LSU Faces Road Test Against Ole Miss In Top 20 Magnolia Bowl Matchup

After a last second 34-31 victory against Arkansas at home, the LSU Tigers now look ahead as they will take on the Ole Miss Rebels with another trophy on the line in the Magnolia Bowl Trophy.

Like against the Arkansas Razorbacks, this is a rare early season matchup between the Tigers and the Rebels. In fact, this is only the second time since 1941 that the two SEC West rivals will meet during the month of September. Although it is early, this is still a huge divisional matchup that could come a long way in deciding the SEC West at the end of the year.

Both teams come in with a record of 3-1 and are ranked in the AP Top 25. Coming in at #13 is the LSU Tigers, which are looking for their first 3-0 start in SEC play since the Tigers’ national championship season in 2019. Meanwhile, #20 Ole Miss is coming off their first loss of the season against Alabama by a final score of 24-10.

While the two teams are familiar with each other so are the coaches. Last year, Brian Kelly got the better of Lane Kiffin as the Tigers pulled away from the Rebels in the second half 45-20.

Before they met as SEC opponents, both coaches met each other quite often while Kelly was at Notre Dame and Kiffin was at USC. Kelly has the head-to-head advantage at 3-1 all-time.

Kelly is looking to improve that mark at 4-1 as the LSU Tigers come in as the number one offense in the SEC. Coming into this game, LSU has been dynamic on the offensive side of the football leading the SEC in scoring offense (42.8 points per game) and total offense (530.0 yards per game). Not to mention, they are also number two in passing (338.3) and number three in rushing (191.8) for the conference.

The dual threat signal caller that makes this offense go is Jayden Daniels. The second year LSU starter is coming off his second straight SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week award as he is leading the SEC in passing yards per game (324), passing efficiency, and passing touchdowns (12). He is also number one in the SEC and number three in the country when it comes to total yards of offense with 372 yards per game. At this rate, Daniels is playing as good as any quarterback in the country and is on pace to have the second best passing season by a LSU quarterback only behind Joe Burrow.

Daniels is playing at a high level, but what helps is that he has two of the best receivers in the country to throw the football to in Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. The dynamic duo became only the second wide receiver combination to have over 130 yards in a game last week joining Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, who both did it against Texas in 2019.

“We gave him the game ball. We thought the plays that he made, the big plays. If you watch carefully, they were bracket-covering Malik. They had man-to-man plus the safety inside-out with the linebacker low or drop- so sometimes they had three defenders. So, we had to find alternatives, and again Brian Thomas stepped up big for us and made some plays down the field. We were still able to shake Malik loose on some over routes that got him out of some of those double coverages. When we did get one on one like in the fourth quarter, Jayden threw a dime and dropped it right in there. So, it is really about the quarterback making great decisions and then finding these talented receivers and then making plays.”

LSU HC Brian Kelly on Brian Thomas Jr. and Malik Nabers’ big night

Nabers had another big game against Arkansas after a record-breaking Mississippi State performance the week prior as he had 8 catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns while Thomas jumpstarted the Tigers’ offense with back-to-back 49-yard touchdown catches on 5 catches for 133 yards. When Nabers is being double covered, Thomas is going to make sure that he takes advantage of 1 on 1 matchups.

“I feel like when they double Malik, it opens things up. More one on ones for me through the air. We just have to go out there and win our one-on-ones when given chances to go ahead and make that play.”

“I feel like we can be one of the best offenses in the country. I feel like we have the best wide receivers in the country. We just want to keep building on each other.”

LSU WR Brian Thomas Jr.

It is not all about the passing game as the running game has been a key component to the Tigers’ offensive success. Although the Tigers have a talented and deep running back room, lately, it has been Logan Diggs that has emerged as the team’s RB1. The Notre Dame transfer is number three in the conference when it comes to yards per game with 84.3 and has averaged over six yards per carry.

“I have seen explosiveness. Logan sees the holes and he bursts through them. He has done a great job of going through those holes and getting that extra two to three yards after contact. He has been doing a great job and has been getting us those extra yards when we need it.”

LSU OL Emery Jones on Logan Diggs

The Ole Miss defense does have its hands full against this LSU offense that is clicking on all cylinders, but it does not mean that they cannot be successful on Saturday. In fact, this has statistically been one of the best defenses that Lane Kiffin has been around, especially against the run as the Rebels have given up only 2.9 yards per carry and has not given up more than 24 points in every game so far under former Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding.

“They play really hard. Our big thing this week is to go in there and play harder than them in executing our game plan.”

LSU OT Emery Jones on Ole Miss’ defense

What has plagued the Rebels has been their third down defense as they are 110th in the country when it comes to that category and they are also only 88th in the country in defensive passing success rate so Daniels and his talented receivers will have opportunities to make a lot of plays.

However, there are some players to keep an eye on for the defensive side of the football including freshman LB Suntarine Perkins, who leads all SEC freshmen and is tied for the FBS national lead among freshmen with 3.0 sacks. Perkins will most likely be assigned to spying Daniels, especially when he tries to take off as a runner. Cedric Johnson is also a pass rusher that the Tigers’ experienced offensive line needs to account for as he currently leads the Rebels in QB pressures and is their active leader in sacks with 14.5. With Golding as the defensive coordinator, the Rebels have been much more aggressive on the defensive side of the football being ranked second in the SEC in sacks.

In the backend, veteran cornerback Deantre Prince and Liberty safety transfer Daijahn Anthony have been very productive and hard to throw the ball against, but they will have their hands full against the Tigers receivers.

Even with an improved Ole Miss defense, this game is looking like it is going to be a shootout as the Ole Miss offense also enters the game as one of the best offenses in the country. Jaxson Dart is sixth in the country in total offense (328.8) and No. 8 in yards per pass attempt (10.6). Dart was challenged in the offseason as two more transfers came in during the offseason, but Dart answered the call and is on pace to have his best season yet. Like last week’s matchup between Daniels and KJ Jefferson, this is another intriguing quarterback matchup between two of the best in the conference.

“We got to do a better job of just cage rushing and rushing the middle. We got great guys that are going to get there to him. We just got to do a better job of pass rushing and holding our run lanes.”

LSU DE Bradyn Swinson

Like Jefferson, Dart is a big, physical quarterback that has the ability to run. Players on the defensive line like Bradyn Swinson, Da’Shawn Womack, Mekhi Wingo, Maason Smith, Saivion Jones, Ovie Oghoufo, Jacobian Guillory, and Jordan Jefferson will have an advantage up front against an Ole Miss offensive line that has struggled the majority of the season. The biggest key is for LSU’s defensive line is to contain Dart inside the pocket and prevent him from extending plays.

The front seven in general has to set the tone for the LSU Tigers as they have a good linebacking core too led by Harold Perkins, who is coming into his own with 3.5 TFLs and 2 sacks, Greg Penn, who led the team last week with 12 tackles, and freshman sensation Whit Weeks, who ever since filling in for Omar Speights, has been one of the team’s best defensive players with 21 tackles in the last couple of games.

“It feels good. Playing in Death Valley has always been a dream of mine. Playing in front of 100,000 people is different. Coming into camp, I was really running with the twos and not running with the ones, but I knew when I get my chance, I would make the most of it.”

LSU freshman LB Whit Weeks

LSU’s defense will try to have success against the run as well. Surprisingly, the Ole Miss rushing attack has not gotten off to a good start as sophomore star running back Quinshon Judkins is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry. The Tigers will look to bottle up Judkins and not let the former SEC Offensive Player of the Week get his breakout game of the season.

Lane Kiffin is one of the best offensive minds in the country and after Arkansas had success in confusing LSU’s secondary on a couple of busted plays in coverage, the Rebels are looking to exploit that with some wrinkles and gadget plays to take advantage of the Tigers’ weakness in the backend.

Like LSU, Ole Miss has some talented receivers in Jordan Watkins and Tre Harris. Watkins is leading the team in catches and yards with 24 catches for 347 yards while Harris has been their touchdown guy with five touchdown grabs on eight catches.

The Tigers’ pass defense is looking to have a bounce back game and although there have been some struggles in the backend, there have been some good performances including Andre Sam, who is coming off a 7 tackle, a half TFL, a PBU, and an interception.

LSU head coach Brian Kelly knows that Ole Miss is going to be trying to throw LSU off, but Kelly wants his defense to go and do their own job while not worrying about executing other people’s jobs.

“We have to do the ordinary things extraordinary well. We are having the tendency to chase too many plays on defense. We are trying to make plays that are not our plays to make. Once we settle down and do the things extraordinary well, this can be a really good defense because they have shown that they have resiliency, toughness, and players necessary to do that.”

LSU HC Brian Kelly on defensive struggles

Saturday will be another big task for this LSU defense to see how much they have improved and have learned from their lessons last week against Arkansas.

The pivotal ranked matchup will be broadcast on ESPN at 5:00 P.M. and is the 112th all-time meeting between these two neighboring SEC rivals.

Keys To The Game:

  1. Win the time of possession.
  2. Be the better team on third down.
  3. Stay disciplined. Don’t fall for the gadget plays on defense.

Final Score Prediction: LSU 41 Ole Miss 34

Check out the full photo gallery from Billy Metcalf taken during the LSU/Arkansas game!