Rebel defensive coordinator Dave Wommack — who’s been with Hugh Freeze since his Arkansas State days — has loaded up with talent on his side of the ball and is taking full advantage. Ole Miss ranks No. 8 in the country in total defense (290.6 yards/game), No. 1 in scoring defense (10.6 points/game), No. 6 in run defense (97.1 yards/game) and No. 20 in pass defense (193.4 yards/game).
The Rebels also have the most interceptions in the nation (15) and the fifth best turnover margin (+10). Ole Miss is coming off a performance against Tennessee in which they held Tennessee to zero yards rushing, 41 if you disregard the seven sacks.
So how difficult will it be for LSU to move the ball on this “Landshark” defense? Will break down the Rebels’ defensive attack, and below you’ll find the projected starters for the Ole Miss defense.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
DE: Fadol Brown (So., 6-4, 280)
DT: Robert Nkemdiche (So., 6-4, 280)
NT: Bryon Bennett (Sr., 6-2, 293)
DE: C.J. Johnson (Jr., 6-2, 225)
STINGER: Serderius Bryant (Sr., 5-9, 220) —OR— Denzel Nkemdiche (Jr., 5-11, 212)
MLB: D.T. Shackelford (Sr., 6-1, 247)
HUSKIE: Tony Conner (So., 6-0, 217)
FCB: Senquez Golson (Sr., 5-9, 176)
ROVER: Trae Elston (Jr., 6-0, 195)
FS: Cody Prewitt (Sr., 6-2, 217)
BCB: Mike Hilton (Jr., 5-9, 182)
Key Backups: DE Channing Ward (Jr., 6-4, 274), DT Lavon Hooks (Sr., 6-3, 318), MLB Christian Russell (Jr., 6-0, 235)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
If there’s one certainty for Saturday’s game, it’s that LSU is going to try and run the ball. That’ll mean going right at Ole Miss’ biggest strength. The Rebels have been stingy against the run, and they have the personnel to not only defend speedy, read-option offenses, but they’re also built to stop a power attack like LSU’s.
Ole Miss will likely load up on big bodies across the line to defend against the Tigers’ physical front. The combination of Fadol Brown, Robert Nkemdiche and Bryon Bennett have combined for for 6.5 tackles for loss this season and 46 total. Also look for 274-pound Channing Ward to have a big impact in this game, as he leads Ole Miss defensive linemen with 19 tackles.
The Rebels are averaging 3.31 rushing yards on first down and 3.71 on second down. Their goal will be to get the Tigers in obvious third-down passing situations, where they can put on the lighter, faster, more disruptive pass rushers. Marquis Haynes has 6.5 sacks this season, and CJ Johnson has a pair of sacks to his own credit.
Just like with the defensive line, you can expect the Rebels to load up at linebacker with the bigger bodies. The 247-pound DT Shackelford is poised for a big game as he brings his 34 tackles (three for loss), two sacks and two quarterback hurries into the contest. Look for Serderius Bryant to have a bigger role than the speedier Denzel Nkemdiche as the Rebels key in on the run.
Tony Conner a five-star safety coming out of high school has become an all-around playmaker for this Ole Miss defense. He leads the team with 42 tackles, 4.5 for loss. He also has an interception, and he’s someone LSU will have to find on every pre-snap read. You can expect him to spend most of his time in the box on Saturday.
As great as Ole Miss has been against the run, the Rebels have been equally tough in the passing game.
The Rebels have been very opportunistic in the secondary, nabbing a nation’s best 15 interceptions. Senquez Golson has seven of them, and even though he doesn’t have the height (5-foot-9), he’s been extremely tough on the receivers.
Anthony Jennings has only thrown three interceptions this season, none of which came against SEC opponents. LSU likely won’t ask him to throw it much, and even when he does, they’ll be short, safe routes. But if LSU finds itself in a hole, he’ll have to be careful against this Ole Miss secondary if he’s asked to get the Tigers back in it through the air.