By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
LSU WILL WIN IF …
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The Tigers can weather an early storm: Ed Orgeron will have his team ready to roll in what should be a raucous Tiger Stadium, but no team comes out firing early like Ole Miss. The Rebels have outscored opponents 61-20 in the first quarter of games this season and 151-60 in first halves overall. They raced out to gigantic leads over Florida State and Alabama in the blink of an eye, but as those losses proved, no lead is safe at the breakneck pace Ole Miss plays. Opponents have outscored Ole Miss 122-87 in the second half of games.
The pass rush can get home when they pressure Chad Kelly: The SEC’s most notorious gunslinger is never easy to defend, but he’s proven time and time again to be at his most dangerous when he’s allowed to break the pocket and extend plays with his feet. Kelly has tossed touchdowns on a dead sprint and with defenders hanging off of him this season. Not to mention he’s a powerful runner in his own right. If LSU (3.0 sacks per game) is going to go after Kelly, they must get him on the ground. Blitz and don’t get there, he’ll slice you to ribbons.
OLE MISS WILL WIN IF …
The Rebels can force Danny Etling to have to beat them: The likelihood of Leonard Fournette returning this weekend to join a red-hot Derrius Guice in the backfield is a terrifying proposition to an Ole Miss defense allowing 215.3 yards per game on the ground this season. And that rushing game matchup becomes even tougher for the visitors if Will Clapp returns along LSU’s offensive line. Simply put, Etling is playing well and hitting some big plays down the field, but Ole Miss cannot allow Fournette and Guice to dominate the game and keep Kelly on the sideline.
Red zone trips produce touchdowns, not field goals: LSU’s defense has allowed just six touchdowns through six games because they’ve saved their best work for when their backs are up against the goal line. Opponents have managed just four touchdowns in 17 red zone visits this season. Considering the struggles Ole Miss has had running the football, expect the impetus to fall on Kelly’s shoulders — or legs — to get the Rebels into the end zone once they get in close. Settling for field goals will be chalked up as wins for the LSU defense in this one.