Both LSU and Ole Miss were picked to be contenders in the SEC West. That hasn’t gone exactly according to plan.
LSU opened the season with a disappointing loss against Wisconsin, which paved the way for an even more difficult road and cost Les Miles his job in his 12th season with the team. However, the Tigers have righted the ship and have won two in a row as they approach the most difficult stretch of their season.
Conversely, Ole Miss dropped its opener at Florida State and after losses against division foes Alabama and Arkansas, now sits 3-3 entering its all-important showdown in Tiger Stadium.
Rebels coach Hugh Freeze realizes momentum is not in his team’s corner as a bout with LSU nears.
“Coming off a difficult loss on the road at Arkansas, it’s very important that our resolve be shown in practice,” Freeze said during the SEC Coaches’ Teleconference on Wednesday.
“I thought yesterday was a really good one. They’re (LSU) as athletic and as good as anyone we’ve faced, and they’re playing extremely well right now … and very confident. That has a lot to do with Coach (Ed) Orgeron adding a lot of excitement and the players feeling that energy. It’s a difficult place to play in to begin with and they’re talented, so it’s a great task.”
Much of Orgeron’s energy has been injected into the LSU offense, which was essentially what ended Miles’ tenure in Baton Rouge.
In two games under Orgeron and interim offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, LSU posted a record-setting number of total yards against Missouri in a SEC contest, then broke loose for big plays in the second half of the rout of Southern Miss.
Certainly, an offensive-minded coach like Freeze is very tuned into the changes on the Tigers’ offense.
“Balance, they’re different formations and they’re using the skill they have at the wide receiver position very, very well,” Freeze explained. “They force you into some difficult matchups because of their athletic ability and O-line and running backs. The quarterback is playing well and understands what he needs to get accomplished. There’s definitely a different look to it.”
From a big-picture perspective, a lot rides on both LSU’s and Ole Miss’ shoulders heading into this one, which Freeze routinely referred to as a rivalry game.
Both teams have disappointed some, but LSU could right the ship with wins over the next five opponents, all of which are ranked.
That begins with No. 23 Ole Miss, which might not be competing for a conference championship but understands the value of this game.
“There’s no doubt we’re disappointed with where we stand right now with our record, but there’s some good and some bad to it,” Freeze said. “I’m a glass-half-full guy. If you look at the entire journey, too many times fans get disappointed in one particular outing or two or three and lose sight of what we’ve done in the journey. The rivalry with LSU is a prime example. Before we got here, there wasn’t a lot to it, but we’ve made it interesting the last few years.”
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