Who has the edge?
With the intrigue enveloping the Tigers’ two-quarterback situation, this might’ve been a close competition … until Ole Miss starter Randall Mackey got himself suspended earlier this week. Now the Rebels will turn to Zach Stoudt, who lost the job to Mackey after a slow start. Even with Mackey, this spot was an LSU lean because Jordan Jefferson is coming off his most productive day since returning to action six weeks ago and Jarrett Lee’s body of work this season is much better than the Rebels’ QBs.
Running back: LSU
|Alfred Blue: Coming off career-best 119-yard, 2 TD effort vs. WKU|
Both teams have spread the wealth in the backfield, LSU mostly by choice and Ole Miss out of necessity. Now the Rebels have to scale back their versatility with leading rusher Jeff Scott on the shelf due to suspension. That tilts this spot heavily into the Tigers’ favor with the three-headed monster of Spencer Ware, Michael Ford and Alfred Blue with an occasional Kenny Hilliard chaser. The Tigers have a chance to run wild against the SEC’s worst rush defense (allowing 5.2 yards per carry, 209.9 yards per game) and Ware is due for a breakout performance after two lackluster games since he came back from suspension.
Receivers/tight ends: LSU
This sets up as a 400- or 500-yard day for the Tigers offense, which means they’ll have to do some damage through the air. That shouldn’t be a problem with Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham Jr., Russell Shepard and Jarvis Landry poking around in the porous Ole Miss secondary. Randle has the second most TD catches in the SEC with 8 and most of those have been deep throws, which should be readily available. The Rebels’ top pass-catchers are led by Donte Moncrief (26-439, 4 TDs) and Nicholas Brassell (23-341, 2 TDs), but their effectiveness with a backup quarterback is shaky.
Offensive line: LSU
The Tigers have been solid up front all season, despite a revolving door at times due to a spate of nagging injuries. They appear to be close to full health now and that’s a huge advantage against Ole Miss, which is working behind an o-line that has generated only 3.5 yards per rush and has surrendered 28 sacks (11th in the SEC) for a league-worst 216 yards lost.
|Bennie Logan and the LSU defensive line present major problems for the Rebels|
Defensive line: LSU
This is another ugly mismatch in LSU’s favor. The Tigers rank secondly nationally in rush defense, with only 83.8 yards allowed per game and 2.6 yards per tote and have recorded 24 sacks despite facing a handful of spread offenses that make it nearly impossible to generate constant pressure. The Rebels? Uh, not so good. Foes are gashing them for 5.2 yards per carry and 209.9 yards a game on the ground, and they’ve only dumped the opposing QB 13 times, last in the SEC. Not only is this a blowout in LSU’s favor with the starting front four, the Tigers’ second unit is better than the Rebels’ first crew.
For the first time all season, the Tigers’ linebackers showed their mettle and played a major role in a stout second-half defensive effort against Western Kentucky. Kevin Minter notched a career-best 11 tackles, Ryan Baker had a season-high 9 and Tahj Jones swiped a pass. Besides the raw numbers, the LSU backers also showed something by adjusting well to Western Kentucky’s reliance on throwing to the tight end. Mike Marry is the Rebels’ top tackler with 73 this season and he has a pair of sacks. But he hasn’t gotten much help from either side.
|Mo Claiborne headlines an LSU secondary that is among the elite in the country|
Surprisingly, this is a little closer than it might seem. Yes, the Tigers possess arguably the best collection of defensive backs in the country, and they’ve certainly been splendid this season. But if Ole Miss has a flicker of hope on defense, this is the spot. Charles Sawyer has four interceptions and fellow corners Wesley Pendleton and Nickolas Brassell have broken up 5 and 4 passes, respectively. LSU has the better secondary, but the Rebels defensive back personnel can at least cause some headaches for the Tigers.
Special teams: Even
If there’s a spot where Ole Miss has been respectable this season, it’s in the kicking games. The Rebels lead the SEC in punt return average (22.6 yards per return) with a pair of touchdowns and rank second in kickoff coverage. That’s offset this week by LSU’s dominant performance in the punting game, sparked by Brad Wing’s 42.9 yards per kick, and kicker Drew Alleman’s 13-for-15 accuracy on field goals. Losing Scott hurts Ole Miss on the punt returns as has averaged 17.2 yards a pop with a 67-yard touchdown. The Rebels will turn to Brassell, who has an 84-yard score to his credit.