Big Jump In SEC West Standings On The Line In Magnolia Bowl Matchup Between LSU and Ole Miss

This longtime rivalry between LSU and Ole Miss is not just for bragging rights and the Magnolia Bowl Trophy, but whoever comes up on top between these two divisional foes will move up in the standings and solidify themselves in the SEC West Title discussion.

Both LSU head coach Brian Kelly and Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin may be coaching against each other for the first time in the SEC, but both are very familiar with each other dating back when Kelly was the head coach at Notre Dame and when Kiffin was the head coach at USC. Both coaches faced off each other in three previous matchups and Kelly has the slight 2-1 edge all time.

“They won both times out at The Coliseum, we won the one time we went out there to play. Both times our backup quarterback was playing when they won.”

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin on previous matchups against Brian Kelly

“He’s a creative coach offensively, and they always have been cutting edge in terms of what they do. Yeah, and he’s a guy that gets his team playing hard. I mean, they play hard. Offensively there is always an answer to what you do in-game as well.”

“He’s a creative coach offensively, and they always have been cutting edge in terms of what they do. Yeah, and he’s a guy that gets his team playing hard. I mean, they play hard. Offensively there is always an answer to what you do in-game as well.”

“But I think more importantly, they scout you out. I mean, you better know your own self-scouting and where your tendencies are, because he’s going to really dial in on if there is anything that you do — if you do anything defensively, he is going to analyze that and have an answer for it.”

LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Lane Kiffin

LSU Tigers (5-2, 3-1)

The LSU Tigers are coming off their most impressive offensive performance against Florida last week in the Swamp. The offense scored touchdowns on its first six drives and quarterback Jayden Daniels had one of the greatest single game performances in LSU history accounting for six total touchdowns (three rushing, three passing) in the 45-35 win over the Florida Gators.

Daniels showed confidence in throwing the ball downfield and because of that, the passing game was clicking. Kayshon Boutte had his best game by far this season leading the team with six catches for 115 yards. Now, the preseason All-American comes into this matchup against a team that he had the best performance of his career two years ago when he had a SEC single game record 14 catches for 305 yards and three touchdowns against the Rebels. The star receiver talked to the media earlier this week and gave his thoughts on the passing game that is starting to click for the Tigers.

“We came in, we kind of talked a little bit, but as the season went on we kind of started spending more time together trying to build that bond, and I feel like it’s starting to pay off. Finally starting to get together on the field is just everything connecting.”

LSU Wide Receiver Kayshon Boutte

It is not just Boutte, but the whole receiving core is feeling confident as of late with Jaray Jenkins and Brian Thomas also scoring touchdowns last week. Add in Malik Nabers, Kyren Lacy, tight ends Kole Taylor and Mason Taylor, there are sill a lot of weapons despite not having Jack Bech available today because of a back injury.

The running game is led by one of the great stories on this LSU football team and that is former walk-on Josh Williams, who is coming off a career high 106 yards on the ground in last week’s win. His attention to the smallest details impressed Kelly enough to give him the game ball last week despite the number of other great individual performances.

“Yeah, so the theme all week was attention to detail, and so his attention to the smallest of details in that game helped us win. I wanted to make sure that that kind of was followed up with the game ball.”

LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Josh Williams’ performance

Despite having two freshmen at left and right tackle, both Will Campbell and Emery Jones Jr. have already proven to be staples on the offensive line with Campbell earning SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors. In Kelly’s long established career, he can’t remember ever seeing two freshmen start on the offensive line, but the way both the freshmen have been playing this season is something that you normally do not see with players this early on.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever started two freshmen on the offensive line, period, but to have two tackles start is quite unusual. Their mental approach to the game is so far above any freshmen I’ve ever coached.”

LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Will Campbell and Emery Jones

Defensively, the Tigers did not have their best game, but there were a lot of individual performances that stood out last week. Micah Baskerville leads the team in tackles this season with 41 and is coming off a two week period in which he has 26 tackles, two for loss a sack, a pass break up and a QB hurry. Baskerville is playing some of his best football as a Tiger and is just excited to be a part of the Tigers’ defense.

“It’s really just a blessing. I’m just ready whenever they need me, for whatever and wherever out on the field so I just make sure I stay ready.”

LSU LB Micah Baskerville

The linebacking core has been really good this season for the Tigers as Harold Perkins is coming into his own as another future star for the Tigers. He has 31 tackles, two tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, an interception, and five quarterback hurries. Greg Penn has also been having a strong statistical campaign with 32 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, and two pass breakups.

The defensive line is led by preseason All-American pass rusher BJ Ojulari, who has 3.5 sacks this season, 4.5 tackles for loss, and seven quarterback hurries. On the opposite side of Ojulari, there is Ali Gaye, who has been a steady player for the Tigers and Saivion Jones, who has quietly come along as a great rotational piece for the defensive line. On the inside, Mekhi Wingo has been as solid as it gets with 26 tackles, a tackle for loss, and 0.5 sack. Jaquelin Roy and Jacobian Guillory will both play a lot inside for the Tigers.

In the secondary, Jay Ward is playing his way to becoming an All-SEC performer with 31 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception, three pass breakups, and a fumble returned for a touchdown. Like Ward, Greg Brooks has been all over the field with 31 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a game winning interception against Auburn.

Overall, the defense led by defensive coordinator Matt House has given up 21 points per game and 338 total yards per game.

The special teams has cost the Tigers a lot in football games and that continues to be a big issue, but punter Jay Bramblett has been a bright spot averaging 45 yards per punt and kicker Damian Ramos came up big with a game clinching field goal against Florida last week.

After losing by a large margin at home against a top ten team in Tennessee two weeks ago, the Tigers will try to get that bad taste out of their mouths with another potential top ten team in the Ole Miss Rebels.

#7 Ole Miss Rebels (7-0, 3-0)

The Lane Train is on a roll this season in the top ten, undefeated, and on top of the SEC West. This is also only the fourth time that the Rebels have started a season at 7-0. The Rebels will look to continue to keep it going, but will face its toughest challenge at Death Valley against the LSU Tigers.

Offensively, as expected, the Rebels are one of the best offenses in the country ranked in the top 15 nationally in scoring (40.9 points per game) and yards per game (502.9). Even though Kiffin is associated with big plays in the passing game, this year, it has been all about the running game. The running game has been dominant ranking third in the country with 271 yards per game. Kiffin will rely heavily on a great 1-2 punch duo in the backfield, which includes freshman sensation Quinshon Junkins (720 yards rushing and ten touchdowns) and TCU transfer Zach Evans (605 yards and seven touchdowns).

USC transfer Jaxson Dart takes over at quarterback and has to replace program great Matt Corral under center. Dart is third on the team in rushing with 371 yards on the ground and has thrown for 1,488 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Dart has been known for making big plays with his arm as he is seventh in the country in yards per attempt.

“He’s a pure — I mean, if he was in a different — and I’ve played against him in a pure passing spread offense. I mean, he’s a beautiful thrower of the football. He is California, you know, throw the football, I mean, he has all those traits.”

“But he is also athletic enough and can run that they’ve put him in a system where he becomes a dual threat. We played Hooker. We played Richardson. We’re going to play Jefferson. These are big bodied, thick, physical quarterbacks, right, that are not — look, they’re all really good quarterbacks that can throw, but they don’t throw like this kid.”

“This kid has the ability to drop back 50 times if they wanted to and throw the football.”

LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Jaxson Dart

His top receiver is Jonathan Mingo, who leads the SEC and is fourth in the country in yards per reception (23.05). Mingo is a veteran as he has over 30 starts this season and has 507 receiving yards so far in 2022.

Defensively, the Rebels have been stingy allowing only 17 points per game. What the Rebels do well is that they get to the quarterback and find creative ways to be disruptive. The unit ranks second in the SEC in sacks with 2.7 sacks per game. Jared Ivey leads the team with 3.5 sacks, but ten different players have at least produced a sack this season. Troy Brown leads the linebacking unit as he has 52 tackles this season. The secondary is led by AJ Finley, who is a big, physical safety that leads the defense with 53 tackles and two interceptions.

“Defensively, they’re in a three down defense. We don’t see a ton of what they do. They do what they do well. You know, I think they get pressures. I think they’re second in the SEC in sacks. Difficult sometimes to know where they’re coming from. Have to do a really good job with protections, scanning, and taking care of our quarterback.”

LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on issues Ole Miss’ defense presents

If the game comes down to special teams, the Rebels have the advantage as Jonathan Cruz has made six of seven field goal attempts this season.

Series Matchup: LSU leads Ole Miss 64-41-4 all-time.

Prediction: LSU 31 Ole Miss 27

The biggest question mark is if the LSU offense has finally hit their stride or was it just last week’s performance a flash in the pan. I truly believe that Jayden Daniels can carry last week’s performance to this week. The key for the Tigers offensively is the offensive line. If they can recognize the pressure that Ole Miss brings, then, these receivers could be in for a big day.

On the other side of the football, LSU needs to play bend, but don’t break. Do not give up the big plays in the passing game and make the Rebels one dimensional. The Rebels have heavily relied on the running game this season so the key is for the defensive line to stop the run and force Jaxson Dart to beat you in the passing game.

Coming off the Florida win was huge for this LSU team and they are better equipped to play against Ole Miss than Tennessee two weeks ago. Also, Ole Miss has not played the schedule LSU has and as the more battle tested team will help the Tigers in this spot.