There are two Ole Miss football teams. And there’s a good chance that LSU will have to play both of them this weekend.
One is the team that jumps out to huge leads. The other is the team that gives them up. And there’s really no way of knowing when the turning point will come. When Ole Miss lost to Alabama, it came near the end of the first half. Against Florida State, it came right after halftime. On Saturday against Arkansas, it didn’t come until the fourth quarter. And against Georgia, it never came. Ole Miss won that game by 31 points.
Ole Miss certainly is a good team; teams with 3-3 records aren’t ranked very often. But when a team is as unpredictable in its likelihood to collapse as Ole Miss is, it makes it much more difficult to prepare for what’s coming.
That said, there’s still a blueprint for how to beat Ole Miss, and how Ole Miss beats you. So, here are three trends to watch out for when LSU hosts Ole Miss this Saturday:
1. Chad Kelly loves the second quarter
The Ole Miss quarterback leads the SEC in nearly every passing stat this season, and he owes a lot of that to his efforts in the second quarter. Kelly has thrown seven of his 14 touchdowns this season and is completing about 68 percent of his passes in the second quarter. By comparison, Kelly completes just 55 percent of his passes in the second half.
2. Ole Miss thrives in the red zone
When Ole Miss has a chance to score, it rarely squanders the opportunity. The Rebels have come down with at least a field goal in 93.3 percent of their red zone trips the season, the second-best mark in the SEC. Seventy-three percent of the time, Ole Miss scores a touchdown, the best mark in the conference. Unsurprisingly, the red zone also is where Kelly excels. Ten of his 14 touchdowns and none of his five interceptions have come inside his opponents’ 20-yard line.
3. The Rebs move fast, and that isn’t exactly a good thing
Like most spread offensive coaches, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze takes pride in how quickly his team can move down the field. But that speed has come at a detriment to finding a rhythm this year. Ole Miss ranks 127th out of 128 FBS teams in time of possession, holding the ball for an average of 23:43 per game. This plays well for LSU: In two games under Ed Orgeron, LSU has held the ball for an average of 32 minutes per game.
Odell Beckham Jr. gets his own section
ODELL. BECKHAM. JR.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) October 16, 2016
As he does pretty much every Sunday, Odell Beckham Jr. turned enough heads on and off the field to merit his own Shakespearian drama. Beckham was the Giants’ offense Sunday, catching 8 passes for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 66-yard score with less than two minutes left that ended up being the difference in the Giants’ 27-23 win.
If he just caught some passes, that would be one thing. But Beckham’s Sunday was a three-act play, complete with intrigue, controversy and even romance.
- First, it didn’t look like Beckham was going to be able to finish the game. He went down in the first half with a hip injury and missed time, but he returned to play through his injury.
- Then, after his game-winning touchdown, Beckham was flagged for taking off his helmet too early, the same penalty that cost Georgia its win over Tennessee. Just like Georgia, the penalty almost cost the Giants their win, but the defense ultimately held strong.
Odell Beckham Jr just proposed to the net after another long TD, and it said yes ? pic.twitter.com/FXjfCc8VnK
— Brennan Cassidy (@brennandcassidy) October 16, 2016
- And finally, Odell completed his month-long love trilogy with the Giants’ kicking net. After the net fought him a couple weeks ago, and Beckham fought back last week, the receiver followed Beyonce’s directions and put a ring on it Sunday. The net said yes.
Your weekly NFLSU update
Believe it or not, there are more former LSU players in the NFL than just Beckham. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the notable names from Sunday’s action.
- Bengals wide receiver Brandon LaFell showed up against his former team, catching a touchdown against the New England Patriots. LaFell finished the afternoon with 2 catches for 13 yards.
- Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry continued his big season, catching 7 passes for 91 yards, enough to keep him in the top five in the NFL in receptions.
- San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid notched 7 tackles and 1 pass breakup in the Niners’ loss to the Bills.
- And, in not-so-happy news, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne left in the second quarter of his team’s win with a concussion. The Cowboys have a bye next week, so there is a chance that Claiborne won’t miss any time.
LSU fans aren’t being particularly discreet: If the athletic department isn’t going to stick with Orgeron as the Tigers’ next head coach, fans want the top target to be Houston coach Tom Herman. And while I personally think there might be better fits for LSU than Herman (you can read more about that here), there’s no denying that every high profile school with a coaching vacancy will be recruiting Herman like he’s a 5-star quarterback.
Herman and his Cougars gutted out a victory against a quality Tulsa team Saturday. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. accounted for 254 passing yards and 142 rushing yards, but somehow no touchdowns, as Houston won 38-31.
One of the main problems I see with LSU putting all its eggs in the Herman basket is precisely that kind of output. Herman is a good coach, and good coaches adjust their schemes to their players, but LSU doesn’t have anyone on its roster like a Greg Ward or J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller, the kinds of quarterbacks who thrive in Herman’s system.
That’s not to say they’re impossible to find. Heck, LSU 4-star QB commit Lowell Narcisse comes pretty close to fitting the profile. But the transition to Herman’s scheme would involve a complete offensive overhaul, the likes of which LSU’s running backs, receivers and offensive linemen have likely never endured.
As for the other schools that have been connected to Herman? Oregon took a bye week, Texas overcame a disastrous first half to beat overmatched Iowa State and Notre Dame continued its season-long battle with mediocrity, losing to Stanford. All of those prominent teams are underachieving, but none of them have fired their coach yet.
But … one school has.
Well, wasn’t that a segue?
Purdue fired head coach Darrell Hazell on Sunday, opening a job in the Big 10. According to a poll on our sister site LandOf10.com, Purdue fans want the school to go after Les Miles to fill the vacancy. But is that a good fit?
Well, for one, Miles went to school and coached offensive linemen for seven years in the Big Ten, so he’s familiar with the area. And he’s at least tangentially connected to Purdue’s roster, thanks to his courtship of Danny Etling, who transferred from Purdue to LSU.
Other than that, Purdue doesn’t check many of the Miles boxes. For one, Purdue has historically been a passer’s paradise, producing quarterbacks such as Bob Griese, Drew Brees, Jim Everett and Kyle Orton. This isn’t to say that Miles would turn down a Hall of Fame quarterback, or even a Kyle Orton, but given his track record at LSU, Miles prefers schools with more of a runner’s touch.
Plus, Miles doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to jump at the first opportunity just because it’s there. Especially with the possibility that the jobs at Oregon, Texas and Notre Dame could all become available. And that’s not even mentioning some of the lower-level SEC, Big 10 and Big 12 schools that might open.
Miles will be the top coaching commodity on the market this winter who doesn’t require a buyout. He shouldn’t jump at the first opportunity just because it’s open.
Arbitrary Analysis, Part 1
As I’m sure you’ll get sick of hearing over the next six days, Saturday is the reunion neither Orgeron nor Ole Miss have been looking forward to. Yes, Orgeron — who was Ole Miss’s head coach from 2005-07 — will be leading a squad against his former team for the first time.
So, to honor the occasion, this week I’ll be counting down the five best and most memorable Ole Miss players of the Orgeron era. Let’s get to it.
No. 5: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
The man who became known as the Patriots and Bengals running back, who never fumbled, started off as a Coach O product. The Law Firm rushed for 2,218 yards and 13 touchdowns in two seasons under Orgeron, cracking the 1,000-yard mark in both ’06 and ’07.
His efforts in 2006 earned him a first-team All-SEC nod alongside big names such as eventual No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell and Heisman Trophy finalist Darren McFadden. The Patriots signed BJGE as an undrafted free agent before the 2008 season and he made his NFL debut that October.
So, what makes him memorable? Well, when Ole Miss was struggling to win at such a demoralizing rate as it was during the Orgeron era, a 1,000-yard rusher is pretty darn exciting. Plus, it’s hard to forget a man with four names. If nothing else, fans probably enjoyed the tongue twister.
Your weekly non-revenue sports update
The football team wasn’t the only team at LSU to compete this weekend, but it was one of the few to come out victorious.
• Coming off last weekend’s triumphs over Ole Miss and Georgia, the volleyball team couldn’t continue its winning ways, losing home matches to Florida and South Carolina. The losses dropped the squad to 2-6 in SEC play.
• The soccer team visited Starkville, Miss., to face off against Mississippi State on Friday night and came back home with its second SEC win, blanking the Bulldogs 1-0. The win pushed the Tigers’ record to 7-9.
• In an event that’s still going on, the women’s tennis team’s Skylar Holloway advanced to the finals of the consolation round at the ITA Southern Regional. Holloway will face off against Louisiana-Monroe’s Tiffany Mylonas at 10 a.m. ET Monday.
Reading with Rickey
LSU safety Rickey Jefferson broke his leg in practice last week, keeping him off the field last Saturday and for the indefinite future. But that didn’t stop Jefferson from enjoying the game on social media like a regular fan.
His tweets ranged from positive …
DJ PUT THEM BURNERS ON ????? @DJChark82
— RAMBO (@Self_Made8_) October 16, 2016
… to critical of the referees …
That was early contact!
— RAMBO (@Self_Made8_) October 16, 2016
…to downright depressing.
This is killing me rn??
— RAMBO (@Self_Made8_) October 16, 2016
What’s the moral of this story? Well, I’d suggest you turn on notifications for Jefferson’s tweets, at least during LSU games. No disrespect to Verne and Gary, but Rickey’s analysis is better.