With most Ole Miss fans and media having just arrived home from the Texas A&M game it’s hard to imagine that Game Day is almost here again, but it is and in a big way.
Unfortunately too many Ole Miss players, particularly on defense, won’t be able to take part. As many as five defensive starters could be out.
It’s hard enough taking on a physical back like Jeremy Hill at full strength. The Rebels were close to that last year — CJ Johnson was out much of the game — when they limited Hill to 77 yards on 20 carries, a win for the Ole Miss defense. He still managed three touchdown runs, one early from 28 yards then two more, each from 1-yard out.
It would be easier to plan against the Tigers if they were limited to Hill. Unlike last week against Texas A&M, this isn’t about stopping one player. A&M had its weapons too, but LSU has more. Wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are having all-star years.
Nobody behind them is producing much at all, but nobody has to. Those guys have been more consistent, and LSU may have the best run-pass balance of anybody in the league.
It all starts with an improved Zach Mettenberger at quarterback. He was more sporadic last season, his first as a starter. Right now he has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 15-3.
Ole Miss had gone from being unsettled at cornerback to pretty good as Mike Hilton had come on at the position. Hilton is out, and that opens a door for Charles Sawyer, who has made a lot of plays in his career but not many this year as he’s trying to work his way back from injury and indiscretion.
I like the Rebels’ chances to slow Hill in a more traditional run game.
A healthier Ole Miss secondary last week showed it could stop one go-to receiver, but LSU has two.
Pass rush hasn’t been very disruptive this year, and Mettenberger leads the SEC in passing efficiency with a 184.1 rating.
Ole Miss’ best chance to win revolves around its offense, just like last week.
Here’s a guy who can help with that:
Bigger role this week.
Clearly, freshman wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, who had three catches last week, is expecting to get the ball. Hugh Freeze has praised Adeboyejo’s talent from Day 1, but his sudden emergence makes me think a message is being sent about recent drops by the collective group.
The Rebels needed to match Johnny Manziel score for score and almost did it. This week they need to sustain drives and keep their defense off the field as much as possible. Let them get rest and coaching during the offensive possessions and hope that group goes as hard as it can for as long as it can.
I don’t doubt the Rebels will come out and play with effort. I doubt how long that effort can hold up. Fatigue became a factor at the end of last year’s LSU game, a narrow 41-35 Tigers victory in Baton Rouge.
This is not a David and Goliath matchup if Ole Miss has its best players at full strength, but their absence makes it one. The Rebels will not only be missing key players, but they’ll have some key players on the field at less than full strength.
Prediction: LSU 35, Ole Miss 26