Three Keys to Victory: LSU

Ole Miss and LSU are set to clash at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS. Both teams are bowl eligible entering the game for the first time since 2003.

Embrace the rivalry

The last time these two teams met in Baton Rouge, Ole Miss came within one play of scoring a monumental upset over the Tigers. LSU converted a fourth-and-goal when Jamarcus Russell found Dwayne Bowe on a slant route in the end zone.

Then, after the Rebels blocked the extra point to force overtime, LSU finally put the game away by holding Ole Miss on its possession. Last year was also a struggle for the Tigers for a while.

These close losses can work in the Rebels favor. Ole Miss isn't intimidated by LSU or Death Valley, and the Tigers have to expect nothing short of a war Saturday afternoon.

This game is for second place in the SEC West, and while the Rebel program has been in hibernation since 2003, these teams are right now on equal footing. Both teams are bowl eligible, so this one is about pride.

It is about the rivalry. The Magnolia Bowl trophy is to be unveiled, and LSU is going for program win No. 700.

Ole Miss can feed off these things. Its head coach beat the No. 1 Tigers the last time he was in Baton Rouge. The Rebels want the inaugural rivalry trophy and to end LSU's six-game winning streak in the series, all while not allowing the Tigers to celebrate a program milestone.

The first shot in Ole Miss' resurgence was the improbable victory at Florida, and the Rebels have also proven they can play off momentum and ride a streak. After taking care of business without a slip against Arkansas and Auburn, Saturday becomes the most important regular season game since…well LSU in 2003.

Houston Nutt will hammer all these points home, and Ole Miss needs to come out swinging. The Tigers have a tendency to let their guard down, and the Rebels can deliver an early hook to their collective chin.

Sustain that energy and Saturday can be an immeasurably important day for the Ole Miss program.

Get to the quarterback

While LSU has similar athletes to its BCS bowl teams of years past, but less than mediocre quarterback play has haunted the Tigers. Due to Ryan Perrilloux being forced out of Baton Rouge, LSU has had to rely on Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee, while Jordan Jefferson has also come into the fold recently.

Lee will be the main signal caller Saturday, and the young QB has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns (15-14) this season. After throwing a pass out of bounds last week against Troy, the Tiger Stadium crowd applauded, signifying Lee's struggles to try to do too much and cause major problems by throwing into coverage.

Opponents have taken Lee's interceptions back for touchdowns a remarkable seven times this season. So, if the Ole Miss defense can harass him, Lee will make mistakes.

It is also important for pressure, because even if Lee isn't upper-tier, his group of wideouts are plenty capable.

Getting to Lee will keep LSU from stretching the field or allowing Brandon LaFell, Demetrius Byrd and company to get in the open with the ball.

Keep special teams special

If I'm giving coaching awards, it is hard to look past the job James Shibest has accomplished with the Rebel special team units. This time last season, punting was a tragic comedy, and Ole Miss was squibbing every kickoff.

Under Shibest's direction, the Rebels have consistently kicked the ball deep and covered well. Also, Rob Park has improved immensely as the season has progressed. Ole Miss was excellent when defending top returners Javier Arenas and Brandon James, and that same effort will be required this time against Trindon Holliday.

The diminutive speedster has lit the Rebels up in the past, and special teams breakdowns can't occur this week. In a close game on the road, cheap touchdowns can cause things to snowball.

Return well, contain the Tigers and capitalize on scoring chances, whether it be three or seven. Doing those things should have Ole Miss in position for its seventh win.

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