No. 1 LSU (10-0, 6-0) at Ole Miss (2-8, 0-6)
6 p.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
WDGL-FM 98.1; XM 85; Sirius 85/ESPN
Series record: LSU leads 56-39-4 and has won seven of the last nine games. The Rebels claimed the last meeting in Oxford, 25-23, when the Tigers’ last-ditch comeback effort withered and died in a rash of bad clock management.
In the spotlight: QB Jordan Jefferson
Season stats: 20-of-34 passing for 358 yards, 3 TDs; 42-174 rushing, 2 TDs
There seems to be little mystery that Jefferson has re-emerged as the starter at QB for the Tigers after last week, when he got the opening nod and took every snap for three quarters and the first portion of the fourth before giving way to Jarrett Lee. Jefferson responded well, connecting on 8-of-14 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown while running three times for 31 yards. If he is, in fact, back in the starting role, Jefferson still needs to establish some consistency throwing the ball and avoid the kind of sacks he took against Western Kentucky last week. The Rebels’ defense is equally as vulnerable to the run and the pass, so Jefferson should have a lot of opportunities to strike for big plays. If he does so and avoids turnovers, he’s poised for a breakout performance.
Injuries/suspensions: LG Josh Dworaczyk (knee) out for season, DE Kendrick Adams (knee) questionable
Schedule (10-0, 6-0)
Sept. 3 LSU 40, #3 Oregon 27
Sept. 10 LSU 49, Northwestern State 3
Sept. 15 LSU 19, #25 Mississippi State 6
Sept. 24 LSU 47, at #16 West Virginia 21
Oct. 1 LSU 35, Kentucky 7
Oct. 8 LSU 41, #17 Florida 11
Oct. 15 LSU 38, Tennessee 7
Oct. 22 LSU 45, Auburn 10
Nov. 5 LSU 9, Alabama 6 (OT)
Nov. 12 LSU 42, Western Kentucky 9
Nov. 19 at Ole Miss, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Nov. 25 Arkansas, 1:30 p.m. (CBS)
Dec. 3 SEC Championship Game
In the spotlight: CB Charles Sawyer
Season stats: 60 tackles (37 unassisted), 3 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown), 7 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery
For the Rebels to have a shot at hanging around, they have to force turnovers and that thrusts Sawyer into the spotlight. He is the most active playmaker on the Ole Miss defense and could be a pest to Jefferson or Lee when the LSU quarterbacks throw the ball. Sawyer will likely get some one-on-one chances with Rueben Randle, who will be targeted early and often. If Sawyer can frustrate Randle – and by proxy the QBs – or come up with an interception or two, it could swing momentum the Rebels’ way in a game when they can use any edge that’s available.
Schedule (2-8, 0-6)
Sept. 3 BYU 14, Ole Miss 13
Sept. 10 Ole Miss 42, Southern Illinois 24
Sept. 17 Vanderbilt 39, Ole Miss 7
Sept. 24 Georgia 27, Ole Miss 13
Oct. 1 Ole Miss 38, Fresno State 28
Oct. 15 #2 Alabama 52, Ole Miss 7
Oct. 22 #9 Arkansas 29, Ole Miss 24
Oct. 29 #23 Auburn 41, Ole Miss 23
Nov. 5 Kentucky 30, Ole Miss 13
Nov. 12 Louisiana Tech 27, Ole Miss 7
Nov. 19 # 1 LSU, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Nov. 26 at Mississippi State, TBA
Three keys to the game
1. Strike quick, strike big: With the Rebels playing loose and with nothing to lose, they’re likely to try just about anything when they have the ball. To neutralize that, it’s important for LSU to pop in front and establish a comfortable cushion to avoid any semblance of tightness on either side of the ball. The Tigers’ defense is too good to get burned too much by gadget plays, but an early one that gives Ole Miss a lead could create problems.
2. Get ’em both involved: As much as it looks like Jefferson has climbed back into the driver’s seat at QB, keeping Lee integrated in the offensive game plan is major as LSU jumps back into SEC play. He’s played a vital role getting the Tigers this far and will likely be needed to jump-start the offense at some point in the next six weeks. Leaving him twisting in the wind could create morale problems for him and lead to cracks in the foundation of team chemistry.
3. Make them earn whatever they get: Moving the ball and scoring points has been a challenge all season long for the Rebels, who rank 10th, 11th or 12th in every major offensive category – scoring only 18.7 points a game and generating just 297.8 yards a contest. Along the way, Ole Miss has generated 35 plays of 20 yards or longer, nine for touchdowns. They also have two non-offensive scores of 80-plus yards. It’s vital that LSU not get gouged for big plays, which happened a few times last season in a 43-36 victory in which the Rebels craved out 420 total yards.
This is a rivalry game and there will be emotion and intensity, etc. But there will also be a vast difference in talent and experience, and one team will be motivated to the hilt with an SEC Championship Game in reach and the other is simply playing out the string for a lame-duck coach. Could the Rebels make things interesting at home? Sure. A safer bet is that they’ll try some trick plays, fall into a huge hole and spend most of the night trying to make this one respectable. The Tigers should find plenty of chances to click offensively and should cruise. … LSU 41, Ole Miss 13