (1,359), passing yards per game (339.8), and passing yards per completion (16.99).
Running back Scottie Phillips ranks second in the SEC and 12th nationally with five rushing TDs. He ranks 11th in the NCAA in total rushing yards (467), averaging 7.53 yards per carry—which is first in the SEC.
This could be one of those barometer games against an elite team, where you can figure out who your team really is and how much heart they have. The Rebel offense is GOOD; they have the talent, the ability, and the brains to make something happen with the football.
LSU offense ranks low in SEC statistics
The LSU offense, on the other hand, has done enough to get wins over two top-ten ranked teams thus far. The Tigers are, however, ranked comparatively low in nearly every offensive category–including dead last in total yards and average yards per game on offense–but yet they seem to get the job done. Head coach Ed Orgeron’s team is first in the nation in the red zone–going 16-for-16 when inside the 20-yard line.
LSU has also been the recipient of turnovers, which has played a key role in the Tigers’ undefeated record this season. They are ranked fifth in the country in turnover margin at +8, and that will be something Jordan Ta’amu and company must avoid.
Keys to an Ole Miss victory
The Tigers are excellent at bringing pressure, so Ta’amu must be ready to deal with this. The offensive line pass pros must be near perfect, and the receivers need to run good routes as to avoid coverage sacks. The running backs must do a great job at picking up rogue defenders that slip past the offensive line. If the Rebels establish the passing game early, Ole Miss can win, without question. Getting consistent first downs and staying on schedule would inevitably quiet the raucous LSU crowd early in the game—and that can only benefit the Rebs.
Again, all statistics aside, this is going to be a physical, hard-nosed, emotional game under the lights in Tiger Stadium. In a close game, whichever team keeps its head and maintains its poise, especially heading into the later minutes of the contest, should come out victorious, in my opinion.
This matchup in Death Valley is what college football is all about, and I expect the Rebels to be pumped up and eager to play. If you have the chance to get to Baton Rouge to watch this spectacle of a sporting event, I absolutely encourage you to do so. Regardless of the result, you will have a great time.
Geaux Ole Miss! Hotty Toddy, and well see you in Death Valley at 8:15 (CT). For those who won’t be making the trip, the game will be televised on ESPN.