Ed Orgeron’s first crack at beating a Top 25 opponent at LSU comes Saturday night, and it’s against the team that once employed (and fired) him in No. 23 Ole Miss.
The Rebels are one of the most exciting and frustrating teams to watch in college football this season. Their 3-3 record indicates mediocrity, but they squandered chances to beat Florida State, Alabama and Arkansas in a trio of high-scoring shootouts that would have had Ole Miss coming into this game ranked No. 1 had they gone the other way.
AH: On a scale of 1-10, how shocked is the average Ole Miss fan to see Ed Orgeron as the head coach of another SEC team? Does his presence increase the animosity of the matchup at all for fans?
DP: I’m not sure Ole Miss fans ever expected to see Ed Orgeron roaming another SEC sideline as a head coach, even if it is as an interim, after his disastrous tenure in Oxford. A lot of time has passed since then — and Ole Miss has a lot more to worry about against LSU than getting back at its former coach — but I can’t imagine losing to another team coached by Orgeron after he left Ole Miss’ program in shambles wouldn’t sting a little bit more for the fans.
AH: Is there anything the Rebel run defense can do differently to slow down Derrius Guice and a now-healthy Leonard Fournette?
DP: Outside of the defensive line playing the game of its life, no. The misses in recruiting are glaring at linebacker while young safeties continue to make youthful mistakes with their run fits, putting a lot of pressure on the front to make every play. Ole Miss is 104th nationally against the run with many of its issues there having to be fixed with experience and recruiting, which won’t help against what’s likely the most talented running back tandem they’ll see all year in Fournette and Guice.
AH: Wisconsin was able to do some things to the LSU defense with its tight end. How often should we expect to hear Evan Engram’s name called Saturday?
DP: A lot. Ole Miss’ receivers are a matchup nightmare for any defense, and Engram, who might as well be a receiver, is the biggest of them all. He leads all tight ends nationally in receptions and receiving yards and has caught 82 yards worth of passes in all but one game this season. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, he’s too quick for linebackers and too big for most safeties, and defenses have to choose which receiving option to take away. If Ole Miss is going to win, it’s going to be because Engram and the rest of the receivers make plays.
AH: The second half has been unkind to the Rebels this year. Are they playing too fast for their defense’s own good, or are there other factors?
DP: Ole Miss is last in the SEC in time of possession, so that’s probably not helping the defense. But like most up-tempo offenses, the Rebels are at their best when they go fast and stay in rhythm, so that’s not going to change. Ole Miss is halting its own momentum with self-inflicted wounds most of the time. The Rebels haven’t won the turnover battle in any of their three losses, and uncharacteristic drops at Arkansas kept them from getting drives going late.
AH: LSU hasn’t allowed more than 20 points. Ole Miss has not scored fewer than 34. Which impenetrable object bends on Saturday and why?
DP: Ole Miss put up 43 points on Alabama, so I think Chad Kelly and his receivers are talented enough to put at least 20 on anybody. But I don’t know how far over that the Rebels will get Saturday. Ole Miss will have to keep Arden Key and the rest of an LSU defense that will be ready to get after Kelly honest with some semblance of a running game, but if the Rebels fall behind early and have to become one-dimensional too quickly, they may not be able to score enough to win.
Potter’s Pick: LSU in a close one. 27-24.