With two games left in the regular season, it’s do-or-die for Ole Miss football if it wants to appear in its first bowl game since 2015. That task doesn’t get any easier with its next opponent.
The No. 1 LSU Tigers will come to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this Saturday to take on the Rebels in the 108th installment of the Magnolia Bowl series. LSU head coach and former Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron will take his fourth trip back to Oxford since being fired from the program and compiling a 10-25 record after the 2007 season. Orgeron will also coach against one of his former assistants at Ole Miss: current head coach Matt Luke.
“I did work for a year with him. I’ve got a lot of respect for him and his work ethic,” Luke said of Orgeron.” Obviously on the recruiting side of it, he does a good job. He has done a really good job there of being himself. They’re the No. 1 team in the country for a reason because he’s done an outstanding job.”
A big portion of LSU’s success can be accredited to their high-octane offense led by Heisman-contending quarterback Joe Burrow, who ranks second in the FBS with 3,198 yards through the air.
Burrow has also thrown 33 touchdown passes framed against four interceptions. Two of his receivers, Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, have almost 900 yards receiving each and combine for 19 touchdowns through the air. Overall, the Tigers’ offense is averaging nearly 47 points per game.
“We’ve got nine games worth of tape to watch to try and find out ways to slow [Burrow] down. We’ve got to get some pressure on him to get him out of his comfort zone a little bit,” Luke said. “When the plays are there, we have to make them. When we have an opportunity for an interception, we’ll have to take it. Field goals in the red zone will be huge. Every play will be critical.”
Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire also played a huge role in last week’s massive 46-41 victory over Alabama with 103 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
“He plays with his heart. You can see it on the sidelines when you watch the TV copy of the game. He’s all into it emotionally, and he’s hard to tackle. He’s a shifty back, and he’s a great compliment to what they do in their passing game,” Luke said.
Offensively, the Rebels have continued to stick with John Rhys Plumlee as the primary option at quarterback in Rich Rodriguez’s two-quarterback situation. Plumlee and their flexible ground game will be up against an LSU defense that averages 3.1 yards per attempt defending the run.
“They’ve been really good against the run, but Alabama did hit them with some big plays, and so did Texas. Those were the two that you saw. You still see a very good defense,” Luke said. “They have been very solid against the run and in most games, have played really good defense all around. We’ll have our work cut out for us, but we’ll have to find ways to run the football and create some one-on-one matchups. And when we do get them, we need to hit them.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.