Let's get one thing out there from the get-go: this game means absolutely nothing on the national scene and even less in terms of the conference championship. What it will help determine is bowl seeding as LSU and Ole Miss fight for the right to be #3 in the final overall SEC standings. That's a difference between a bowl game in Dallas or Orlando.
Blogcritics’ Jay Skipworth and Josh Hathaway present cases for both teams and offer their picks for the game.
This game will be televised Saturday on CBS at 3:30 E.S.T.
Three Reasons Ole Miss can win by Jay Skipworth
1. Dexter McCluster
This is what coaches call "the X factor" on the field. McCluster can take it to the house from RB, WR, or returning kicks. When he gets in open field, it's like watching the Road Runner take off. He's that fast.In two of the Rebels losses, McCluster was a non-factor primarily because the gameplan did not feature him. Houston Nutt and company have figured out that this guy needs to be fed the ball in multiple ways in order to spark the Ole Miss offense and they have done that over the last part of the season. LSU hasn't seen this kind of speed since Percy Harvin from Florida.
2. Ole Miss Defense
Ole Miss ranks right in the upper middle of the league in defense and in the upper third in scoring defense (surrendering around 16 points per game). That may not seem like much of an advantage, but when you hold it up against LSU's inconsistent offense (decimated with injuries at major positions), it tips the scales to the Rebels.
3. Home Field Advantage.
In his two years in Oxford, the Rebels have lost only once under Houston Nutt. Everyone knows the key to building a successful program is to win your games at home, especially conference games. In the SEC, that is impressive. Both coaches are a bit...unconventional. However, Nutt is at his best when the pressure is off and he's got the home crowd in his back pocket.
Rebuttal by Josh Hathaway
Jay, I agree with all your points to some degree and this game could certainly tilt in Ole Miss' direction. I'll say this, though. Alabama gouged that Ole Miss defense on the ground in a game when quarterback Greg McElroy struggled. LSU doesn't have the same quality of backs/offensive line but their line is big and physical. Even against stacked fronts, the Tigers may be able to implement aspects of the Bama gameplan and execute them against the Ole Miss defense. McCluster is very fast and versatile, but Ole Miss hasn't proved to me they can consistently get him the ball in positions to change the game. In a game I expect to be dominated by defense he won't have to do it often, but he has been contained.