Oxford, MS (SportsNetwork.com) - The Ole Miss Rebels will attempt to halt a three-game losing streak on Saturday night, as they entertain the sixth-ranked LSU Tigers in an SEC showdown.
LSU has been ranked among the nation's elite ever since defeating TCU on opening night (37-27). The Tigers suffered a minor setback on Sept. 28 when they dropped a instant classic at nationally-ranked Georgia, 44-41, but since then they have picked up back-to-back wins, most recently dismissing Florida at home, 17-6.
"The way we (play) over here, we can win all types of games," LSU running back Jeremy Hill said. "We can win shootouts, and we can win tough, physical running games. That's what kind of game it way (against Florida). It was a tough game. We knew those guys were going to play up to their potential. It was just a matter of pulling it all together, and we did a great job of doing that today."
The 2013 season could not have started any better for Ole Miss, as it won each of its first three games to sneak its way into the Top-25 poll, but it has since fallen from grace with three straight losses. The Rebels opened their six-game homestand last week with a hard-fought battle against nationally- ranked Texas A&M, but fell victim to a last-second field goal in dropping a 41-38 decision, falling to 1-3 in SEC play in the process.
"We are very disappointed for our kids," said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze following the loss to A&M. "They fought their guts out and played their hearts out against a very good team. It's disappointing, and we have to get one of these to go our way. We have to get them back for another difficult test (vs. LSU)."
LSU holds a 58-39-4 advantage over Ole Miss in the all-time series, which includes a 41-35 win in Baton Rouge on Nov. 17, 2012.
LSU has emerged this season as one of the SEC's most potent offensive teams, as it cranks out 465.7 ppg and ranks third in the league in scoring 41.4 ppg, although the unit had a tough time against a stingy Florida defense a week ago in netting just 327 yards.
Zach Mettenberger has made huge strides during his senior season to become one of the nation's elite quarterbacks. He is completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,890 yards while tossing 15 touchdowns against only two interceptions. He already has more touchdown passes this season than he had built up in his career coming in.
Despite missing a game early in the season due to suspension, Jeremy Hill still ranks third in the conference in rushing yards with 715 and is tied for the lead with nine touchdowns. While Hill gets the bulk of the backfield work, Terrence Magee (251 yards, three TDs), Alfred Blue (212 yards, TD) and Kenny Hilliard (164 yards, five TDs) are also actively involved.
Mettenberger has the luxury of throwing to a pair of the best receivers in the nation, as Odell Beckham (37 receptions, 733 yards, six TDs) and Jarvis Landry (46 receptions, 674 yards, seven TDs) rank second and fourth in the SEC in receiving yards, respectively. Mettenberger rarely looks elsewhere, as no one else has more than eight catches.
LSU has not had the elite defensive unit that it has grown accustomed to in recent years, as it allows 22.0 ppg and 348.9 ypg, but other than a 44-point breakdown against Georgia, it has not surrendered more than 27 points in any game. It had its best performance of the season last week in permitting Florida just a pair of field goals.
"Defensively, we're getting off blocks, we're tackling line of scrimmage play, we're getting in predictable third down situations in rushing the passer," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "When that happens, you're not going to score a lot of points against us."
Lamin Barrow has a team-high 49 tackles and Jalen Mills has picked off a pair of passes. Jermauria Rasco (3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) has made his presence known in the backfield with eight QB hurries, as has Anthony Johnson with 5.5 TFL and 2.0 sacks.
Ole Miss has shown plenty of promise on offense, scoring 29.0 ppg on 433.5 ypg, but in a loaded SEC both numbers rank in the bottom half of the league. The squad impressed in putting up 38 points against Texas A&M last week, but Freeze was not pleased with his team's consistency.
"I don't know if they are trying too hard and pressing, but we certainly had some (dropped passes) that hurt us," Freeze said. "We need every third down conversion and every first down we can get. We have to convert those."
Bo Wallace has experienced some ups and down this year. While he has accounted for 1,444 passing yards and 144 rushing yards to go with 12 total touchdowns and just three interceptions, he is completing less than 60 percent of his passes. Barry Brunetti has some offensive packages designed especially for him near the goal line, and he has responded with two passing and three rushing touchdowns.
Laquon Treadwell is the Rebels' leading receiver with 32 receptions for 327 yards and a pair of scores. Wallace also has good chemistry with Donte Moncrief, who has turned his 24 catches into 358 yards and four scores.
Jeff Scott has only carried the ball 53 times as the team's most utilized running back, but he has made the most of his touches by rushing for 434 yards and two touchdowns.
While the defense hasn't exactly hurt the Rebels this season, it also hasn't done much to impress, yielding 27.8 ppg and 399.0 ypg while allowing teams to convert third downs 44 percent of the time.
Serderius Bryant has been the unit's top playmaker with 55 tackles and 6.0 TFL, although he is listed as doubtful for this contest after suffering a concussion last week. Cody Prewitt (35 tackles, three INTs) and Denzel Nkemdiche (19 tackles, FF) will need to help pick up the slack in Bryant's absence.