Crunch time is upon the LSU Tigers. After losing two consecutive games to Alabama and Arkansas, the Tigers will look to preserve its New Year’s Six bowl hopes against the high-powered Ole Miss Rebels in the Magnolia Bowl in Oxford, Miss.
Getting back on track has been the mantra for coach Les Miles and his squad. The Tigers have been outscored 61-30 during the past two weeks and have sustained swoons on both sides of the ball.
A game that was once expected to decide the winner of the SEC West will now represent a rebound opportunity for both teams. The revitalization begins at Vaught-Hemingway on Saturday afternoon. Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s pivotal contest:
No. 15 LSU Tigers (7-2) at No. 22 Ole Miss Rebels (7-3)
Kickoff: Sat., Nov. 21, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Weather: 48 degrees, 35 percent chance of rain
Line: Ole Miss -6.5 (WestGate)
By the numbers
16: It has been 16 years since the Tigers have lost three consecutive games, when LSU went 3-8 in 1999. They are the only team in the SEC without a three-game skid since 2005 and have had only three, two-game skids during that same time span. Of course, two of the three two-game losing streaks have come in consecutive seasons. The Tigers have lost back-to-back games to Alabama and Arkansas the past two seasons.
12.6: LSU has given up 12.6 plays of 10 yards or more per game this season, according to The Advocate’s Ross Dellenger. The Tigers have been especially susceptible to big passing plays, as they have allowed an average of 8.8 passing plays of 10 or more yards per game this year, according to Dellenger.
125.70: Ole Miss’ run defense will enter Saturday ranked 23rd in the nation with an average of 125.7 rushing yards per game allowed on the season. It will be the third-consecutive week the Tigers have faced a defense ranked inside the top-30 against the run.
575: LSU tailback Leonard Fournette has run for 575 yards with an average of 5.6 yards per carry in games without his two best blockers, fullback JD Moore and tight end Dillon Gordon, according to Dellenger. Both players are out for the season with knee and Achilles injuries, respectively. Fournette ran for 899 yards and averaged 7.9 yards per carry when Moore and Gordon were active, according to Dellenger.
Storylines to watch
How does Les Miles coach with his back against the wall?
The pressure is starting to build for coach Les Miles. The entire week leading up to Ole Miss has been filled with rumors regarding his job security at LSU. Some are reporting that Miles will have to win the next two games and finish 9-2 to preserve his job. Miles’ gameplan may reflect that sense of urgency and could provoke a more aggressive plan of attack. Most of all, Miles needs a win to quiet the doubters.
Does Leonard Fournette have one last Heisman-esque game in him?
Fournette has gone from overwhelming Heisman Trophy favorite to completely out of the race in a matter of weeks. He still leads the nation in rushing with an average of 163.78 rushing yards per game, but has rushed for just 122 yards and two touchdowns during his last two games. The Tigers need Fournette to be at his very best to help keep Chad Kelly and the rest of the Rebels’ offense on the sidelines.
Can Brandon Harris beat Chad Kelly in a shootout?
This game could potentially turn into a shootout, which would tailor more to Ole Miss. The Rebels will enter Saturday ranked eighth in the nation in passing offense with an average of 348.8 passing yards per game. LSU’s pass defense ranks 45th in the country with an average of 208.9 passing yards allowed per game. If this turns into a shootout, the Tigers will need Brandon Harris to step up and lead the offense.
Harris has struggled lately after it appeared he had turned the corner a few weeks ago. Harris has completed 27 of 54 passes for 399 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in LSU’s two losses. He may be called upon to outduel the SEC’s best quarterback on Saturday.
Will Laquon Treadwell go off against the Tigers?
Treadwell is by far the best receiver in the SEC. The junior leads the SEC by a long shot in receiving with 68 receptions for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns and will enter the contest ranked 15th in the country with an average of 100.2 receiving yards per game. Tre’Davious White will likely draw Treadwell in coverage, but the Tigers may want to give White some help over the top to prevent Treadwell from exploiting the big play this weekend.
Prediction: Ole Miss 33, LSU 24
LSU will find the running game against the Rebels and Fournette will finally break the 100-yard barrier, but it won’t be enough against an immensely talented Rebels team. LSU will keep it tight, but it’s tough to trust the Tigers to contain Treadwell and limit the big play opportunities in the passing game. LSU will drop its third-consecutive game for the first time since 1999, creating what could be a do-or-die game for Miles next weekend.