Rebs have tough, but doable, task

As Ole Miss braces for their annual tussle with LSU tonight at 7, the numbers are staggeringly in favor of the Tigers, and that's not even mentioning the home field advantage of Death Valley at night. But guess what? Clichés take over.

They put their pants on one leg at a time.

That's why they play the games.

They can only put 11 players on the field at one time.

The field is 100 yards long for both teams.

David slew Goliath. . . .

There are hundreds of "underdog" clichés that could apply to tomorrow night's LSU-Ole Miss football game in Baton Rouge, and they wouldn't be around if there wasn't some truth in them.

The facts don't lend themselves to a Rebel victory. There's no argument to that statement. Even the oddsmakers are scoffing at the Rebels, setting the line at 27 ½ points in favor of the Tigers.

LSU is a powerful, deep football team. You have to shake your head in wonderment how they have lost two games this year. Many say, and believe, their second team would win some games in the SEC. That may be a stretch, but it's not far off.

The Tigers are ranked number one in the SEC in the only two statistical categories that really matter – scoring offense, averaging 34.3 points per game, and scoring defense, allowing only 10.4 points an outing.

They are also number one in pass defense, rushing defense, total offense and total defense, but that's just icing on the cake. Scoring/scoring defense are the ones that matter.

But having relayed all that daunting info, this is a rivalry game and anything – and I mean anything – can happen in rivalry games.

This Ole Miss team has been through a lot this year and only a small percentage of it could be classified as "good," but they have kept coming up to the plate and swinging as hard as they possibly can.

They almost hit one out of the park several times this year – at Alabama, and at home against Auburn – who is one of the teams that defeated LSU – and Georgia, who recently steamrolled Auburn.

Those results prove the Rebs' ability to be competitive with talented teams such as LSU.

But what is the magic formula to put them over the top? What is the button to push to help the Rebs finish what they start in one of these high-profile games? In short, what do the Rebels have to do to knock the Tigers off in Death Valley tonight?

One, enter that environment as confident as they entered Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa a little over a month ago. After playing Georgia close and beating Vandy at home the previous two games, they thought they belonged on the field with Bama. They must feel the same way when they step on the turf at Tiger Stadium.

Two, it's time for the Rebels to play a "clean" game on both sides of the ball. They've come close to an error-free game, but a couple of plays have thwarted their efforts, i.e., a couple of interceptions versus Auburn, giving up a 3rd-and-26 at Alabama, and so on. The Rebs don't have to play perfect, but they cannot beat themselves. In this kind of game, miscues are often magnified. They don't need to put pressure on themselves because tense players never perform, but they must understand the importance of minimizing their mistakes and do whatever they can to concentrate on being error-free.

Three, do not get caught up in the environment. The Rebs have to block out the crowd. Better yet, silence them by getting out of the gate quickly like they did against Auburn and Northwestern State. LSU is an extremely fast-starting team, as their first quarter numbers indicate. The Tigers have outscored opponents 115-14 in the first stanza this year.

Four, continue to show improvement. It will take the Rebs' best effort to this point to win. That goes without saying, but Ole Miss has shown, for the most part, weekly improvement this season. That trend has to continue. If they are a "little bit" better than they were against Auburn, this thing is doable.

There are certainly other things that have to take place for Rebel success, but they will fall in line if those four criteria are met. As in all games, the Rebels have to be able to run the ball and have to be able to slow down LSU's rushing game. They must create some pressure on LSU QB JaMarcus Russell in order to hinder the Tigers' potent passing attack. Ole Miss QB Brent Schaeffer must be on target and make good throws when pass plays are there to be made. Special teams must be solid.

It's not a complicated deal. The basics of football apply.

If the Rebels are strong enough between the ears, they will be strong enough to pull this one out.

There's no question the odds are long, but much stranger things have happened in this series during its rich history. Upsets happen every Saturday, without fail. The Rebs are due for an upset. It's been a while.

Nobody gave David much of a chance either, but Goliath fell.

LSU is – talent-wise – one of the Goliaths of college football. The experts agree on that point. But they have been rocked two times this year.

There's no reason the Rebs can't make it three.

OM Spirit Top Stories