Baton Rouge, LA (SportsNetwork.com) – The third-ranked Ole Miss Rebels will
put their undefeated record to the test in Death Valley on Saturday night when
they travel to Baton Rouge to take on the 24th-ranked LSU Tigers in an SEC
showdown at Tiger Stadium.
Ole Miss’ perfect season so far has left it one of just four remaining
unbeatens in the nation, joining No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 2 Florida State
and No. 23 Marshall. The highlight of the Rebels’ season came in a 23-17
victory over then-No. 3 Alabama, and they most recently made easy work of
Tennessee last weekend with a 34-3 triumph to improve to 7-0 overall and 4-0
in the daunting SEC.
“We’re excited to be 7-0 going into (this matchup with LSU), but we also
understand that the same attention to preparation will have to even be
heightened more going into that environment and playing in there against such
an athletic, physical and quality football team,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze
said. “It’s going to be a great, great challenge for us.”
LSU was absent from the polls for a few weeks following a pair of tough losses
to top-five teams – losing at home to Mississippi State on Sept. 20 (34-29)
and at Auburn on Oct. 4 (41-7) – but it returned to the likes of the
nationally ranked by winning two straight to improve to 6-2. The Tigers
dominated Kentucky on their home field last Saturday with a 41-3 triumph.
“Defensively, (Ole Miss is) as good of a group as we will face,” LSU coach Les
Miles said. “We will have enthusiasm and enjoyment for preparation. This will
be a great opportunity to improve and play against a quality opponent.”
LSU holds a 58-40-4 advantage over Ole Miss in the all-time series. The Tigers
had claimed three straight in the series before the Rebels won in Oxford last
When held to the lofty standards of the SEC, Ole Miss’ offense ranks middle of
the road, placing seventh in both scoring and yardage, but those numbers (35.4
ppg, 433.3 ypg) are still plenty impressive.
The leader under center is Bo Wallace, who throws for more than 270 yards per
game on 65.6 percent completions, while accounting for 19 touchdowns. He’s
only thrown six interceptions, and three of those came in the season opener.
Wallace has plenty of trustworthy receivers to rely on. Laquon Treadwell is
the team leader in catches (34) and yards (458) and has scored four
touchdowns. Vince Sanders (26 receptions, 424 yards) and Cody Core (22
receptions, 345 yards) also have four touchdowns, and Evan Engram (19
receptions, 292 yards, TD) has been solid as well.
Jaylen Walton has emerged as the top option coming out of the backfield with
347 yards and four scores on 59 carries (5.9 ypc), but the team as a whole
hasn’t been too efficient running the ball, averaging less than four yards per
While the offense has impressed, the Rebels wouldn’t be where they are today
without their elite defense. The unit is the nation’s best in terms of points
allowed (10.6 ppg) and ranks eighth in total defense (290.6 ypg).
The team ranks third in the FBS in turnovers gained (20) thanks largely to the
efforts of cornerback Senquez Golson, who has seven interceptions despite
missing two games in September.
“I can’t say I always expected that he would reach (his potential), until fall
camp this year when I saw he had really bought in,” Freeze said of Golson.
“He’s always had the talent and the athletic ability. It’s really not
surprising that he’s playing this well.”
Marquis Hayes has caused havoc up front with 6.5 TFL and three forced fumbles.
Other defensive standouts include Tony Conner (42 tackles, 4.5 TFL, INT), Mike
Hilton (37 tackles, two INTs) and Cody Prewitt (35 tackles, 3.5 TFL, two
As for LSU, its offense has also been stellar this season with 35.6 ppg and
415.6 ypg, despite its lack of identity under center.
Miles uses a two-quarterback system and has rolled with the hot hand depending
on the situation. Anthony Jennings played most of the Kentucky game but had
just 120 passing yards and a touchdown on 7-of-14 passing. Jennings’ numbers
this season have been modest at best (.500 completions, 1,048 yards, seven
TDs, three INTs), and Brandon Harris (.566, 452 passing yards, six TDs, two
INTs, 152 rushing yards, three TDs) is still very much in the mix.
Leonard Fournette is in the midst of a great freshman campaign with 544 yards
and seven touchdowns on 108 carries. Terrence Magee (57 carries, 344 yards,
three TDs) had his hand in several facets of the Kentucky game with 220 all-
purpose yards and two touchdowns.
Travin Dural (26 receptions, 655 yards, seven TDs) is one of the nation’s best
big-play receivers, with his 25.6 yards-per-catch average ranking first in the
nation among players with at least 20 receptions.
LSU’s defense may not be as stout as Ole Miss’, but it has played well
nonetheless (17.0 ppg, 318.8 ypg). The unit dominated in the blowout win over
Kentucky by allowing just 217 yards.
The balanced defense is anchored by Kwon Alexander (49 tackles, 3.5 TFL, two
FF), Danielle Hunter (46 tackles, 8.0 TFL, sacks, FF), Ronald Martin (43
tackles, INT, FF) and Kendell Beckwith (41 tackles, 1.5 sacks, INT). Eleven
players have at least 20 tackles and 19 have double-digit stops.