LSU rides a five game win streak over the Rebels into Saturday afternoon’s meeting. The Tigers are riding high on plenty of momentum after the best win of the season over Florida.
But facing Lane Kiffin and this Ole Miss team will be a challenge this group has not yet experienced. If there's one thing the Magnolia Bowl always promises is wackiness so bring the popcorn.
Score Prediction: Ole 45, LSU 38
Last year's 53-48 win for the purple and gold was the highest scoring outing in this storied rivalries history. This game promises to be another high scoring affair but maybe not to the effect of 2020's record breaking performance that saw Kayshon Boutte set an SEC record for receiving yards in a game.
For LSU, staying in this game will have to result in the defense not letting the Rebels get off to a fast start. The Tigers will want to control the clock as much as possible on offense but if Ole Miss gets off to a fast start, the Tigers' offense might be pressured into playing keep up early in the game.
LSU's defense has done a relatively good job in the first half over the last handful of weeks, forcing turnovers and punts for the most part but have allowed explosive plays turn into scores. Lane Kiffin has been very transparent this week in conveying that Heisman hopeful quarterback Matt Corral is pretty beaten up after rushing for 195 yards against Tennessee.
It's hard to imagine Corral won't suit up for this game as he did play the entire way against the Volunteers and he is the engine of this offense. Last week he proved he can beat a team not only with his arm but with his legs as well. For the first time all season, LSU was able to contain a more mobile quarterback in Emory Jones but he's nowhere near the threat with his arm that Corral is.
The Tigers have forced some big turnovers in the secondary the last few weeks, but are still learning how to be consistent without the services of Derek Stingley, Elias Ricks or Major Burns. Dwight McGlothern, Cordale Flott, Jay Ward and Sage Ryan all had moments against Florida where they flashed greatness but did wear down a bit in the second half.
“I don’t think we’re getting worn out,” Orgeron said. “I think we’re doing a good job of substituting or there might be some situations where we’re a little bit tired, but I think it’s more or less the offenses being ahead of the defenses. They’re coming out in the second half on fire."
That can't become a trend this weekend which is why it's extra important for this offense to be methodical yet aggressive in its approach. There will no doubt be an emphasis on running the ball with Tyrion Davis-Price, who's coming off a career day against the Gators. But it's the play of the offensive line that has really led to the recent surge of a running attack.
Center Liam Shanahan said this week that there were real strides made in physicality but also in the blocking schemes that helped the Tigers create those holes for Davis-Price.
"The talent has always been there, the ability from us as players is there," Shanahan said. "It's just something where we have to continue to build and hopefully we can establish an identity as an offensive line and offense."
Ole Miss enters this game 109th in rushing defense, allowing 196 yards on the ground per game. That's the pathway to success for this offense but it will be interesting to see how this passing offense evolves without Boutte.
It was clear that Max Johnson was still trying to find a rhythm with this group minus Boutte, who was always the No. 1 read. Veteran Jaray Jenkins hauled in three touchdown passes last weekend, including the go ahead score so he's a name to watch as well as freshmen Jack Bech, Brian Thomas and Malik Nabers.
With the momentum LSU carries into this game, this has the feel of a potential back and forth. The Tigers were plus four in the turnover battle against Florida and if they can force a few more and give some extra possessions to the offense, the chances of hanging close until the end is very real.