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Les Miles says the Tigers defense will have its hands full trying to contain Bo Wallace.

Five storylines for Ole Miss-LSU

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- No. 3 Ole Miss (7-0, 4-0 SEC) has its national championship hopes intact as it travels to face No. 24 LSU (6-2, 2-2) on Saturday, but the Rebels have won just once at Tiger Stadium in their last six visits.

Ole Miss is the rare road team to be favored over LSU at Death Valley, however, and it will take the best game of the season from the Tigers' erratic offense in order to pull the upset.

With an assist from ESPN's Stats & Information group, here are five storylines and trends worth watching Saturday:

[+] EnlargeOle Miss
Joe Murphy/Getty ImagesBased on ESPN's efficiency score, Ole Miss is on pace to be the most dominant defense in the last decade.
Dominant Rebels defense: A quick glance at the SEC's weekly statistical leaderboard makes it clear that Ole Miss boasts arguably the conference's top defense. The Rebels lead the league in scoring defense (10.6 ppg), rank second in total defense (290.6 ypg) and run defense (97.1 ypg) and are fourth in pass defense (193.4 ypg, plus 15 interceptions, which ties for the most in the FBS).

But even those gaudy numbers don't adequately explain how dominant the Rebels have been. ESPN's 19.43 defensive efficiency score (points per game that the defense adds to Ole Miss' scoring margin through contributions like forcing turnovers, preventing points and ending drives) for the Rebels' defense is the best in the nation. Not only that, Ole Miss is on pace for the best score of any defense in the last decade.

The Rebels have scored four defensive touchdowns and lead the nation with 90 points off turnovers, so it will be incumbent on LSU's offense to take care of the ball -- the Tigers have just nine turnovers this season -- because it's hard enough to beat Ole Miss without giving away free points. Opposing offenses have scored just six touchdowns against the Rebels this season, another FBS best.



Good Bo/Bad Bo: For most of his career, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has been plagued by inconsistency, leading to the popular narrative that there is a "Good Bo" and a "Bad Bo." Bad Bo hasn't made an appearance in SEC play this season, however.

Wallace has yet to commit a turnover in an SEC game and is on pace to break multiple Ole Miss season passing records. He is averaging 237 passing yards, 1.75 touchdowns and no interceptions through four SEC games thus far.

In two starts against LSU, Wallace has passed for 656 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and has rushed for 72 yards and two scores.

Keep an eye on whether Wallace enjoys success as a runner Saturday. LSU has done a better job against mobile quarterbacks lately, but it has allowed 58.3 rushing yards per game to opposing quarterbacks, seventh-most in the nation, and an SEC-worst 15 runs of 10 yards or more by QBs. Wallace averaged 38.3 rushing yards per game in the last three games.

Fourth-quarter QBs: Wallace and LSU's Anthony Jennings have had their moments in the fourth quarter. Wallace, in fact, has been one of the nation's best QBs in the final period.

His fourth-quarter Total QBR (90.7) leads the SEC, and he is tied for the nation's best touchdown-to-interception differential (6-0) in the fourth quarter.

Jennings hasn't been particularly effective in any quarter -- his overall 49.3 QBR ranks 81st among FBS QBs -- but he succeeded on crucial drives at the end of wins against Wisconsin and Florida. Jennings is 10-for-23 for 235 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter with an average of 23.5 yards per completion.

Mixed bag on third down: Both defenses are effective on third down, with LSU tying for fourth in the FBS by forcing 34 three-and-outs this season. Ole Miss is tied for 10th with 30.

Jennings and the LSU offense haven't been particularly successful on third down, however. The Tigers' worst outing came against Auburn -- when freshman Brandon Harris started at quarterback and LSU went 0-for-13 on third down -- and overall LSU has an SEC-high 30 drives that ended with a three-and-out. Only seven FBS teams have more, and Ole Miss has just 19.

Looking ahead: Last week's 41-3 win against Kentucky was big in many ways for LSU. Not only did it help the Tigers get back to .500 in SEC play, but it removed the pressure of achieving bowl eligibility.

That's a big deal since ESPN's Football Power Index rates the Tigers' remaining schedule as the toughest in the FBS. Beyond facing Ole Miss (which ranks third in the FPI), LSU will face Alabama (second), Arkansas (20th) and Texas A&M (18th).

Ole Miss' schedule is more manageable, although it still must host Auburn (first), Presbyterian (FCS) and Mississippi State (fifth) and visit Arkansas (20th).
Back when freshmen were ineligible and you could count teams’ offensive plays on one hand, the annual clash between Ole Miss and LSU was one of college football’s premier games.

Respect mixed with vitriol, along with heart-stopping plays and gut-wrenching defeats.

"Go to hell, LSU!" is still screamed during the national anthem at Ole Miss -- no matter the game.

Iconic coaches, such as Ole Miss’ Johnny Vaught and LSU’s Paul Dietzel, roamed the sidelines and national championships were sometimes on the line.

What’s now called the Magnolia Bowl still has deep meaning for Rebels and Tigers, as these two have played 102 times, including every year since 1945.

Saturday’s nighttime showdown in rebuilt Tiger Stadium has this rivalry buzzing again. ESPN’s "College GameDay" will be in the house for No. 3 Ole Miss (7-0, 4-0 SEC) and No. 24 LSU (6-2, 2-2).

[+] EnlargeBilly Cannon
Louisiana State/Getty ImagesBilly Cannon's punt return against Ole Miss in 1959 is still perhaps the biggest play in the rivalry's history.
This marks the first time since 2003 that the teams will meet as ranked opponents, and it’s the first time since 1961 that Ole Miss is ranked higher than LSU when both have been ranked.

“It’s not just gonna be another game,” legendary LSU player and coach Jerry Stovall said. “It’s going to add to the lore of playing on Saturday night live in Tiger Stadium.

“Part of [the stadium] is brand new; I’m not sure it won’t come down. It’s gonna be one of the most exciting games and hard-fought games in Tiger Stadium in a long, long time. No matter who wins it, they’re gonna get bloodied.”

The meat of this rivalry came in the late 1950s and early 1960s. From 1958-63, five games were played in which both teams were ranked in the top six. Ole Miss was undefeated entering four of those games, LSU twice. Only once during that time did a team enter the game with more than one loss -- 1960, when 1-4 LSU tied No. 2 Ole Miss 6-6 in Oxford.

“There was a time when the Ole Miss game meant more than any other to the LSU people,” said Bud Johnson, former LSU sports information director and current director of the Jack & Priscilla Andonie Museum at LSU. “You could get more of the LSU-Ole Miss ticket than any other if you were in that business.”

It was also special because of proximity and the fact that LSU really didn’t a true in-state rival. It was nothing for Ole Miss fans to hop over the border into Louisiana. Getting folks from Jackson -- which is halfway between Oxford and Baton Rouge -- Brookhaven, Natchez and McComb to Louisiana was easy.

Games were colossal, and tickets were hot. You could get a Cadillac in the classifieds for four tickets, and eight tickets on the 50-yard line got you a camp on the False River.

People knew each other – players and fans. Families are split and relationships tested, making this game last 365 days.

“Two rabid fan bases with so much on the line for both teams,” said Langston Rogers, who worked in Ole Miss’ athletic department for 29 years before retiring in 2010. “That’s what made it so special.”

With Ole Miss dominating the series with Mississippi State and LSU not playing Alabama or Auburn on an annual basis, it became a heated, evenly contested rivalry game.

There was the nail-biting 14-12 Ole Miss victory in 1957, and No. 1 LSU slipping by sixth-ranked Ole Miss 14-0 in 1958 -- a game in which LSU’s Billy Cannon used his summer-job paycheck to buy an entire section inside Tiger Stadium to take tickets away from Ole Miss fans.

You had LSU’s 7-3 win in 1959, thanks to Cannon's famous/infamous 89-yard punt return for a touchdown and a goal-line stand (triggered by another Cannon play) on a hot, muggy Halloween night.

The play, which runs on loop in Baton Rouge this time of year, still haunts Jake Gibbs, Ole Miss’ quarterback from 1958-60 and who punted to Cannon, because he was trying to punt the ball out of bounds. Instead, Cannon corralled it at the 11 and made his way through just about every Ole Miss player before scooting past Gibbs toward the end zone and the Heisman Trophy.

“God, you know, he went through about five or six tackles really kinda on his own,” said Gibbs, who was actually heckled by LSU fans about the play when he later became Ole Miss’ baseball coach. “By the time he got to me … I couldn’t do anything but hit him up high. Of course, you can’t bring him down hitting him up high.”

[+] EnlargeOle Miss Rebels
John Korduner/Icon SportswireOle Miss knocked off LSU last year on a field goal with two seconds left.
But did it feel good to have sweet Sugar Bowl redemption over LSU a couple months later with a 21-0 win?

“Damn right,” Gibbs said.

Dietzel called the Tigers’ 10-7 comeback win in 1961 arguably his greatest game. A year later, Vaught led sixth-ranked Ole Miss to a 15-7 win over No. 4 LSU in Baton Rouge.

There was Doug Moreau's two-point conversion catch for an LSU win in 1964 and Archie Manning directing back-to-back comeback wins for the Rebels in 1968 and 1969. Of course, there was “The Night the Clock Stopped” in Baton Rouge in 1972 when Brad Davis’ one-handed catch came with one second left gave LSU a fabled 17-16 win and prompted people to leave signs at the Louisiana state line that read, “You are now entering Louisiana. Set your clocks back four seconds.”

“There was not a year when you had one or two good players on each team,” said Stovall, who went 1-1-1 as a player against Ole Miss. “This was a group of years – an era – where the coaching could not have been any better, the players could not have been more in number at that high of a level, and the fans responded to the excellence that they saw.”

Eli Manning tripped in 2003 with the SEC West on the line, and Les Miles didn’t see the clock in 2009. You had Zach Mettenberger’s mercy kneel with five minutes left in 2011 and Ole Miss fans storming the field in 2013.

You have ranked foes and top-named coaches in Miles and Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze standing in the shadows of Dietzel and Vaught. The hype and bite are back.

“It’s a lot of fun now,” Gibbs said, “and I think you’re going to see a many more good, heated games between Ole Miss and LSU.”
In a league that features rivalries like Auburn-Alabama, Ole Miss-Mississippi State, Alabama-Tennessee and Florida-Georgia, Ole Miss-LSU typically flies under the radar.

Go back a few decades in the history books, though, and you'll see that it's more than mutual dislike between two party-hearty fan bases that makes the Magnolia Bowl one of the SEC's top rivalry games.

Here is what helped the series become one of the conference's best:

Billy Cannon and the '60s: The programs had been playing for decades and frequently played close games, but their rivalry truly took off when Billy Cannon returned a punt 89 yards for the only touchdown in No. 1 LSU's 7-3 win over No. 3 Ole Miss on a misty Halloween night in 1959.

Cannon's return is generally viewed as the most famous play in LSU history, and it likely secured that season's Heisman Trophy and turned Tigers-Rebels into a heated annual showdown that would dominate the next decade.

The teams met up again to end the 1959 season and the outcome was reversed, with No. 2 Ole Miss shutting out No. 3 LSU 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl and earning the national championship from three polling firms afterward.

A nine-game stretch between 1958 and 1965 made Ole Miss-LSU one of the top rivalries of that time period, with Johnny Vaught's Ole Miss claiming three national titles (1959, 1960, 1962) and Paul Dietzel's LSU one (1958). The teams won four games apiece and tied once, and in five of the nine games, both teams were ranked in the top 10.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the craziest games of that era, when LSU won 11-10 in 1964 by electing to go for a two-point conversion after a fourth-quarter touchdown, and quarterback Billy Ezell hitting Doug Moreau with a successful two-point pass.

The Night the Clock Stopped: Although the rivalry faded from the national picture in the 1970s, it was still a big deal in 1972 -- particularly because of what happened in the closing seconds of No. 6 LSU's 17-16 win over unranked Ole Miss.

Ole Miss was 4 seconds away from a 16-10 upset when LSU quarterback Bert Jones took a snap at the Rebels' 10-yard line and threw an incomplete pass to Jimmy LeDoux. Somehow -- and Ole Miss fans still maintain that LSU benefited from some home cooking here -- the clock showed 1 second remaining after the incompletion. On the next play, Jones hit running back Brad Davis with a touchdown pass that helped the Tigers escape with a 17-16 victory.

Disgruntled Rebels fans famously posted a sign afterward at the Louisiana-Mississippi border that read, “You are now entering Louisiana. Set your clocks back four seconds.”

Modern-day history: Probably the main reason that the series isn't frequently recognized among the SEC's best is that it hasn't been as nationally relevant in recent years as it was in its heyday.

Unbeaten Ole Miss enters Saturday's game as the nation's No. 3 team and LSU is No. 24. But only once in the previous 43 years -- in 2003, when they met with an SEC West title at stake -- have both teams been ranked at kickoff. That 2003 game was an instant classic, with No. 3 LSU prevailing 17-14 over No. 15 Ole Miss en route to a BCS championship. The Tigers dodged a bullet in that one, with Rebels kicker Jonathan Nichols missing a 36-yard field goal in the closing minutes and Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning tripping over a teammate's foot to go down on the Rebels' final offensive play.

The reduction in national relevance doesn't mean the series lacked drama, however. In each of the last two meetings, the victor scored the winning points in the final 15 seconds.

Odell Beckham helped LSU tie the 2012 game with an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter before Jeremy Hill ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 15 seconds remaining to earn a 41-35 win. Then last season, LSU stormed back to tie the score at 24 after trailing 17-0, but Rebels kicker Andrew Ritter booted a 41-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining to give the Rebels a 27-24 upset victory.

Five times in Les Miles' first nine seasons at LSU, the Magnolia Bowl was decided by seven points or less. Ole Miss enters Tiger Stadium as the favorite, but if this series has taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected when the Tigers and Rebels meet.

Ole Miss Remaining Grounded

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
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Tom Rinaldi discusses how the Ole Miss coaches are getting players to focus week to week and how a 2012 loss to LSU was a turning point in the Rebels' program.

SEC's top recruiting visits 

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
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There are again some big games around the SEC this weekend. The Ole Miss at LSU game looks to be loaded with big-time visitors. Tennessee is sure to bring in several high-profile recruits for its game against rival Alabama and Auburn is hoping to reel in a few top prospects for its game against South Carolina. Here’s a closer look at some of the top visitors in the SEC this weekend.

Alabama at Tennessee

SEC morning links

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
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1. Who is the best one-loss team in the country? That is the most intriguing debate in college football right now. With four teams in the top 5, it has to be somebody from the SEC, right? Well, the rest of the nation might disagree and claim SEC bias. On Thursday, ESPN Insider Brad Edwards used a metric called Game Score to rank the losses of each playoff contender. The best loss, with a score of 72, was Alabama's loss at Ole Miss. The worst (27) was Ohio State losing at home to Virginia Tech. That seems fair. What I don't agree with is putting Auburn's loss to Mississippi State among the worst losses with a score of 46. Sure, the Tigers lost by double digits, but it was on the road against the No. 1 team in the country. And they overcame a 21-0 deficit to make it a one-score game in the second half.

1a. On the same scale, Notre Dame's recent loss to Florida State was among the best losses, but it still might have cost the Fighting Irish a shot at the playoff according to Gregg Doyel. The new Indianapolis Star columnist writes that while it was a good loss, the Irish are lacking any good wins. I tend to agree. I figured SEC fans would, too. Read the full piece here.

2. So I was going to call out Texas A&M for backing out of its home-and-home series with Oregon in 2018 and 2019, but then the Aggies went and scheduled a home-and-home with Clemson those same years. Now personally, I would have loved to have seen the Aggies and the Ducks and all the points that would have ensued. But who knows where those two programs will be in four years? All I know is that there are some enticing non-conference matchups on the slate for 2019. Check these games out:
  • Texas A&M at Clemson
  • Notre Dame at Georgia
  • LSU at Texas
  • Kansas State at Mississippi State
  • Michigan at Arkansas

Even that last game could be intriguing assuming Michigan has hired a new coach and that Bret Bielema has the Razorbacks among the SEC contenders by then. And they haven't yet, but you can go ahead and count on both Alabama and Auburn scheduling a quality non-conference that year.

3. I've done a couple stories this season on SEC players showing support for cancer patients, so naturally it caught my attention when I saw a similar piece on Patrick Towles. The Kentucky quarterback has lent support to high school freshman Brady Walz, the nephew of Louisville women's basketball coach Jeff Walz, and even invited him to attend the Wildcats' win over Vanderbilt last month. No, it's not the Iron Bowl, but the Kentucky-Louisville can get pretty heated in the Bluegrass State. This seems to be a growing trend in college football, and there are probably more stories like this that never get told. Kudos to you Mr. Towles. Kentucky hosts No. 1 Mississippi State on Saturday.

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Mayday Minute

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
10:26
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Mark May discusses the struggles of LSU and other top programs across the nation, and Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah's place in the Cornhuskers' record book.
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Brian Griese and Robert Smith explain what it's like to play in a hostile environment like what awaits Ole Miss at Death Valley.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Football coaches and players discuss the importance of winning the turnover battle, the words can almost ring hollow. But when LSU players say they must protect the football Saturday against Ole Miss, it's more than just an empty football cliché.

The No. 3 Rebels (7-0, 4-0 SEC) have an uncanny ability to swing games by creating turnovers at key moments.

"Their defense are ball hawks," LSU receiver Travin Dural said. "If you're giving your offense the ball on the opponent's side of the field a lot, they're going to score, and that's what they've been doing. We're going to try our best to flip the field as much as we can."

No. 24 LSU (6-2, 2-2) has turned the ball over only nine times this season, and it might need to maintain that trend on Saturday if it is to have any chance of upsetting the Rebels. Not only does Ole Miss lead the nation with 90 points off turnovers, but it has been remarkably consistent.

The Rebels have either scored a defensive touchdown or created a turnover to take control of the contest in each game this season:
  • They were up 14-6 in the fourth quarter of the opener against Boise State when Tony Conner intercepted a pass at the Broncos' 40-yard line. Two plays later, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace hit Quincy Adeboyejo with a 31-yard touchdown pass to go up 21-6.
  • Cornerback Cliff Coleman returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown in Ole Miss' win against Vanderbilt.
  • Cornerback Senquez Golson -- who leads the SEC and is second nationally with seven interceptions -- had a 59-yard pick-six against Louisiana-Lafayette.
  • Ole Miss led Memphis 10-3 a few minutes into the fourth quarter when Ole Miss freshman Marquis Haynes forced a Paxton Haynes fumble that Issac Gross recovered at the Memphis 23. Rebels running back Jaylen Walton ran for a 23-yard touchdown on the next play to put Ole Miss up 17-3.
  • The score was tied at 17-all against Alabama when Crimson Tide return man Christion Jones fumbled a kickoff and Ole Miss' Kailo Moore recovered at the Alabama 31 with 5:29 to play. Five plays later, Wallace hit Walton with the game-winning 10-yard touchdown pass.
  • All-American safety Cody Prewitt returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown and Keith Lewis returned a Kenny Hill fumble 21 yards for a score in the Rebels' win against Texas A&M.
  • Last week against Tennessee, the Rebels were up 17-3 in the third quarter when Volunteers return man Evan Berry fumbled and Haynes recovered at the UT 28. Wallace hit Evan Engram with a 28-yard touchdown pass on the next play to go up 24-3.

In other words, this is a well-established habit for the Rebels, and the Tigers understand that protecting the ball will be particularly important on Saturday.

"We pride ourself on not turning the ball over in the backfield," running back Terrence Magee said. "We work ball security every day before we get into the core of practice, and it's just something that we work on a routine basis. We realize that if we don't turn the ball over and we win the turnover margin, our chances of winning are much greater."

LSU has won or tied in turnover margin in every game this season except last week's 41-3 win against Kentucky. The Tigers have actually been extremely effective themselves at turning takeaways into points, outscoring opponents 72-7 following turnovers -- a differential that ranks third among FBS teams. Only Oregon's plus 79 (79-0) and Ole Miss' plus-71 (90-19) points-off-turnovers margins are better.

LSU has also capitalized off opponent miscues, as the Tigers' game-winning scores against both Wisconsin and Florida came after fourth-quarter interceptions by Jalen Mills and Rickey Jefferson.

That creates a competition of sorts between an LSU secondary that prides itself as being one of the best in the nation and a group of Rebels defensive backs who are tied for the FBS lead with 15 interceptions.

"You could say that," Jefferson said, "but we're looking to be on top. That's what we're trying to do as DBs."

LSU's defensive backs could accomplish that goal by capitalizing on mistakes by Wallace, and he hasn't made many this season. Ole Miss' senior quarterback has tossed six interceptions overall and none in SEC play.

Just as important will be avoiding the back-breaking offensive mistakes that set up short drives for Ole Miss. Understandably, that has been a point of emphasis for the Tigers this week.

"Just end every drive with a kick," Dural said. "Try not to make those mental mistakes to where we give them the ball with a short field."

Wallace’s experience an asset for Ole Miss

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesBo Wallace has thrived as a leader for Ole Miss.

Eight weeks into the season, Ole Miss is one of four unbeaten teams. The Rebels’ defense has been impressive, allowing touchdowns on just 6.5 percent of opponent drives, lowest in the FBS this season and on pace to be the second-lowest touchdown percentage in the past 10 seasons behind Alabama in 2011.

On the other side of the field, senior quarterback Bo Wallace’s experience has paced the Rebels’ offense, especially in late-game situations. Entering the 2014 season, Wallace was the most experienced SEC quarterback, with 26 starts, 11 more than any other current SEC quarterback.

Wallace’s experience has paid dividends in the fourth quarter, during which the Rebels have outscored their opponents by an FBS-high 8.4 points per game. Wallace leads the SEC in fourth-quarter Total QBR (90.7) and has the best touchdown-to-interception differential in the nation during the fourth quarter.

Wallace also leads the nation in fourth-quarter yards per attempt (13.4) and touchdowns per pass attempt (23 percent). The FBS averages for those stats are 7.0 yards per attempt and a touchdown percentage of 5 percent.

Wallace displayed his fourth-quarter flair immediately. In the Rebels’ season-opening win against Boise State, they entered the fourth quarter with a one-point lead.

Wallace then led the Rebels to touchdowns on four straight drives to put the game away. In that quarter, Wallace completed 6-of-7 for 175 yards and three touchdowns.

Against Alabama, Ole Miss trailed by seven points entering the fourth quarter. Wallace then completed 6-of-9 for 105 yards and two touchdowns to defeat Alabama.

In addition to his play in the fourth quarter, Wallace has quieted the popular question about which Bo Wallace will show up: Good Bo or Bad Bo?

He has not turned the ball over in four of seven games this season, including his last three games, which is the longest streak of his career. In the second half, he has been nearly flawless, with one turnover and 10 touchdowns this season.

Ole Miss has exceeded the expectations of many, leading the FBS in strength of record and ranking fourth in game control. Read more about strength of record and game control here: Determining the 'most deserving' teams.

According to the ESPN Football Power Index, Ole Miss’ next two matchups -- at the LSU Tigers and at home against the Auburn Tigers -- are the Rebels’ two toughest matchups remaining before a possible conference championship game.

The Rebels have not beaten LSU when both teams were ranked in the AP poll since 1962, and they lost their only matchup with Auburn in 1972, when both teams were ranked. Nevertheless, they are projected to come away with a victory in both games.

Ole Miss at LSU Preview

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
12:34
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Antonietta Collins and Adam Rittenberg preview this weekend's big game between No. 3 Ole Miss and No. 24 LSU.
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Mel Kiper Jr. discusses the two biggest draft prospects to watch in Saturday's SEC showdown between Ole Miss and LSU.

SEC Week 9 predictions

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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There's not much disagreement among our reporters this week. OK, there's not any disagreement among our reporters. But they don't necessarily agree on how competitive those games will be. And as everyone knows, the weeks that look boring are always anything but. Let's get on with the picks:



Why Mississippi State wins big: Kentucky’s defense has already surrendered 282 rushing yards to South Carolina and 303 to LSU last week. That doesn’t bode well for Saturday’s game, when Mississippi State will bring the SEC’s top offense (and No. 2 rushing offense at 264.3 yards per game) to Lexington. The Wildcats are improving, but they don’t have the firepower to hang around in this one. Mississippi State 42, Kentucky 17 -- David Ching

Why Kentucky keeps it close: Mississippi State should be rested after having last week off, while Kentucky is still smarting from its 41-3 loss at LSU. The Bulldogs should roll, but it won't be easy. The Wildcats have been a different team at home and have the firepower at defensive end to keep Dak Prescott on his toes. Mark Stoops has instilled the right kind of pride in his team, which means the Wildcats will bounce back and make this a second-half game. Mississippi State 31, Kentucky 27 -- Chris Low



Why Ole Miss wins big: Anthony Jennings has struggled enough throwing the football for LSU, and he'll find it even more difficult against Ole Miss' vaunted secondary. If Jennings turns the ball over and makes Cam Cameron's game plan too one-dimensional, the Rebels will feast. Ole Miss 31, LSU 17 -- Alex Scarborough

Why LSU keeps it close: Ever since getting blown out by Auburn, the Tigers have steadily improved. From barely surviving a trip to Florida to handling upstart Kentucky, LSU's offense and defense have gotten better. Ole Miss' defense presents a supreme challenge, but with senior Terrence Magee and true freshman Leonard Fournette, LSU has the backs to establish a running game and battle the Rebels to the end. Ole Miss 23, LSU 20 -- Jeff Barlis



Why Alabama wins big: This game screams blowout. Alabama’s defense is on fire and the offense just exploded, hanging nearly 60 on Texas A&M. Tennessee hasn’t hit 400 yards since the end of September. Hey, Lane Kiffin is back in Knoxville, so I can only imagine what he has cooked up for Tennessee’s defense -- and those Vols fans. I bet there are more anti-Kiffin signs than Tennessee points in Knoxville on Saturday. Alabama 41, Tennessee 10 -- Edward Aschoff

Why Tennessee keeps it close: Lane Kiffin would love nothing more than to put up a big number on his former team, but this Alabama offense has struggled on the road this season. In their two road games, the Tide have failed to break 20 points. They might reach that number Saturday, but it won’t be easy against a Vols defense that looked inspired in the first half last week. Alabama 24, Tennessee 14 -- Greg Ostendorf

More unanimous picks:

Auburn over South Carolina: Auburn is 12-0 at home under Gus Malzahn and won those by an average of more than 23 points per game. Interesting side note: South Carolina hasn't beaten Auburn since 1933 (though the teams didn't play each other again until 1996); Auburn is 7-0 since then. Auburn 42, South Carolina 21 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Arkansas over UAB: UAB can move the ball (had 548 yards against Mississippi State and kept it close at the half), but slowing down the Razorbacks' elite rushing attack is a tall task. Arkansas 45, UAB 20 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Missouri over Vanderbilt: Mizzou has actually been better on the road than at home, but Vanderbilt has yet to win away from home or an SEC game, period. The Tigers' defense and special teams are coming off great performances at Florida. The offense will join in on the fun Saturday. Missouri 41, Vanderbilt 10 -- Sam Khan Jr.

Standings:
Edward Aschoff: 59-10
Greg Ostendorf: 59-10
Jeff Barlis: 58-11
Chris Low: 58-11
David Ching: 57-12
Alex Scarborough: 56-13
Sam Khan Jr.: 52-17

SEC morning links

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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1. How do you stop Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott? "You're going to have to get to the next guy to find that one out," LSU coach Les Miles said on Wednesday's SEC teleconference. Prescott accounted for over 350 yards and three touchdowns against the Tigers earlier this season. On Saturday, Kentucky will try its luck in stopping or maybe slowing down the Heisman Trophy candidate. Good luck. And speaking of the Heisman Trophy, Prescott told Bleacher Report that his late mother Peggy used to introduce him to people as her Heisman Trophy winner. Watch the full video profile. How can you not root for a guy with his back story to win college football's most prestigious award?

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesMississippi State's Dak Prescott, who had little trouble with Les Miles' LSU, will look to enhance his Heisman chances against Kentucky next.
2. Only Les Miles could turn a question on College GameDay's guest picker into a jab at ESPN's own Kirk Herbstreit. It's been seven years since Herbstreit predicted Miles would leave LSU and take the Michigan job, and the LSU coach has not forgotten. He made that clear Wednesday. He also claimed that he could take Shaquille O'Neal one-on-one in the same response. Only Les. Coincidentally, there are rumblings that the Michigan job could come open again after this season, but the SEC coach whose name keeps coming isn't Miles. It's Dan Mullen. But it doesn't sound like the Mississippi State coach is in a hurry to leave. On Wednesday, he was talking about recruiting and the certain type of recruits he looks for to build a program.

3. Have you heard? Lane Kiffin is returning to Tennessee on Saturday. OK, you're probably tired of hearing about it, but if you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and go read Jon Solomon's piece on the Alabama offensive coordinator. In it, Kiffin's mother Robin says she's "scared to death" for her son's safety and wishes he would coach from the press box against the Volunteers. Even athletic director Mike Hamilton says he wishes Kiffin's first game against Tennessee would have been in Tuscaloosa, not Knoxville. It's certainly an intriguing storyline and one to keep an eye on this weekend, but don't expect more than the normal heckling from Vols fans. I'm more interested to see how Kiffin's offense fares on the road.

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Ole Miss heads to death valley Saturday night
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