This one could be his biggest challenge, however, given how his team has performed all season, standing at 4-6 and with four losses in its last five games, including a 52-14 drubbing by Tennessee last weekend in Knoxville.
The Tigers enter the contest 9-1 overall, their lone loss by a 24-17 count at Auburn. In their past two games since that loss they've beaten Alabama 24-21 and Louisiana-Monroe 51-0.
LSU is fifth in AP and in the BCS standings. A shot at a national championship is still on the minds of the Tigers and obviously their goal.
Ole Miss hasn't fully recovered from a season-opening loss to Jacksonville State and another September setback to lowly Vanderbilt. Had the Rebels won those two, a record of 6-4 overall might be more indicative of where this team should be.
But at 4-6 overall and 1-5 in Southeastern Conference play, the Rebels have to beat LSU and Mississippi State to finish with enough wins to become bowl eligible, a tall order given their play this season and recently.
LSU enters with a defensive-minded team that is currently second only to last year's national champion, Alabama, in scoring defense in the SEC currently (14.6 points per game) and is actually tops in total defense. Offensively the Tigers average 27.9 points per game, only ninth in the conference. But it's been enough to win all but one game. In total offense, LSU is next to last with only Vanderbilt behind the Tigers.
Ole Miss hasn't been the team on defense any expected in the preseason. A defense that was supposed to lift Ole Miss at least until its offense could get rolling now ranks dead last in the SEC in scoring, allowing 34.8 points per game. In total defensive statistics, the Rebels are tenth, with only Tennessee and Vanderbilt below them, two teams Ole Miss lost to this season.
Houston Nutt made an impassioned plea Monday at his weekly press conference in Oxford. It was before the media but could have been directed at any number of people – his players, his coaches, the Ole Miss fans, the media itself. Perhaps he was speaking to all. He said his players had already heard his message on Sunday of picking themselves up, dusting themselves off, and finishing this season strong.
Ole Miss offense in brief: The Rebel offense, which has become hit and mostly miss recently, scored only 14 points against a Tennessee team last week that is 11th currently in total defense.
A terrific improviser, Jeremiah Masoli just hasn't been able to be the magician under center that has been needed with an offensive line that has slowly matured and developed.
The Rebel running game has also improved as Brandon Bolden gets closer to becoming a 1,000-yard rusher this season. If Ole Miss is to win these last two ballgames, that aspect of the offense must come through. Masoli said he's ready to forget the past and play some more football.
"I put that horrible game from last Saturday behind me and am looking for a chance for us to redeem ourselves," said Masoli, who threw three interceptions against Tennessee and missed several open receivers.
"I am fine now and I was fine in that game. There were no side effects from the concussion. It was just a bad game. You have to have amnesia as a quarterback and I'm alright now. We are pushing through the last game and have put it behind us."
Ole Miss defense in brief: The Rebel defense has been so porous Ole Miss hasn't had a chance to win big games in the SEC. Some of it has been youth, some of it injuries, some of it bad luck, the rest inexplicable. The Tigers will try to run, run, and run some more against a Rebel defense that is giving up nearly 35 points a game this season. LSU is fourth in rushing offense but a dead-last 12th in passing the football for yardage. Unfortunately the Rebel defenders have made even suspect passing teams look pretty decent. Tennessee freshman Tyler Bray looked first-team All-SEC in his team's romp of the Rebs in Neyland Stadium, going 18 for 34 for 323 yards and three touchdowns. LSU won't likely be able to accomplish that, but against the Rebel defense, it has a shot to move the ball through the air.
Ole Miss wins if...LSU head coach Les Miles takes the clock into his own hands. Last season some apparent clock mismanagement late allowed the Rebels to escape at home with a 25-23 win over the Tigers, a victory that vaulted Ole Miss into at least a Cotton Bowl appearance and maybe more. But a loss at Mississippi State the next weekend kept the Rebels from a Capital One Bowl trip to Orlando. This year the Rebs need to beat LSU to still have a fighting chance at any bowl when MSU comes to Oxford just after Thanksgiving. To get their fifth win of the season Saturday, Ole Miss will have to play its best game of the season. No performance witnessed so far this fall would be good enough to win in Baton Rouge, unless the Tigers help out with some turnovers – and Miles gets his hands on that clock again.
LSU wins if...the Tigers play like they have all season. Control the football on offense through the run game. Play stellar, smothering defense that ranks high in the league and the nation.
Don't make turnovers deep in their own territory that give Ole Miss a chance to score on a short field. The Rebels have had trouble scoring this season even in short-field situations, but their chances increase inside the opponent's 50.
Ole Miss has been vulnerable, to say the least, to the big play, as in giving them up for points on at least a couple of occasions most games.
If things remain true to form, LSU will have a long run for a touchdown or a return on special teams for a score, which have this season been back-breakers for an Ole Miss team that desperately needs to prevent them from happening.
LSU defensive player to watch: Defensive tackle Drake Nevis. The senior is on basically every watch list regionally and nationally. The 6-foot-2, 285-pounder has been SEC defensive player of the week four times already this season. He was national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Foundation after a seven tackle, one sack, one forced fumble game against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
LSU offensive player to watch: It might be called special teams, but his leg produces points. Senior placekicker Josh Jasper is the LSU career leader in field goal percentage. Translation? The guy can make them. In his career he's been good on 85 percent of his field goal attempts. This year against Mississippi State in a 29-7 Tiger win, he made five field goals to set a new LSU record for successful field goals in a single game.
Noteworthy: This is the 99th meeting between Ole Miss and LSU. LSU is Ole Miss' second-most played opponent, behind Mississippi State, which the Rebels have faced 106 times...Ole Miss holds a 4-3 edge against LSU in the last seven games played between the two teams in Tiger Stadium.