I discussed possible outcomes for this game to some extent when I mentioned my subjective top three versus my computer top 3. Also, if you’re not among the large rush of people that discovered this for some reason, I updated my LSU/Ole Miss rivalry blog and will do so again after the game.
I’m not enthusiastic about the LSU offense despite the easy win last week. The Tigers were helped out by defensive and special teams play to a large extent. However, I’m very skeptical of this notion I’ve seen out there that LSU won’t do anything in the running game and will be forced to fall back on the passing game.
I highlighted a few comments in one article at CFN and responded to them:
(1) [Apart from NMSU, LSU hasn’t] given it up more than once in any other game. Last week against Kentucky was the first time all year LSU didn’t come up with a takeaway and lost the turnover battle, and it was only -1. If the LSU defense can hold down the Rebel offense and not keep it from getting up early, and the O doesn’t make a slew of errors, this should be close.
(2) LSU will try running the ball, it won’t work
(3) Prediction: Ole Miss 31 … LSU 13
(1) is if things go well for LSU, at least the part that says “this should be close” (close meaning within a few points, not within a few touchdowns). In addition to some possible defense and special teams contributions, I think we can run the ball really well; and in recent weeks, we’ve added more variation to the running game. LSU might also win if some of the 10- and 20-yard passes are made possible with good decision-making and a varied running game. The passing game has been admittedly weak; but like with Zach Mettenberger against Alabama two years ago (where he had been generally ineffective in earlier games, and it was expected the Alabama defense would destroy him), I think it’s due for a decent game. And let’s not forget LSU did pass for 341 yards against Mississippi St.
I know we don’t want to get down like that again, but those 341 yards probably would have been enough to win the game had LSU managed to punch the ball in the end zone rather than falling a yard short.
I certainly think Mississippi St. knew we would be passing late in the 3rd and in the 4th quarter, and we still got those yards and points (19 in the last 12 minutes, 13 in the last two minutes) . If we don’t fall behind like that, Ole Miss won’t necessarily know when a pass is coming rather than a run.
I don’t accept (2) at all. I don’t know who Elijah McGuire is, but he plays for ULL and he ran for 66 yards on 10 carries. They ran for 197 yards overall, and that was with 30 pass attempts. If our running attack is worse than ULL’s, we should be winless in conference.
Vandy (which IS winless in conference) didn’t put up as many yards against Ole Miss as ULL did, but one RB ran 18 times for 95 yards. Temple, by contrast, held him to 70 yards and Vandy as a whole to 54 yards (I guess after sacks were subtracted).
I think (3) is realistic though. We could get yards on a few drives, stall around the 30 or 40 and struggle to put any points on the board all night. On the other side, Wallace can have a really good night and lead the Rebels on four or five touchdown drives. Our defense will not be able to keep up if our offense has few if any sustained drives.
I could go on about Ole Miss having inflated defensive statistics, but our offense does have the potential to make them look really good regardless.
Ole Miss fans have talked of “good Bo” and “bad Bo,” in reference to their quarterback. I happen to think bad Bo might make an appearance in dealing with a night game at Tiger Stadium and a defense that’s coming together well.
We did allow too many points at Florida, but one touchdown was on special teams and another was set up by a special teams return. (The Gators’ go-ahead touchdown resulted from their offense taking over at the LSU 9. That remains the only touchdown the LSU defense has given up in the last seven consecutive quarters.)
I don’t think Wallace will completely unravel, so LSU could have a number of things go well and still lose a close game. Also like I said, they could have some things go not so well and yet not disastrous and still lose by a considerable margin.
I mentioned a couple of different Alabama games for comparison earlier (because they’ve more commonly been the level of a team Ole Miss is this year), so I’ll mention one more. This one wasn’t a close game.
Last year, LSU lost to the Tide, 38-17. The Tigers lost two fumbles and were penalized for 73 yards, but it didn’t take any kind of disaster or meltdown for that big of a loss to take place. Mettenberger actually had a pretty good game: 16/23 for 241 yards. LSU also went a respectable 7/12 on third downs.
But when it got to be late in the game, Alabama would take over and not give the ball back. They took a 7-point lead after a nearly 8-minute drive in the third quarter. Then they took14- and 21-point leads after fourth-quarter drives of about 5 minutes apiece. In total, the Tide had the ball 20 of the final 27 minutes of the game. Meanwhile, LSU just hit a wall on offense. There were a couple of short completions (maximum 20 yards) and a few runs (maximum 5 yards), but they only got a couple of first downs.
So that’s something that can happen against a good team. I think it’s more likely LSU will be a better running team than a passing team (the opposite of the Alabama game last year), but sometimes good teams just take over and there isn’t much you can do about it.
Basically, I can foresee anything from an LSU win by a few points to an LSU loss by a few touchdowns. Ole Miss could run away with it and win by 30+ like Auburn did, but I’m fairly confident that will be LSU’s worst loss of the year, probably by a decent margin.
One other thing I found interesting: although Ole Miss ranks #8 in total defense, #7 is Wisconsin, which LSU beat in Week 1.