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Keys to Tonight’s Game in Death Valley – “Every Exit Line Is An Entry”

Courtesy Ole Miss Athletics
Courtesy Ole Miss Athletics

#23 Ole Miss (3-3,1-2 SEC) @ #25 LSU (4-2, 2-1 SEC)

“Ends are not bad things, they just mean that something else is about to begin. And there are many things that don’t really end, anyway, they just begin again in a new way. Ends are not bad and many ends aren’t really an ending; some things are never-ending.” -C. JoyBell C.

It seems that more times than not, I have found myself writing this same storyline about Coach Freeze and this ball club about what should have been and what could have been. Just when it seems the Rebels are on the cusp of having it all finally pan out the way they have hoped, it is taken from their hands in a split second.

Last weekend, the Rebels once again found that their own personal “Death Valley” seems to be wherever the Arkansas Razorbacks are on the other side. I probably don’t need to recap how things unfolded last weekend, but once again the quest for a conference title or a dream of the playoffs has yet again become a distant memory. “Maybe next year” has become an all-too-familiar phrase.

Nonetheless, the Rebels must put what has transpired thus far in their rear view mirror in Baton Rouge under the lights in “DEATH VALLEY.” This matchup, no matter the case, always proves to be a very interesting storyline as historic rivalry games go. However, this evening there’s definitely a new, intriguing twist to this game.

The “Mad hatter” of LSU (Les Miles) is no more, and the Tigers are now being led by former Rebels Coach Ed Orgeron (a time that most would care not to remember). If that wasn’t enough, Coach Freeze worked under Orgeron during his tenure at Ole Miss and Orgeron pretty much gave him his start in college ball. Talk about the irony.

Game Notes

KICKOFF: 8 p.m. CST/9 p.m. EST Saturday at Tiger Stadium

TV: ESPN

SERIES: LSU leads 59-41-4

LAST MEETING: Ole Miss 38, LSU 17 (Nov. 21, 2015, in Oxford)

SPREAD:  LSU -4.5

Courtesy Ole Miss Athletics, olemisssports.com, gallery
Courtesy Ole Miss Athletics, olemisssports.com, gallery

The Gridiron Snapshot

The Rebels:

This matchup will come down to the wire. The Rebels will have to come up big on both sides of the ball, but they’ll need a big game from Kelly and his offensive arsenal in Baton Rouge tonight if they have a prayer of surviving Death Valley. That hasn’t happened since 2008 for the Rebels. Kelly is credited for throwing 1,949 yards, 14 scores and has completed roughly 62% of his throws. He ranks second on the the team with 213 rushing yards, which has led to three scores on the ground. Though the Rebels receiving corps has great depth and talent, LSU will not be going quietly in this game. Look for LSU to bring out their big guns with Cornerback Tre’Davious White and safety Jamal Adams to put the pressure on Engram, Stringfellow, Jefferson and Adeboyejo. The Rebels will have to find a way to have a steady run game that isn’t as easily exposed as it was by the Razorbacks. Coach Freeze has been doing some risky business by relying too heavily on Kelly’s arm along with his mobility to keep the ball rolling on the offense. However, to stay alive against this LSU defense Coach Freeze is will have to adjust his non- traditional ground attack to be more present along with consistent pass protection to avoid being outdone by the Tigers early on.

Defensively, the Rebels have had a few wishy-washy moments on each side of extreme to say the least. The Rebels have some of the best pass rushers in the nation with Haynes and Gates, however even with that, they will have a great deal of trouble in containing the pass. With an explosive LSU offense that will have Fournette back in action along with his sidekick of Guice, the Rebels defense has its work cut out for them tonight in Baton Rouge. The Ole Miss D’s biggest task this evening will be finding ways to make plays, but most importantly putting the Tiger offensive into as many third and long situations as they can to contain Fournette and that explosive run game Orgeron has improved since taking the reigns.

The Tigers

There were a lot of question as to which way the Bayou Bengals would go when their Mad hatter Les Miles was fired. However, in spite of the dynamic shift, it seems the Bayou Bengals have ironically found a new fire and momentum under Orgeron, who is stating his case to take the full-time reigns and also trying to get the Tigers back in the playoff picture. Once again, this will be a match up to the end, and we can expect to see another offensive showcase by these two powerhouses.

LSU will look to capitalize on the Rebels’ weak rush defense exposed quickly by the Razorbacks last week, giving up 200 yards in Fayetteville. The Tigers are looking to focus their game plan around their explosive rushing attack and stronger offensive line. The Tigers being back healthy on the offensive side of the ball will look to play no holds barred on the offense tonight with the return of Fournette, who will have his partner in crime Derrius Guice to make plays in the backfield. Don’t be surprised to see Orgeron spice up things tonight with this LSU attack, but know that he will stay true doing what works, and that’s sticking it to the Rebels with their ground attack.

Courtesy Ole Miss Athletics, olemisssports.com, gallery
Courtesy Ole Miss Athletics, olemisssports.com, gallery

Kick Off Keys to the Game

  1. Slow down LSU rushing attack:

The Rebels are will have to find a way to contain the Tigers’ explosive rush attack and healthier offense. They will have Fournette and Guice to answer to in more ways than one.  The Tigers’ run game is no joke and they need to put the Tigers in as many third and long situations as they can to stay afloat in this game.

  1. Containing the Pass:

The Tigers explosive offensive unit in the backfield will be ready for the Rebels tonight, but even before the ball comes their way, the Rebels are will need to find a better way to contain LSU QB Danny Etling. Though he has not put up explosive numbers against his previous opponents, he does connect with his receiving corps more times than not to make big plays for the Tigers. Etling does a pretty good job of protecting the ball, only allowing two interceptions on 119 attempts. The Rebels have struggled to contain the pass and with pass-rush despite having two of the conference’s leading pass rushers in the line-up.

  1. Kelly Needs A Big Game:

Plain and simple the Rebels will need to show up like they did against Georgia. Kelly and his arsenal will have to play with everything they have and not let their guard down or get comfortable. They don’t have a typical ground attack, but they will have to find a way to balance Kelly’s strong arm and mobility and take it to the Tigers on the ground some way. The line will need to pass-protect Kelly like their life depends on it, and the backfield unit will have to connect and get in the groove in the air and on the ground to make it out of Death Valley.

In short, this game will see an appearance by both defenses having their work cut out for them to stop each team’s explosive offensives. However, once again, this game will rely heavily on which team’s offense can command completely for 60 minutes. This late-night matchup of the Magnolia Bowl in Death Valley will be a heater and will be neck and neck till the last down is played tonight. Are you Ready? Lights out Rebels, and remember every exit line is an entry!


Lee Ann Herring-jpgs-0601

Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo is a HottyToddy.com contributor, veteran SEC sports journalist and Brown University graduate. She loves good cigars, good games and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order. She can be reached at misskentuckyus2011@gmail.com.

Follow HottyToddy.com on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @hottytoddynews. Like its Facebook page: If You Love Oxford and Ole Miss…

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