Rebel RoundUp: Ole Miss Ready to Battle in the Bayou
OXFORD, Miss. — If it feels like it’s been a while since we saw an Ole Miss football game, its because it has been. After the “will they/won’t they” on whether the A&M game would be played, we finally get to see the Rebels again three weeks after the Egg Bowl win.
Since the Egg Bowl, a lot has happened. The men’s and women’s basketball teams are undefeated, and National Signing Day came and went — with Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin and his assistants assembling a top-20 recruiting class, the first time the Rebels have achieved that status since 2016.
(For more on Signing Day, click here.)
Today’s contest in Baton Rouge is the regular season finale for Ole Miss and the season finale for LSU (4-5), who self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2020 season. Ole Miss (4-4) is looking to achieve a regular-season winning record in Coach Lane Kiffin’s first year.
Earlier this week, two of Ole Miss’s biggest receiving threats, wide receiver Elijah Moore and tight end Kenny Yeboah, opted to forgo the LSU game and bowl outing, to allow themselves time to heal from nagging injuries and prepare for the NFL Draft.
Both Moore and Yeboah elevated their games under Kiffin and new offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.
Moore is a semifinalist for the Blietnikoff award and leads the nation in receiving yards per game and receptions per game, while being second in the nation in total receiving yards. Yeboah has received an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and could further shoot up draft boards with a good performance in Mobile.
The Rebels still have quarterback Matt Corral who is a Manning Award finalist and a Davey O’Brien award semi-finalist. In his last three games (all wins), Corral has thrown for 1,310 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 81.4% of his passes. They also still have wide receivers Dontario Drummond, Braylon Sanders, and Jonathan Mingo.
Ole Miss is looking to win its fourth straight SEC game for the first time since 2014. In that season, though, the Rebels had a couple of non-conference games sprinkled in-between the league contests. So to make it more accurate, the last time an Ole Miss team has won four consecutive SEC games (without a non-conference game in-between) was 2003 under former Coach David Cutcliffe.
So today’s game in Baton Rouge has huge implications for the momentum of this Ole Miss program under Kiffin.
Ole Miss at LSU: Game Details
- Matchup: Ole Miss @ LSU
- Kickoff: 2:30 PM CT
- Location: Tiger Stadium – Baton Rouge, LA
- TV: SEC Network
- O/U: 74.5
- Ole Miss: -1.0
Series History and Side Notes
This matchup is the 109th meeting between the two teams with LSU holding a 63-40-4 record in the series. This is the second most-played series in Ole Miss football history behind Mississippi State.
This will be a reunion of sorts for LSU head coach Ed Orgeron who not only led the Ole Miss program from 2005-2007 but also spent time on the same sideline with Lane Kiffin at both USC and Tennessee.
Last year’s matchup saw LSU come to Oxford with a No. 1 ranking en route to an eventual national championship led by Heisman winner and No. 1 overall pick quarterback Joe Burrow. LSU would win the contest, 58-37, behind Burrow’s 489 yards through the air and five touchdowns.
The run game, however, was a completely different story as Ole Miss found great success, with the trio of QB John Rhys Plumlee and running backs Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Connor amassing over 400 yards on the ground. Plumlee ran for 212 yards and four touchdowns, while Ealy tallied 143 yards. Lane Kiffin remembers the memorable performance from JRP and has taken to twitter to express his desire for Plumlee to take the field.
Richards_Bespoke Thanks for the suit and the collar pop. 😝 Hopefully @Coach_Leb will put @PlumleeJohn in tomm!!! Went for over 200 yards last year against @LSUfootball LFG @OleMissFB #scorefromfar #ComeToTheSip #4straight pic.twitter.com/8YtTCw4AWT
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) December 18, 2020
The Tigers’ season has been interesting, to say the least. Everyone knew after last season that a step back was likely after the amount of production they lost — but things were off to a rough start in week one. Mississippi State had LSU’s number, passing for over 600 yards and upsetting the defending national champion Tigers.
After that, the narrative was about improving consistently as quarterback Myles Brennan looked like a solid option to replace Burrow. However, things can change quickly and LSU has now played three QBs this season. For some, this would derail a season, but for LSU it was a time to figure things out. Since they’ve turned to true freshman lefty quarterback Max Johnson, the Tigers have been playing better football, upsetting Florida in Gainesville last week as 23-point underdogs.
Whoever replaced Burrow was going to have tough shoes to fill as Joe had arguably the best season ever for a QB in college football history. Myles Brennan was pegged as the guy and his 11:3 TD to INT ratio isn’t bad, by any means, but Brennan suffered an abdomen injury against Missouri that would sideline him for the rest of the year.
Coach Orgeron turned to the 6-foot-6-inch T.J. Finley for the next contest, and he would be best described as inconsistent, occasionally competing with Johnson for the starting gig. Last week against the Gators, however, Johnson got the start after leading a couple of late scoring drives. He made the most of the opportunity as he threw for 239 yards and three touchdowns.
Max Johnson floats one to Jaray Jenkins in the back of the end zone to tie it up for LSU (+23) at 7-7
— Bet The Pigskin (@betthepigskin) December 13, 2020
The Tigers went into the season with a two-headed tandem at the running back position. The main back this season has been Tyrion Davis-Price who is 6-foot-1-inches tall and weighs 230 lbs. However, he has been ruled out for this game. The other is also a sophomore in John Emery Jr. The former five-star back has some serious burst and can be a problem in the open field. The Rebels will need to know where he is when on the field, although he is questionable for the game. One can imagine if he can go at all, he’ll be on the field.
While the former two have been the main backs, Chris Curry has also found his way to some carries this season, including a 17-carry game last week against Florida as the main back. So be ready to see some of Curry this weekend with Davis-Price out.
GOODNESS John Emery Jr with the moves! 😳
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 4, 2019
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Stud receiver JaMarr Chase opted out before the season began, but the good news for the Tigers is they returned Terrace Marshall Jr. who had double-digit TDs last year and has 10 this year. He is one of just two returning starters this year on the offensive side of the ball. He is the main target for this offense with 730 receiving yards on the season, and at 6-foot-3-inches has a big catch radius.
Kayshon Boutte will lineup on the inside in the slot. Boutte has 31 catches for 427 yards. Jaray Jenkins is likely to be on the outside opposite Marshall Jr. The 6-foot-4-inch Jenkins is a big-play threat who is averaging 17.5 yards per reception.
The National High School Player of the Year was tight end Arik Gilbert, and while his hype was real he decided to step away from the program. He was second in receptions for the Tigers this season. Racey McMath is also out for the game with an injury.
Terrace Marshall Jr. with one hand behind his back😳
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 26, 2020
The LSU line lost three starters to the NFL last year and one more graduated. The only returner is right tackle Austin Deculus. In this game, however, LSU will be without starting right guard Chasen Hines. While the line will be inexperienced by SEC standards, it has still has a veteran presence on it and is coming off a game against Florida where they didn’t give up a single sack — the best performance of the group on the season.
Going across the line from left to right, the group should feature Dare Rosenthal – Ed Ingram – Liam Shanahan – Anthony Bradford/Kardell Thomas – Austin Deculus.
With Dave Aranda leaving to take the Baylor job, Coach Orgeron had to bring in a new defensive coordinator. He turned to former Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. This signaled a scheme change as Pelini will look to go to a 4-3. Like the offense, the Tigers lost a lot of production on this end, as well, including two of their three leading tacklers from last season, along with pass rusher K’Lavion Chassion and Safety Grant Delpit.
The interior of the defensive line is the strong part of the unit with returning starter Glen Logan. Siaki Ika is the likely other interior lineman but the ends were more open towards the beginning of the season. However, things have started to take place as Ali Gaye has 9.5 TFL on the season on one of the outsides. The other end position is split between Andre Anthony and BJ Ojulari. The duo has combined for 8.5 sacks on the season.
LSU pass rusher Ali Gaye has been dominant in the first half. Showing off the swipe and speed on this QB hit. pic.twitter.com/bA9YoWkkDo
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) September 26, 2020
LSU lost all three starting linebackers from last year’s squad making this a position of interest for teams. Damone Clark showed some flash last season and has now taken over as the team’s leading tackler (59 total) so far. The Tigers also brought in NDSU star in Jabril Cox who has been a nice addition to the group with two interceptions and 51 total tackles. Micah Bakersville is the other starting linebacker with 44 total tackles on the year, but he didn’t make the trip to Gainesville last weekend.
Ignore the fog and check out LSU LB Jabril Cox.
45-yards downfield and moving like a safety to force his 4th PD of the year. pic.twitter.com/A5j9idKRef
— Boom or Bust: The Draft Show (@BoomOrBustDraft) December 13, 2020
Derek Stingley Jr. may be considered the best defensive back in all of college football. The question is whether he is going to play on Saturday. Stingley has had a lingering injury and Coach Orgeron has ruled the star as “day-to-day.”
Jacoby Stevens joins Stingley as the only other returning starter in the secondary and one of three total returners on the defense from the last year. Listed at free safety, Stevens has been all over the field this year — even making his way into the backfield for three sacks. Cordale Flott is the other cornerback, but if Stingley isn’t ready to go get ready to see more of Jay Ward. Todd Harris and Maurice Hampton are the two playing the other safety position.
Great work by the LSU’s Derek Stingley
WR lines up off the ball so the space is created. Stingley did a great job of not creating more space. Very patient feet, nice kick step slide, stayed square making the receiver work laterally, looked back once he got In phase. Great work pic.twitter.com/NhBqRrqVfi
— The Crocker Report🕵🏾 (@CrockerReport) December 7, 2019
The punter for LSU is former minor league baseball player Zachary Von Rosenberg who has been the punter for four seasons now. Cade York is the kicker for the Tigers and is making over 80% of his attempts on the year. He has a leg and the Tigers aren’t afraid to let him try. His long for the year is 57 yards — the distance of his winning field goal last week against Florida. He is 5-6 from beyond 50 yards this season. Trey Palmer is the kick returner for the Tigers and has run one back this year. Stingley Jr. is the main return man on punts.
CADE YORK FROM 57 YARDS FOR THE LSU LEAD‼️ pic.twitter.com/5DMwrExZiI
— ESPN (@espn) December 13, 2020
This game may be won in the trenches as last week LSU proved to be effective offensively when they gave Max Johnson time to throw. The key for Ole Miss is to bring pressure to Johnson who is a still young QB and force him into some quick decisions. Look for guys like Ryder Anderson and Tavius Robinson to be potential x-factors, along with Sam Williams.
On the other side, look for the Rebels to get Corral going early. Without Yeboah and Moore, the Rebels may find LSU looking to bring some pressure like they did last week against Florida. If Corral connects with Mingo, Sanders, and Drummond quickly, then it could ease LSU’s pressure and swing things in the Rebels’ favor.
The last key for Ole Miss is to play turnover-free ball. LSU has forced 9 fumbles on the season, recovering seven of them and has recorded 8 interceptions on the season. If Ole Miss can keep the ball, keep it moving, and not allow LSU to control the clock, the Rebels will be in good shape.
All in all, expect a fun one in Baton Rouge!
TJ Oxley is the Vice President of Operations and the Director of Community Relations for The Rebel Walk. He is also the Director of Basketball Content and Senior Basketball Writer. He has over five years of experience providing in-depth analysis of college basketball through multiple platforms. A former MBA graduate of Ole Miss, TJ started with The Rebel Walk in 2019.