It’s a showdown between two classic SEC powers that may be more tightly-contested than the teams’ rankings (or lack thereof) might suggest- #7 Ole Miss are heading down to the swamp to take on unranked LSU in Death Valley. The Rebels are still undefeated, but played a bit too closely with a terrible Auburn team and lack a true signature win. Meanwhile, LSU have been better than it may appear, after losing a close one on opening day against FSU, and also getting crushed by a Tennessee team that just took down Alabama. Let’s look at the odds and make some picks for an intriguing southern battle.
Ole Miss Vs. LSU Odds
It’s always bizarre to see an unranked team favored against one in the top 10, even at home- but it may be justified, and we’ll get into that in just a moment. Particularly notable is that Ole Miss opened up as narrow favorites at -1.5, and the money has swung around enough that LSU is actually favored by more than that now, sitting around -2 depending on your book. The points total of 67.5 is more standard for two offenses that have been scoring, in an SEC whose defense-first reputation is becoming increasingly fraudulent.
Ole Miss Vs. LSU Prediction & Pick
The Lane Train is still steaming along, but it’s been a bit of a bumpier track than Ole Miss fans may care to admit at this point of the season. They trailed Vanderbilt through a half, spent the second half of their matchup with Tulsa getting shut out, and let Auburn’s lukewarm attack rack up 34 points on almost 450 total yards. USC transfer QB Jaxson Dart has also struggled a bit, against good and bad opponents alike; a couple of his worst games thus far have been against the likes of Tulsa, Troy, and Georgia Tech.
On an almost opposite note, LSU is surging due in large part to the ascension of another PAC-12 transfer QB, Jayden Daniels, who came over from ASU. The former Sun Devil had by far his best performance of the year on the road against Florida, setting and tying season highs in yardage and touchdowns through the air with 349 and 3, respectively, and he also rushed for 44 yards and added 3 touchdowns on the ground- yes you read that right, 6 total touchdowns on the road against a tough opponent. Brian Kelly has been mocked at several turns since starting his tenure on the Bayou, but he just might have his team trending the right way.
I covered both of these teams in my articles last week, and Ole Miss’s game blew right through the points total and gave me the over I was looking for, but they won by two touchdowns after I picked them to cover 14.5. On the other hand, LSU won outright and crushed the underdog cover I tabbed them for, but I was less thrilled when they wrecked the points total, as I was on the under. This week, when it comes to the total I’m learning from experience, and pick the over, expecting a high-scoring affair from two offenses on a roll. Similarly, I’m going to put my trust in an LSU squad that’s hitting its stride at the right time, and take them to cover the small spread and pull of the upset against Ole Miss, who are likely a bit overrated and have not shown the full-game consistency it takes to win a tough road game like this one.
Ole Miss Vs. LSU Key Matchups
Will Ole Miss be able to run the ball against this LSU front? How will Jayden Daniels fare against this Ole Miss defense? Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Ole Miss vs LSU below.
Ole Miss Rushing Offense vs. LSU Rushing Defense
Much of what Ole Miss has accomplished thus far has been made possible by a strong rushing attack, top-10 in the nation by EPA. I discussed this last week, but the Ole Miss line has been fine, but less than elite when it comes to run blocking; the excellence has come largely from the backs themselves. The duo of Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans has been absolutely lethal thus far, both averaging just around 6 yards per carry, and combining for 17 touchdowns on the ground. It’s about a 55/45 production split in terms of both yardage and scoring, with Judkins getting the slightly bigger piece of the pie, so it’s a pretty balanced attack.
On the other hand, the Rebels’ passing attack is more like top-30 than top-10, solid still but definitely not their preference. If LSU can limit the run and force Dart to the air, that transition often comes with some mistakes from the QB, and opportunities for the opposition. Luckily for the Tigers, PFF sees their run defense as top-10 in Power-5, allowing just over 4 yards per carry. They’re anchored by d-lineman Mekhi Wingo, who has been absolutely insane; he leads the front-7 with 172 snaps in rush defense, as well as a ridiculous PFF run stopping grade of 90.4, achieved in part by missing zero tackles thus far. If he can play up to his ability, along with his teammates having a nice day, they’ll be well on their way to an enormous win.
Jayden Daniels vs. Ole Miss Defense
I know one player against a whole defense is a pretty bizarre way to look at a football matchup, but with a dual-threat like Daniels, it’s seriously a team effort. The front-seven have to keep him contained, and the secondary has to make his life hard on dropback attempts. PFF sees the Rebels’ run defense and tackling as pretty average, but really likes their pass rush and coverage, placing them in the top-10 in Power-5. Linebacker Troy Brown has been outstanding in run defense for Mississippi, and he’s the type of player that is absolutely key in managing a quarterback like Daniels, as he misses just 5% of his tackles.
In terms of pass rush, Ole Miss have a couple more studs lined up on either edge, Jared Ivey and Cedric Johnson, who both have PFF pass rush grades in the 80s. Ivey has picked up more sacks with 4 to Johnson’s 1, but Johnson also has 4 times as many hits as Ivey (8 to 2) so there could certainly be some measure of luck in regards to who gets the final stop. The point is, both of these guys have done an awesome job in pass rush. They’ve helped to make life easy for the secondary, which has been led by safety AJ Finley, the team leader in both interceptions and PFF coverage grade, amongst players with at least 100 coverage snaps. Top corner Deantre Prince and supporting safeties Trey Washington and Ladarius Tennison have all been solid over somewhat varying sample sizes as well.
Then of course, there’s Daniels himself. His volume hasn’t been enormous, but his efficiency has been solid, evidenced by a TD/INT ratio of 10/1 so far, a turnover worthy play percentage of 0.7%, and an adjusted completion percentage in the high 70s. He’s also added over 400 ground yards (and 6 scores) to his nearly 1600 through the air. The numbers don’t quite tell the whole story, though, as we’ve discussed, he’s just now coming into his own. After an outstanding performance on the road a week ago, he’ll receive a warm welcome at home and hopefully keep ascending.