Two in a row?

Houston Nutt is no stranger to Tiger Stadium. On Nov. 23, 2007, Nutt brought his Arkansas Razorback team into Baton Rouge and dethroned the No. 1 ranked LSU Tigers in three overtimes.

At that point Nutt was rumored to be on his way out of Fayetteville, but the destination was unknown.

One year later, Nutt makes his return to Baton Rouge, this time as the head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels.

The Tigers have managed six wins in a row against the Rebels, as well as taking seven of the last eight meetings. Four of those games, however, were decided by three points or less.

Last year's meeting became one of the rare exceptions as the Tigers jumped out to an early lead, which they never let go of, winning 41-24.

Yet, with Ed Orgeron out and Nutt in, the Rebels have righted the ship, already securing a bowl berth after last year's losing season.

The defending National Champions are heading down a different path in 2008, looking to get a win over the Rebels in hopes of finishing the Southeastern Conference schedule with a chance at a winning record.

With Cotton Bowl hopes on the horizon for both teams, the first-annual Magnolia Bowl could be a make or break affair for the hopes of either SEC West team making the trek to Dallas on Jan. 2.


A Look at the Rebels Offense

Sophomore Texas-transfer Jevan Snead has been the saving grace on campus this semester. Since Eli Manning graced Oxford in 2003, the Rebels have seen sporadic play from Ethan Flatt, Michael Spurlock, Seth Adams and Brent Schaeffer.

With the introduction of Snead, the Rebel offense has finally captured the rhythm that has long eluded them.

Snead ranks third in the league in pass efficiency (132.5) and average yards a game (198.3), completing 136-of-254 passes for 1,983 yards and 17 touchdowns.

His 11 interceptions have hurt, with four of those coming in the Rebels 23-17 loss to Vanderbilt on Sept. 20.

Yet, in the last three games, the sophomore signal caller has seven touchdowns and just one interception.

Coming out of the gates, the Tigers should look for the Rebels to establish the running game before relying on the arm of Snead.

When the SEC thinks of Nutt, the Wild Hog comes to mind, made popular at Arkansas by Nutt and running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Despite the move to Oxford, Nutt has been able to keep the formation alive, now referenced as the Wild Rebel.

Running back Dexter McCluster will take some snaps from quarterback, with either Mike Wallace or Brandon Bolden setting up as the swing man. While Nutt allowed McFadden to throw in the red zone, the reigns are pulled tighter on McCluster. Though a high school quarterback, McCluster has been sporadic in his attempts through the air, going 0-for-4 on the season. Two of his four passes have been interceptions, the first against Wake Forest and the most recent against Alabama.

In addition, since Nutt's return to Fayetteville on Oct. 25, the Rebels have lined McCluster up at the tailback spot out of the I-formation, which has spelled success.

Junior running back Cordera Eason is coming off back-to-back 100 yard games. Carrying the ball 109 times for 545 yards and three touchdowns, Eason has picked up steam with the progression of the season, becoming the Rebels most reliable running back in a bunched backfield.

Going over 350 yards last weekend against Louisiana Monroe, the ground game looks as formidable as ever.

Mix in the open field production of freshman Brandon Bolden, as well as the red zone carries of freshman Enrique Davis, and the Rebels become a four-headed monster at the running back position, three of which have gone over the 400 yard mark on the season.

Eason will get the start, but look for production from all three other backs to come as the game progresses. The Wild Rebel should show its face, as Nutt knows the success he experienced over the last few years when using the formation against the Tigers.

The production at wide receiver has been three-fold, with junior Shay Hodge leading the way with 31 catches for 545 yards and seven touchdowns.

Senior Mike Wallace and McCluster each sit within 50 yards of Hodge's mark, with Wallace pulling in 26 catches for 500 yards and two touchdowns and McCluster grabbing 34 passes for 498 yards and a touchdown.

Regardless, the Tigers should look for the Rebels to establish the running game out of the gates before relying on the arm of Snead.


A Look at the Rebels Defense

On defense, the Rebels have been good at stopping the opposing team's ground game. On the season, Ole Miss ranks third in the SEC against the run, only allowing an average of 103.4 yards a game.

The success begins at the defensive line, where junior Greg Hardy has recorded 4.5 sacks and an interception despite playing in just five games. Almost back to full health, Hardy can be a big problem if he is in the Tiger backfield often during Saturday's showdown.

Junior Marcus Tillman has shown great success since moving back to defensive end, while senior Peria Jerry has been flawless in his attack from the opposite end of the line.

Sophomore Kentrell Lockett, a Hahnville-native, looks to continue to be a power on the defensive line against the Tigers, already recording 28 tackles on the season.

The linebacker corps has been sluggish, and rotation has come on a weekly basis. Jonathon Cornell, Ashlee Palmer and Lamar Brumfield should get the start, with sophomore Allen Walker rotating in and out after showing solid signs of progression in the Rebels last few outings.

While defending the run has been a success, stopping the passing game has been quite another story.

The Rebels rank last in the league in pass defense, allowing an average of 225.2 yards per game.

The move of Marshay Green from wide receiver to cornerback in the summer has not been an easy transition, seeing Green often becoming the weakest link in the Rebels defensive chain. Struggling with bigger receivers, offenses have attacked Green early and often.

Cassius Vaughn and Dustin Mouzan remain the other two cornerbacks in the Rebels three-man rotation and look to get a majority of the plays if Green gets off to a sluggish start.

Safety play has been consistent, seeing solid production from both Kendrick Lewis and Jamarca Sanford. Lewis leads the entire defensive unit with three interceptions, while Sanford leads the team with 71 tackles.


A look at the Rebels Special Teams

One of the weakest links over the past few seasons in Oxford has been the special teams play.

Welcome special teams’ coordinator James Shibbest to the scene, and the Rebels have moved themselves back into the top half of the conference in terms of production.

Ole Miss ranks third in the league in kickoff coverage, allowing a net average of 45.7 yards a game.

Look for back up linebacker Patrick Trahan to be the difference maker on the coverage team. The Auburn-transfer and New Orleans-native has been in on 16 tackles this season, a majority coming in kick coverage.

Mike Wallace remains the chief return man for the Rebels, taking 27 returns for 680 yards and a touchdown. Look for Bolden to line up alongside Wallace on kickoffs, while Green will handle the punt return duties.

Green returned a punt 44 yards for a touchdown last season against the Tigers in Oxford, so the threat is definitely present. On the season, the Bastrop-native has returned 20 punts for 213 yards and a score.

Kicker Joshua Shene has successfully converted on all 36 of his extra points, while hitting on 14-of-16 field goals.



The Tigers will have the home-field advantage, though recent memory shows that neither the Rebels nor Nutt have any fear of traveling into Death Valley.

Coming off of last week's roller coaster win over Troy, the Tigers look to get into their rhythm early, not able to fall behind against a team like the Rebels as they did against the Trojans.


Our Call

Offensively, the Tigers will have to decide a direction out of the gates.

Riding Charles Scott and Keiland Williams early seems the safest bet, but those yards will not come easy against a stingy Rebel defensive front.

With Ole Miss ranking last in the league against the pass, look for offensive coordinator Gary Crowton to pull a bevy of aerial formations out of his bag of tricks.

Still, the success will only go as far as freshman quarterback Jarrett Lee can take the Tigers. If Lee falls into another poor outing, the Tigers could be in for a long afternoon.

Defensively, LSU will need to get after Snead early and often. Against South Carolina and Auburn, Snead suffered as a result of the early defensive pressure. If the Tigers can get into the backfield, Snead should begin to fluster.

While McCluster and Co. have seen success out of the Wild Hog, the formation is far less dominant without the presence of McFadden and Jones. All the while, after not showing the formation at all last weekend, look for the Rebels to line back up in the set sporadically throughout the game.

If the Tigers can move the ball on the ground, and win the field position battle, then the passing game should open up for Lee.

If the ground game does not get going early, the Tigers could find themselves in very hot water.

Nothing like a little drama for the last home game of the season…….

LSU 27, Ole Miss 24

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