After pulling off incredible victories over Alabama and Texas A&M in consecutive weeks and rolling over Tennessee, the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels are flying high as the final stretch of the season gets under way. But head coach Hugh Freeze’s squad won’t look past a No. 24 LSU Tigers team seeking some sort of redemption for their season ahead of Saturday’s showdown at Tiger Stadium.
With the undefeated Rebels ranked in the top five for the first time in 50 years, and both squads entering the matchup ranked for the first time since 2003, the rivalry has taken on serious implications for both sides.
Ole Miss needs to keep its undefeated status ahead of next week’s pivotal home showdown with No. 5 Auburn in order to stay at the forefront of the College Football Playoff hunt. The 6-2 Tigers do have a slim chance of moving up the SEC West standings, and a victory over the Rebels before next week’s visit from Alabama, would be the start. LSU would also need Auburn to suffer another loss to bully its way into the national title race.
Overall history is on LSU’s side with an all-time 58-40 record over the Rebels, but last year they fell 27-24 behind a 41-yard field goal with two seconds remaining. It was the second loss of the season for the Tigers and ultimately dashed their national title hopes in the old BCS system.
The Rebels have come this far thanks to the best ranked defense in the country holding opponents to 10.6 points per game, and picking off opposing passers 15 times, also tops in the nation. Seven of those interceptions have come from Senquez Golson, another two from Cody Prewitt. The senior defensive backs have also accounted for a combined six passes broken up, and have gotten some help from freshman defensive end Marquis Haynes and his team-leading 6.5 sacks. Four other defenders, including sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, have recorded at least two sacks.
Couple that all-around defensive dominance with quarterback Bo Wallace’s 17 touchdown passes, and a pair of 400-yard receivers in Laquon Treadwell and Vince Sanders, and the Tigers have a massive workload to handle.
But LSU appears unshaken by the balanced Rebels, and are instead eager for kick off.
“I’m really anxious,” LSU middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith said to the Shreveport Times. “Man, I can’t wait. I can’t wait until Saturday. I wish in life you could just fast forward to the day that you want and be there, but you can’t.”
Clearly putting their losses to Auburn and Mississippi State behind them, the Tigers have ripped off two straight victories, including the narrow three-point win at Florida and a 41-3 beat-down of Kentucky. They also own the No. 8 defense in the country, surrendering 17 points and 318.8 yards per game.
Beckwith is part of a solid LSU linebacker corps that includes team tackle-leader and junior Kwon Alexander, but against the pass is where the Tigers defense has dominated opponents.
Defensive back Tre’Davious White and safety Rickey Jefferson have accounted for two interceptions apiece, and LSU is first in the SEC allowing 156.3 passing yards per game. The Tigers have also let up only five passing touchdowns all year, just two behind the Rebels.
Start Time: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN
Betting Odds: Ole Miss -3.5
Over/Under: 44.5 points
Prediction: LSU 24, Ole Miss 21