Ole Miss vs. LSU: Four Keys to a Rebel win
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss hosts LSU this Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway. Sitting at 3-1 overall and 0-1 SEC, the Rebels need a win over LSU to keep their SEC West hopes alive. Here are four keys to the game.
Contain Jayden Daniels
Last week against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the Ole Miss defense held Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe to just 28 yards rushing. This week against LSU, the Rebels will face a quarterback in Jayden Daniels who is widely regarded by many as one of the best in the league with his arm and his legs.
In last season’s game against Ole Miss, Daniels took over late in a close game, throwing for 248 yards and two scores and running for 137 yards and three scores, en route to the Tigers’ 45-20 victory in Baton Rouge.
Through four games this season, Daniels leads the SEC in total offense with an average of 372.5 yards per game, 324 yards coming through the air per game, and has thrown 12 touchdowns. He is number one in the league in passing efficiency with a 189.08 rating. (Jaxson Dart sits at No. 4 in the SEC with an efficiency rating of 171.03.) Daniels is also first in the conference in passing TDs with 12.
While Daniels is averaging just shy of 50 rushing rushing yards a game and only has two scores on the ground, don’t let that fool you because as we saw last season, he can break big runs at any moment.
Simply put, the Ole Miss defense will need to keep Daniels under control this week to help their chances of bouncing backing back after last week’s loss to Alabama. Suntarine Perkins and Ladarius Tennison did great jobs of spying Milroe last weekend and another big performance from them this Saturday would really help the Rebels’ cause.
Defend the Deep Ball
Jayden Daniels likes taking shots down the field and has been successful doing so. He has completed 13 of 18 passes of 20+ yards, while eight of his 12 touchdown passes have come on such throws. His biggest target to watch is the very talented wideout, Malik Nabers. Nabers has hauled in 21 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns in the last two games. He is Daniels’ go-to target, so disrupting their connection will be of big emphasis to defensive coordinator Pete Golding’s group.
Nabers leads the conference in pass receptions per game with eight and is second in the SEC in both receiving yards per game at 130.75 and total receiving yards (523).
Both the pass rush and secondary will be tested, just as they were last week. Alabama QB Milroe attempted four passes of 20+ yards or more a week ago — and he completed three of those for 117 yards and a touchdown. While the Rebel secondary was oftentimes in a position to make a play on the ball, they fell short on a few critical plays. That will need to change this week.
It is no secret the Rebel rushing attack has struggled to this point in the season, and the passing game has been forced to try and carry much of the burden. In a rivalry game like this, the offense has to be balanced as LSU’s defense will not be kind if the Ole Miss offense is one-dimensional. While the secondary of LSU is not as productive as they have been in the past, they have a defensive line that may is one of the best in the league.
For the Rebels to win a tough SEC contest, the ground game will be critical. Preseason All American Quinshon Judkins has yet to get going, but it is just a matter of time before he gets back to his normal self. Judkins is ranked No. 2 in the SEC in total touchdowns, having scored 4.
Ole Miss QB Jaxson Dart is using his legs to help the team and sits at No. 9 in the conference in average yards per rush (4.98 yards). He leads the Ole Miss team with 219 yards on 44 carries, while Judkins has 201.
Dart has played very well thus far. If he has all his weapons back and healthy for this game, he will have a much better opportunity to succeed.
When wide receiver Tre Harris went down with an injury against Tulane, he had eight receptions on the season and five of those had gone for touchdowns. If he is able to play against the Tigers, which it looks as if he will, the Rebels have an infinitely more threatening offense.
Against Alabama, Ole Miss had WR Zakhari Franklin and TE Caden Prieskorn back, each coming off surgery, but it was their first game in an Ole Miss uniform and they were just getting going. Look for Harris, Prieskorn and Franklin to play an important role in the offense against the Tigers.
While the Rebels’ defense will need to go toe to toe with the potent LSU offense, Ole Miss has to also come with the same intensity on offense.
Win Third Down
This season the Ole Miss offense has struggled on third down, converting on just 35% of those. In order to re-establish their uptempo style, they will need to convert on more than the 3-of-14 they did against Alabama. One caveat is that the Rebs are 8-10 on fourth down this season. With that said, however, third down is still most important, as having to resort to going for it on fourth down is not something that needs to be relied upon.
Conversely, the LSU offense is converting on 58% of third downs — placing them first place in the SEC. The Ole Miss defense so far this season has held its opponents to a 42% success rate on third down. Early on last week against Alabama, the Rebels did a good job getting off the field, holding the Crimson Tide to just six first half points. This week both the offense and defense will need to put together a full four-quarter effort and win those third down situations.
Ole Miss and LSU kick off at 5:00 p.m. CT and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Nick Filipich was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. He is an Ole Miss alum with a degree in Sports and Recreation Administration. A sports junkie with a great passion for all things Ole Miss, Nick played baseball and football in high school — which is where he discovered his love for sports. He is an avid Braves and Saints fan, and in his free time enjoys spending time with family, friends and his black lab, Dixie.