Two games into “The Ed Orgeron Era”, and the LSU Tigers are 2-0. The offense has played better and the defense has been everything we thought it would be up to this point.
Now comes the real test.
Now comes the “meat” of the schedule.
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Now we find out if LSU is battle tested enough to take on a brutal stretch against five ranked SEC opponents.
The gauntlet starts Saturday, when 23rd ranked Ole Miss comes calling. The Rebels are 3-3 (1-2 in the SEC) and 1-3 against ranked opponents, while LSU is 4-2 (2-1 in the SEC).
“The Magnolia Bowl” as it is affectionately known, has been a tightly contested matchup the past few years; with LSU and Mississippi splitting the series 2-2 since 2012.
The Tigers suffered one of their worst defeats in 2015 at the hands of Ole Miss in Oxford 38-17. Since 2012, the home team has won each contest. LSU leads the all time series 59-41-4.
Ole Miss is coming off a crushing 34-30 loss to Arkansas. The Rebels had the ball with time left, but Chad Kelly fumbled the ball which ended the comeback bid.
LSU is coming off two games where the offense scored 40+ points. The defense has been just as dominant, allowing only 17 points to two teams that both ranked in the Top 10 in offense.
Oct 15, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Ole Miss Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10) passes in the second quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Chad Kelly and the Ole Miss offense have taken up where they left off last season. Ole Miss ranks 14th in the country in passing offense, averaging 320 yards a game though the air.
Kelly’s passing prowess and mobility pose a challenge for the LSU defense. In the game last year, Kelly threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for two scores. Keeping Kelly in the pocket will be paramount.
LSU’s 4th ranked rushing attack will be getting a big boost with the return of running back Leonard Fournette, who has missed the last 2 contests with an ankle injury.
Derrius Guice has done an excellent job in his absence, but Fournette is a force to be reckoned with. Coach Orgeron has already made it clear that he plans to have both Fournette and Guice on the field at the same time.
Oct 15, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette before a game against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
This is significant in the fact that Ole Miss struggles against the run.
They are ranked 104th in the country against the rush. Fournette and Guice are a deadly 1-2 punch and both have excellent receiving skills.
I am not quite sure how you game plan for two extremely talented backs. Expect LSU to be cautious with Fournette in the beginning, but if he shows that he is healthy, then look out.
Fun Fact: Ed Orgeron was the head coach for Ole Miss from 2005-07. In that time he led the rebels to a record of 10-25. Not very inspiring, right? Let’s hope Coach O decides to hand the Rebs another “L” to their resume on Saturday night.
Fun Fact #2: Ed Orgeron gave current Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze his first on field college coaching job. Freeze has mentioned how indebted he is to Orgeron and that his current stature is all thanks to him.
I am sure both coaches will save any pleasantries for after the game, as this is a must win for both sides.
Oct 25, 2014; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) carries the ball past Mississippi Rebels defensive back Senquez Golson (21) in the second half at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Mississippi 10-7. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Final Analysis and Prediction
As I mentioned earlier, home field advantage has been a big factor in the last few matchups.
Ole Miss is coming off an ugly conference loss and LSU is trending up after two big wins. I know they weren’t wins against big time opponents, but they were quality wins for a team searching for its identity.
LSU must start fast on offense because Kelly and Ole Miss will come out slinging it all over the field. Danny Etling will need to push the ball downfield and let his receivers make plays to open up the run game.
I don’t foresee another 40 point showing, but the efficiency of Steve Ensminger’s offense along with the “smash mouth” style of play that LSU can deploy; will ultimately vault the Tigers to a victory…….