Tigers Seek Redemption

LSU travels to Oxford on Saturday to take on the Rebels in a battle for the Magnolia Bowl trophy. Ole Miss is coming off an impressive victory against Tennessee, while LSU limped its way to a victory last Saturday.

Last Saturday night LSU showed up flat and disinterested in a Homecoming game against La. Tech. A 20+ point favorite, the Tigers were lucky to get out of Death Valley with a victory.


This team was supposed to be different. Last week, they looked just like the 2008 squad that hobbled their way through the last few games of the regular season after a heartbreaking loss to the Crimson Tide. Players must shoulder some responsibility, but just as much blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the coaches.


LSU could’ve won easily had they run the football more, and thrown off of play action. Instead they regressed into early season form with a successful run followed by a five wide formation. And why is there never anyone to dump the ball off to when LSU is throwing the ball?


Lately, once LSU has been eliminated from the SEC race and any hopes of a national title, the team seems to go on auto-pilot. That’s not good. It’s a trend that Les Miles needs to erase immediately, because in the SEC, LSU will not be winning a division title or national title every year.


Furthermore, if the Tigers limp into Oxford and play with the same lack of passion, and operate with the same game plan, they will leave with an “L”. Not only will they be humiliated, they will be humiliated on national television in an afternoon game. Hint: A lot of voters will be watching.


It’s put up or shut up time for the LSU coaches and players. Jordan Jefferson or not, this team needs to play with pride and passion.


When Ole Miss Has the Ball


Ole Miss has a lot to play for Saturday. As I stated earlier it’s an afternoon game on CBS, and a win against a highly ranked opponent would improve the bowl bids for the Rebels. This is a team that struggled under the pressure of early season expectations. Now they are back in their comfort zone.


Make no mistake Tiger fans, this is not the Ole Miss team that started the season. They have found their identity offensively and are playing with a lot of confidence.


You don’t have to watch any game film to know what the Rebels are going to do. They are going to get the ball into the hands of their best player, and give him an opportunity to make plays.


In case you were drowning your sorrows last week after LSU’s lackluster performance, that player is Dexter McCluster. McCluster is an explosive tailback that can run and catch. He has incredible quickness, can stop on a dime, and make cuts at full speed.


He spent last weekend shredding the Tennessee defense to the tune of over 300 total yards. He will line up in the wildcat. He will line up in the slot. He will line up at tailback. McCluster will even line up in the defensive backfield on occasion.


In short, the offense will flow through No. 22. For the season, McCluster has 107 carries for 775 yards and six touchdowns. He also has 31 receptions for 394 yards and two scores. Again there’s no mystery here.


Brandon Bolden will spell McCluster when Ole Miss runs the football. The Baton Rouge-native has 111 carries for 608 yards and four touchdowns.


But make no mistake about it; McCluster will be the focus for the Ole Miss offense.


Jevan Snead is the signal caller for the Rebels. He’s struggled all season long with his accuracy throwing the football. For the season he has completed 147 passes on 278 attempts with 17 touchdowns.


Snead also has thrown 14 interceptions. He will turn the ball over when pressured, or sometimes when trying to fit it into tight spaces.


Shay Hodge leads the Rebels with 50 catches for 810 yards and six touchdowns. McCluster and Bolden are the second and third options when Snead is throwing the football.


You don’t need to be a genius to devise a game plan for the LSU defense. When McCluster or Bolden aren’t rushing the football, they are catching it out of the back field. The Tigers need to key on the Ole Miss tailbacks when they’re in the game.


There shouldn’t be an offensive snap for the Rebels where McCluster and Bolden aren’t accounted for. Ole Miss will use misdirection and a wildcat formation to try and get McCluster into open spaces. LSU has to stay home, and attack the line of scrimmage.


They cannot wait for plays to develop. They need to disrupt plays before they can develop.


If the Tigers can stifle the Rebels rushing attack, then it will be up to Snead to beat them. Snead is a talented player. He has the ability to beat LSU with his arm, but the Tigers have to force him to do it. To date, he’s struggled when the game has been put in his hands.


When LSU Has the Ball


It appears that Jordan Jefferson will be starting for LSU, but even if he’s not, the Tigers have to establish a running game. If Jefferson starts you can expect LSU to throw the ball frequently, provided he’s not gun shy and is able to get rid of it quickly.


It’s hard to imagine that Jefferson will be mobile or able to run the ball much with his dinged up ankle. In case he can’t go, LSU has to shorten the game by converting on third and short and moving the chains. Ball control has not been a priority for LSU this year. For the Tigers to be successful, it better be on Saturday.


Look for either LSU quarterback to rely on Brandon LaFell and Terrance Tolliver.


I feel very strongly that Tolliver should not play this week and that he shouldn’t have been allowed to re-enter the game last week.


I was critical of the Florida Gators for allowing Tim Tebow to play after his concussion. It wouldn’t be right to sugarcoat what is going on with Tolliver. He should not play, but I suspect that he will.


Certainly the freshman Russell Shepard will get some touches. With Jefferson not at full strength, it makes sense to expand Shepard’s responsibilities in this game and see how he responds. He should get some snaps at tailback and in the wildcat formation.


It would be out of character for this offense, but Keiland Williams and Stevan Ridley need at least 30 touches between them to win this game.


For Ole Miss, the game plan is simple. They will load up the box with eight defenders, and try to stop the LSU rushing attack. If they can contain the run, they will force Jefferson or Jarrett Lee to beat them through the air. It will be interesting to see what sort of game plan LSU brings into this contest.


How We See It


This is a game that all boils down to passion. Ole Miss is a talented team, but LSU is better. However, LSU will have to play with the same passion that they did against Alabama.


It’s hard to imagine that LSU will be as up for this game as the Rebels will. Early mistakes let the Rebels get out to an early lead and LSU never recovers…….


Ole Miss 31, LSU 17

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