BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron lists the Ole Miss offense among the most fast-paced he’s ever seen.
Arden Key doesn’t.
“It wasn’t fast at all,” the Tigers’ defensive end said. “They were kind of up-pace a little bit, but it wasn’t like Texas A&M or Mississippi State or anything like that.”
Piling on with even more dismissiveness, Key said the quickest offense he’s faced isn’t Ole Miss, but Missouri. Defensive lineman Greg Gilmore agrees with Key. Though he remembers how quickly the Ole Miss offense moved in LSU’s 38-17 loss in Oxford, Miss., last year, Gilmore said he was more impressed by the way Missouri was conditioned, as even Missouri’s offensive linemen seemed to be in impeccable shape.
The way LSU’s players talk about Missouri, you’d think the Missouri offense turned the game into a track meet. But LSU’s defense dominated that game, letting Missouri hold the ball for just 17 minutes in a 42-7 rout.
For LSU to be successful this weekend against Ole Miss, that’s the blueprint the Tigers will need to follow.
Ole Miss has one of the most threatening offenses in college football. Led by quarterback Chad Kelly, the Rebels are scoring nearly 40 points per game, despite ranking 127th out of 128 FBS teams in time of possession.
The Rebels maximize their time on the field, though. Among SEC teams, only Alabama and Texas A&M have had more plays go for 30-plus yards this season than Ole Miss. That said, there are only five teams in the entire FBS that have allowed fewer plays of 30-plus yards than the LSU defense.
Just by looking at the stat sheet, it looks like this’ll be a matchup of strength versus strength. But Ole Miss has one thing that LSU has yet to face this season: a true dual-threat quarterback.
“The fact that (Chad Kelly) can prolong plays gives his guys an extra couple seconds to get open or get the DBs’ eyes to look somewhere else so their guys can sneak out,” LSU cornerback Donte Jackson said. “He likes to just make plays longer. He likes to run around back there so he can get guys open.”
Kelly’s ability to extend plays is uncanny. And while he runs the ball about nine times per game, most of the time he runs around behind the line of scrimmage to get his wide receivers open.
But LSU has a plan for how to stop Kelly, or at least contain him.
“What we’re going to try to do is keep him in the pocket,” Gilmore said. “That’s the main thing: getting push up the middle. We’ve got great edge rushers. I know up front we want to push the pocket. I think that’s the main part, especially with his running ability.”
The LSU defense averages three sacks per game, the fourth-most in the conference. And Ole Miss has a middle-of-the-road offensive line that’s allowed two sacks per game. But bringing Kelly down isn’t necessarily the prime directive.
Rather, Jackson said he thinks the defense’s goal should be to not let Kelly deceive it.
“As a corner, you can’t let the scramble game kind of fool you,” Jackson said. “Chad Kelly likes to throw on the run and likes to throw while you’re moving, to get your eyes off your man so he can just throw it to him.”
Still, sacks are nice, too.
“He’s a good quarterback, actually,” Key said of Kelly. “But I’m looking to get him. I feel like I can get him.”