by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Welcome to LSUODYSSEY.COM's 700th article.....and it's all about LSU vs Ole Miss....the final time Coach Ed Orgeron will go up against his "friend" and former staffmate Layne Kiffin's Ole Miss.....the man who could potentially take his job.
And it must be said: since the Orgeron era began, as well as Kiffin's arrival in Oxford, LSU vs Ole Miss has been face-eating entertainment:
We've got our popcorn, Layne...
....but after that headset incompletion, we're gonna have to throw on a side of cheese....
The games between the programs were even madcap a year prior to Layne taking the job, during LSU's 2019 title-winning season when Ole Miss still operated under Matt Luke & Rich Rodriguez:
183 overall points have been scored between the teams over the past two seasons, with each game's combined score eclipsing 90 points each time....
But don't think this has meant a lack of defensive playmaking....in fact, for LSU....quite the opposite can be said.
Against Kiffin & Corral, amid a battle within the hell's bells dirge of Southeastern winter rain, LSU forced 6 turnovers and hauled in 5 INTs, including a pick six from Jay Ward and nearly another via Jabril Cox.
Facing Corral and co's run first attack once again, would LSU even have a chance to grab 5 picks this weekend?
While so many will look at Ole Miss' recent rushing success as why they lacked passing production vs LSU, the 5 INTs from 27 attempts tells anyone they at least attempted to pass, trying repeatedly through interminable failure.
While LSU have allowed a ridiculous amount of points over the past two games, this has been more due to absences, injuries, or the track meet tempo set from both offenses than any critical bunch of deficiencies........there's really only two major identifiable flaws from Daronte Jones' defense heading into Saturday: absences and LSU's ability to stop the run.
LSU gave up a sickening, wild, outrageous 709 rushing yards over their past 2 meetings vs Ole Miss.....
709 total yards on the ground......and most from the quarterback position, allowing 158 to Matt Corral last year; Despite showcasing a highly improved run defense vs Florida's top 5 national rushing attack, the Tigers will need to have all their bearings going into Saturday afternoon in Oxford.
Kiffin will do whatever it takes to disrupt the positive habits LSU's front seven started to form over the past week and a half....he'll be watching, noticing which holes Neil Farrell Jr is more capable of disrupting, how quickly or slowly Jaquelin Roy is getting off the ball, if it's easier to run on Ojulari when blocking him to the inside or pushing him towards the sideline?
Which gaps will Damone Clark get lost in?
Which OL's blocks will Damone have the most trouble getting out of?
Focusing on confusing the defensive spine of LSU, from NCAA-leading tackler Damone Clark, DT Neil Farrell Jr to safety Jay Ward, Layne Kiffin will produce defensive chaos for our unit, and it'll be up to our stalwarts to see through the constant smoke of Layne's trickery, either pre/post snap.....this means a big game from most, if not all of LSU's most experienced defenders left.....
Although we can substitute their lack of production with a big game from Sage Ryan and Maason Smith.
Sure, Ole Miss can definitely run the football, averaging a crazy 262.8 yards per game, 20 TDs on the season, as well as owning the 17th nationally ranked average per carry (5.44), D.J Durkin & Chris Partridge's defense also give up a ton of rushing yards themselves.
While there may be questions about LSU's defense, especially considering our high profile All-American absences at the secondary and D-Line positions, LSU have proven themselves more capable of stuffing a ground game than Ole Miss:
Surrendering 222 vs Tennessee, 350 to Arkansas, 210 to Alabama, while even Austin Peay and Tulane rushed for nearly 150 yards each, it is no stretch to call Ole Miss' defense "porous" against the run.
Letting rushers chew up 4.4 yards per rush and just under 200 yards per game (198.3), the Rebels have a bad rushing defense that could seriously be exposed this Saturday.......you know what I mean:
EXPECT TDP TO GEAUX OFF FOR A 3RD WEEK IN A ROW....
TDP should rush for at least 125 yards himself vs Ole Miss....but we could also see a strong platoon set-up really roast & toast the Rebels: first Ty's physical, agile burst, then Corey Kiner's athletically inclined circus tricks, followed by either Josh Williams or Armoni Goodwin?
I feel like LSU will rush the ball with consistency.....not to the tune of 300+ yards like last week, although they'll still be incredibly effective.
Meanwhile, I understand the epic horror of LSU's 331 yard collapse @ Kentucky, but even that team had a strong excuse: missing both All-American level starting DEs, the #1 CB in the nation, the #2 CB in the nation playing on a torn labrum.....off the field insanity, defensive foolishness up in the booth from Daronte Jones' staff......
Truly, LSU's rushing defense improved mightily vs Florida, stuffing the #1 team in yards per carry (at 6.33) to just 3.9 yards per rush and holding all rushers to 37 yards or less for a total of 138.
This will be a game of control: whomever can dictate the tempo of the afternoon, whichever team can disrupt the rhythm of the other, and of course.....whichever defense can produce the biggest plays, will win this game.
Both teams will want to establish the run.....and I believe, despite LSU's recent revival in defending the run, Ole Miss will have at least moderate success.....
However I give the rushing edge to LSU....which sounds crazy after only back to back weeks over 100+ yards, but I feel these Ole Miss defenders are a perfect match-up for LSU's hungry OL to bully.
This is a perfect game for Ty Davis-Price's underrated second level pace, bursting agility in between the tackles, and blistering physicality.....elements of which Ole Miss cannot handle within the trenches....especially when Corey Kiner's 180 degree sea change is mixed in.
The question of "who will separate?" all points to which team can pass the ball for 300+ yards, a couple scores, 10+ first down completions, and at least a handful big 3rd down conversions through the air.
Before the last few games, specifically the injury to the nation's top wide receiver, Kayshon Boutte, I believed the Tigers would out-pass every single team on their schedule, perhaps save one or two....and mostly due to the fact that they had to.
Now, as LSU's running game finally provides stability, LSU's receiving corps are all over the place, from Boutte's season ending injury, Deion Smith's hamstring pull, Jaray Jenkins catching 0 TDs over 6 games before exploding for 3 TDs last week, Koy Moore's Monday morning transfer, Trey Palmer's lack of development, Jontre Kirklin's early season-suspension and now anonymity, Devonta Lee either hitting or missing on his rare opportunities, all as freshmen Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr grow in leaps and bounds by the catch, although still limited in their freshman status...(lack of reps, targets or a smaller role in the offense).
Can the Tigers light it up in the passing game once again, or will they depend on TDP's legs to drag them over the finish line for a third straight week?
It's a little tough to see, but somehow, regardless of the plentiful receiving talents standing on LSU's sideline, outside of Boutte's Biletnikoff-shoe-in performances or Deion Smith's token 135 yard outing vs Central Michigan, the Tigers haven't had another 100 yard receiver throughout the entirety of 2021....
It will be up to Malik Nabers, Jaray Jenkins and especially Brian Thomas Jr to really step it up on the outside, make defenders cover every blade of grass, and anticipate every obstacle in their path......also???
If these receivers on the outside could unlock the middle of the field for Jack Bech, Ole Miss could be done for.
Jack Bech's recent lack of involvement in our offense is annoying at best....in fact, it's infuriating....and it should piss you off, too.
How can you not take advantage of such a weapon on your roster?
All he has to do is walk out a few feet, give him the ball, and he's got 10-15 yards without really having to try.....and this is a young man who gives everything on every play....
The fact Jack Bech only has 5 catches for 50 yards from 13 targets over the past two games is alarming.... (6 of which were uncatchable, errant throws)....especially when you consider his 84 yard display vs Auburn or massive potential for big time playmaking.
Throwing 20 TDs to 4 INTs, QB Max Johnson is a strong-willed leader who was finally able to take a supporting role on offense last week; Without having to feel the pressure to chuck up 400 yards and 5 TDs just to keep LSU in a football game, Max was able to chill out for the first time all season, handing TDP the ball; Then, when he needed to make plays for LSU, Maximus definitely made it happen, headlined by two of his three outrageous touchdown passes to Jaray Jenkins.
Most of the pre-game headlines will be all about Matt Corral's athleticism, but do not overlook Max Johnson's abilities in or out of the pocket....especially his play-extension powers........majesty he previewed last year vs Ole Miss by way of 480 total yards, 5 overall touchdowns (3 passing, 2 rushing, 4 coming on 4th down alone)....
Overall, what we have is a potential great game for every football fan to sit back and enjoy...it will be sloppy, numbers will be racked up, and plays will be made.....much like the last two games of 2020, or last Saturday's adventure vs Florida, when Orgeron-era LSU are depleted of their star names, the best games come out of nowhere....
5 MOST INTRIGUING PLAYERS TO WATCH FOR LSU
MAX JOHNSON: If he geauxs off, LSU wins.
TDP: If Ty even runs for half of his overall tally vs Florida, LSU wins.
BRIAN THOMAS JR: I have a feeling the young man out of Walker High will be the freshman to pop this game, scoring his first ever LSU touchdown.
DAMONE CLARK: Without Damone shutting it down yet again up the middle, LSU could be ruthlessly exposed for massive gains by Snoop Conner (9 TDs, 5.1 per carry) or second-leading rusher Henry Parrish Jr. If Clark returns to his bad habits of 2020, the Tigers will be ran over for half of the game.
SAGE RYAN: We need Sage's tough tackling and athletically gifted coverage abilities to buoy our under-manned secondary; I'm convinced he's not only going to be a great Tiger in the future, he's going to have a great finish for 2021.
-Since 2017, LSU have scored 40+ points in each game vs Ole Miss, and the Tigers also beat Ole Miss with a score of 38 during Orgeron's interim run in 2016.
-The Rebels haven't beaten the Tigers since a 38-17 victory back in 2015.
-Through their last two meetings, LSU forced 7 turnovers against Ole Miss, led by 6 last season, including 5 INTs on QB Matt Corral.
-Over their past 2 outings, the LSU Tigers' defense has surrendered 709 total rushing yards under two defensive coordinators (402 in 2019, 307 in 2020).
370 of those yards belong to a pair of different quarterbacks, both Matt Corral's 158 from last year, and of course John Rhys Plumlee's 212 yard showcase from 2019.
-LSU's last two quarterback performances vs Ole Miss?
Both then-freshman Max Johnson and Wundergod Joe Burrow have thrown for 400+ yards and 3+ TDs vs Ole Miss (Max = 435 & Joe = 489).
-LSU have done well defending the passing game, holding Ole Miss to 250 yards and 212 through the air over 2020 & 2019, with 5 different Tigers catching 6 INTs from 2 QBs (Kary Vincent in 2019; Jay Ward x2, Jabril Cox, Todd Harris and Ali Gaye).
-In 2020, Matt Corral attempted 27 total passes vs LSU.....
Max Johnson completed 27 passes.....
-Outside of Kayshon Boutte, the only Tigers WR to eclipse 100+ yards was freshman Deion Smith vs Central Michigan.
Other than Boutte or Deion Smith, the last LSU WR to go above 100 yards???
Terrace Marshall on 11/28/2020 vs A&M.
OUR PREDICTION PIECE COMING TOMORROW
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2021 Uninterrupted Writings Inc
SHOUTOUTS: MY GOOD FRIEND LAYNE....NOT KIFFIN....MY BUDDY LAYNE....LAYNE, I LOVE YOU BROTHA! CONGRATS ON STAYING CLEAN!