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Trevor Matich and Todd McShay make their picks for Saturday night's showdown between undefeated Ole Miss and LSU in Baton Rouge.
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Trevor Matich and Todd McShay make their picks for the biggest games of the week including Ole Miss-LSU, Mississippi State-Kentucky and Michigan-Michigan State.

Prove It: New contender in Baton Rouge?

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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In this week's "Prove It" segment, ESPN SEC reporters Alex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf discuss whether LSU can still be a contender in the SEC West.
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Kirk Herbstreit previews Saturday's SEC showdown when Ole Miss puts its undefeated record on the line on the road at LSU.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Hugh Freeze is 1-1 against LSU since arriving at Ole Miss. Aside from the close finishes -- the victor scored the game-winning points in the final 15 seconds in both years -- there was another common thread from those games: Freeze's offense moved up and down the field with great success.

Behind two solid games from quarterback Bo Wallace, the Rebels are averaging 31 points and 494 yards of total offense against John Chavis' LSU defense under Freeze.

"We're coming out here to try to prevent that," said LSU safety Rickey Jefferson, whose No. 24 Tigers (6-2, 2-2 SEC) enter Saturday's game against No. 3 Ole Miss (7-0, 4-0) as the underdogs. "Every game we never plan to fail, so when they do do things like that, it's kind of shocking. That means we have to go back in the lab and do some more work, which we did even after this win [against Kentucky last Saturday]."

[+] EnlargeBo Wallace
Spruce Derden/USA TODAY SportsBo Wallace passed for 346 yards in the Rebels' 27-24 upset of LSU last season.
But how can the Tigers go about preventing another big night for the Rebels? It starts with limiting the damage that Wallace inflicts with his arm and legs.

Wallace is averaging 328 passing yards in two starts against LSU -- games where he tossed two touchdowns and three interceptions -- plus he has run 22 times for 72 yards and two more scores. His dual-threat ability probably concerns LSU fans who saw Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and Auburn's Nick Marshall gash Chavis' defense, but the Tigers have fared better against versatile quarterbacks in recent games.

Florida's Jeff Driskel had an up-and-down game against LSU and Kentucky's Patrick Towles -- who doesn't get enough credit for his running ability -- failed to produce much of anything on the ground.

"One thing we adapted to is keeping the pocket contained because all these dual-threat quarterbacks, they're going to try to run up the middle on QB draw or something like that," defensive end Danielle Hunter said. "So it's all about containing the pocket and compressing the pocket, staying in our gaps."

Wallace still runs on occasion -- he has 67 attempts for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns this season -- but Ole Miss mostly relies on its senior quarterback to produce in the passing game these days. He's averaging 271.3 passing yards per game and has been uncharacteristically turnover-free for the most part, tossing 17 touchdowns against six interceptions.

As in past seasons, the Rebels have other players who rotate in to handle specialty packages at quarterback, like former LSU signee Jeremy Liggins, a 300-pound tight end who occasionally takes snaps in short-yardage situations.

"That definitely gives us tendencies. For like last game, whenever the quarterback motioned out, you know it's going to be some kind of run or reverse," Hunter said of Kentucky, which utilizes a "Wildcat" package with Jojo Kemp and others taking direct snaps. "So this game, we're expecting the bigger quarterback, [Liggins], whenever he goes in it's going to be some kind of short-yardage or some kind of power play."

Another key factor on Saturday will be third-down conversions, said LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White. The Rebels sustained several long drives by going 11-for-18 on third down on the way to running 84 plays and totaling 525 yards against the Tigers in a 27-24 upset win.

"[Wallace] was picking us apart on third down. He was making excellent reads and pretty much picking our defense apart," White said. "I feel like he was making great decisions with where he was going with the ball and he was very confident in his receivers and they were making big-time plays for him. We'll try to limit that this year."

LSU has done a better job of limiting what opposing offenses hoped to accomplish in recent weeks after Mississippi State and Auburn both embarrassed the Tigers' defense. Ole Miss doesn't bring the SEC's scariest offense into Tiger Stadium -- the Rebels rank eighth in the SEC in both scoring (35.4 ppg) and total offense (433.3 ypg) -- but the Rebels' defense has been so good that Chavis' bunch probably can't afford to be as generous against Ole Miss as it has been in the last two seasons.

Reviewing film of last season's loss in Oxford has made that point abundantly clear.

"We watched a lot of film. We watched the whole game last year probably twice," Jefferson said. "I would think that the thing that we have to do to come out here and get these guys would be to execute and do everything that Coach Chief [Chavis] tells us and don't be out of place, make tackles, break on balls and hustle and give enthusiasm the whole game. It's going to be live."

ESPN 300: Five things to know in the SEC 

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
10:45
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The SEC has an impressive 89 committed prospects in the updated ESPN 300 rankings. While the SEC West has been dominant on the field, 13 of the 14 SEC schools are ranked in the top 40 of the RecruitingNation class rankings. Here’s a closer look at five things to know in the SEC from the new recruiting rankings.

SEC Freshman Tracker: Week 8

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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Although Georgia’s Nick Chubb is the headliner for a second straight week after another ridiculous performance, this week’s SEC freshman tracker is heavy on defense -- including a couple of defensive linemen who have already emerged as breakout performers.

Here are five SEC true freshmen who stood out last Saturday (and five more worth mentioning):

RB Nick Chubb, Georgia

What he did:
Chubb continued to give Todd Gurley the Wally Pipp treatment by carrying 30 times for 202 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 45-32 win at Arkansas. He also caught a pass for an 8-yard gain. In the last two games, Chubb has run 68 times for 345 yards, and the Bulldogs have blasted Missouri and Arkansas on the road.

What it means: If and when Gurley returns to the lineup, he will obviously resume carrying the Bulldogs’ running game. But with the one-time Heisman Trophy frontrunner suspended and Sony Michel and Keith Marshall out with injuries, Georgia desperately needed Chubb to produce, and he has exceeded every reasonable expectation.

DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

What he did:
Barnett logged his first game with double-digit tackles, recording 10 in a loss to Ole Miss, and also notched four tackles for loss and two sacks. The game wasn’t particularly competitive -- Ole Miss won 34-3 -- but Barnett clearly ranked among the Volunteers’ top defensive performers.

What it means: He hasn’t been getting the same kind of attention as Texas A&M freshman Myles Garrett, but Barnett might catch up soon. All of a sudden he’s second in the SEC with 9.5 tackles for loss, along with 38 tackles and three sacks.

DE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss

What he did:
In the Rebels’ win against Tennessee, Haynes finished with five tackles, 2.5 sacks and his first career fumble recovery. That continued a dominant recent run in which he has totaled 4.5 sacks in the last two games.

What it means: Haynes leads arguably the SEC’s top defense with 7.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He also leads the SEC with three forced fumbles. The Rebels already have a star-studded defense, and Haynes is quickly adding another name to the list of players to watch.

S Jamal Adams, LSU

What he did:
The Tigers’ highest-rated defensive signee in a well-regarded 2014 recruiting class, Adams had his best game yet in a win against Kentucky. He finished with a career-high eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack, plus he delivered the key block that sprung Tre'Davious White for a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown.

What it means: Simply put, the energetic Adams is showing why those around the LSU program believe he is the next Eric Reid at safety. He is the Tigers’ leading tackler on special teams and is already a leader on their nickel and dime defensive groupings.

S Dominick Sanders, Georgia

What he did:
Sanders started at safety for the seventh straight game and scored for the first time in his college career when he picked up a Brandon Allen fumble and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown. Sanders’ touchdown just before halftime gave Georgia a 38-6 halftime lead.

What it means: Sanders, who also made four tackles against Arkansas, has been one of the more reliable performers in Georgia’s depth-deprived secondary. The Bulldogs still have plenty to clean up on pass defense, but the overall defense continues to make progress under first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Other notables:

WR Kendrick Edwards, Arkansas: Caught a 4-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter as the Razorbacks attempted a late rally against Georgia.

QB Treon Harris, Florida: Rotated at quarterback with Jeff Driskel and finished 8-for-12 for 98 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and also rushed eight times for 26 yards.

RB Jalen Hurd, Tennessee: Ran 13 times for 40 yards and caught two passes for 19 yards in a loss to Ole Miss.

WR Josh Malone, Tennessee: Caught five passes for 75 yards in a loss to Ole Miss.

WR Speedy Noil, Texas A&M: Caught four passes for 32 yards and returned six kickoffs for 106 yards in a loss to Alabama.
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Trevor Matich discusses how hard it will be for No. 24 LSU to score any points on Saturday with No. 3 Ole Miss' powerful defense.
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- A player can’t be considered a star when the average fan still reaches for a roster after he makes a play in order to make the connection between name and jersey number.

[+] EnlargeJamal Adams
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesLSU has already seen the impact Jamal Adams can have on and off the field.
 LSU’s Jamal Adams might be on the verge of making the transition from hyped newcomer to household name.

“That’s what’s kind of happening to him: ‘Who’s No. 33?’ and then they go look him up in the program because simply put, he’s making plays wherever you line him up at,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “That’s a great characteristic.”

The freshman safety’s name was already well known among recruitniks, as the No. 2 safety and No. 18 overall prospect on this year’s ESPN 300. He was the highest-rated defensive player to sign with LSU in February. He’s quickly gaining recognition among more casual fans -- and not just because of his dramatic flop against Florida after Gators punt returner Andre Debose lightly shoved Adams’ facemask.

That play, which went viral on the Internet and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Debose, has been a source of nonstop comedy in the LSU locker room, with several teammates comparing Adams’ antics to that of NBA superstar and noted flop king LeBron James.

“That was too funny. That was something I expect out of him,” safety Rickey Jefferson said. “Then he tweeted and said LeBron taught me.”

Linebacker Deion Jones agreed, adding, “It was hilarious. I laughed about it on the field.”

Running back Terrence Magee, who was only a few feet away when Debose’s attack occurred, also got a laugh out of the play.

“He’s been watching basketball too much,” Magee said.

Adams said the play exemplified his energetic on-field personality, which Miles has described as “electric.”

“I’m a character and I do whatever for the team,” Adams said. “That flop, everybody’s blowing it up, so it was just definitely something I needed to do at the time.”

His contributions of late are not limited to appearances on SportsCenter’s Not Top 10, however. Adams is getting significant playing time in LSU’s nickel and dime defensive packages and is one of the team’s most valuable special-teams performers. He leads the Tigers with nine special-teams tackles and delivered the key block that sprung Tre’Davious White for a 67-yard punt return touchdown last Saturday against Kentucky.

On White’s first return of the night, Adams noticed that his side of the field was wide open for a return and pleaded with White to bring the next punt his way. Sure enough, White ran toward the Kentucky sideline with his next return and Adams crushed Kentucky’s A.J. Stamps with the block that helped White sprint into the open field.

 “He’s put himself in a great position to make big-time blocks for us,” White said. “I went back and watched the first punt that actually I took [17] yards. It could have been another touchdown if I would have just went outside. He was right and I did it that time and he made a big block like he said I would and sprung me for a touchdown.”

It was Adams’ most notable play in what was probably his best night as a Tiger to date. He continued to shine on the coverage teams, posting two special-teams tackles and also made his biggest impact yet on defensive downs. Adams finished with a career-high eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

“He has a motor that don’t stop,” White said. “He’s a guy that brings so much energy. He’s just not like that in games, he’s like that around practice. Very vocal, and he’s a young leader and we look forward to him making plays down the road for us.”

In truth, Adams is making plays now. Although he hasn’t started a game yet, he ranks fifth on the team with 37 tackles and is starting to live up to the preseason comparisons that LSU insiders made to former All-America safety Eric Reid.

Asked why he is becoming a more productive player, Adams fell back on the attributes that so many teammates cited while describing his game: He consistently shows great effort and energy.

“[LSU’s coaches have] been stressing how to be the player that you want to be,” Adams said. “They stress it hard in practice. It’s practice how you play, so every time in practice I’m going hard, I’m running hard, doing the little things. The little things separate you.”
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Danny Kanell explains why he believes LSU will have trouble getting RB Leonard Fournette going against Ole Miss' defense.
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Danny Kanell shares his expectations for Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace against LSU on Saturday.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
10:00
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There once again was a lot of big recruiting news from around the Southeastern Conference over the weekend. There was a big commitment, key visits and several new offers. Here's a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.


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Les Miles looks ahead to this weekend's Homecoming contest against Ole Miss.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- After a rocky start in SEC play, LSU is finally starting to accomplish some of its objectives on offense.

The initial spark, according to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, was settling on the starting lineup of offensive linemen that has been in place for each of the past four games.

“It’s a pretty good line,” LSU coach Les Miles said after last Saturday’s 41-3 win against Kentucky. “They’re starting to play like they’re capable.”

[+] EnlargeAnthony Jennings
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsAnthony Jennings and the LSU offense will surely get a stiff test against Ole Miss on Saturday.
Playing like they’re capable was a lengthier process than most expected for a line that returned four starters. Not only did center Elliott Porter miss the first two games on suspension, but guards Vadal Alexander and Ethan Pocic had struggled with injuries.

“Something that’s overlooked is all the movement we had early in the year,” Cameron said after the Kentucky game. “It was significant, not only with Elliott not starting the season, but with some injuries, with Pocic and so forth, and just our style of wanting to be physical and getting better each week. Our guys played tonight like they practiced all week.”

LSU has long prided itself on a physical, run-first mentality, but the line’s general ineffectiveness was one of the lowlights from a bumpy first half of the season. Perhaps the group has turned a corner after back-to-back solid outings against Florida and Kentucky.

Although it ran the ball reasonably well against Auburn (36 carries, 138 yards), LSU didn’t deliver a strong performance against a good run defense until Leonard Fournette was the driving force in a 195-yard night against Florida. The Tigers followed that by wearing down a mediocre Kentucky run defense, rushing for 231 of their 303 yards in the second half.

The Kentucky game was the first time LSU rushed for 200 yards against a Power 5 opponent after Wisconsin, Mississippi State and Auburn -- all of which rank among the nation’s top 26 defenses against the run, as does Florida -- effectively defended the Tigers’ running game.

“We’re getting better,” said Cameron, who participated in postgame interviews for the first time all season after the Kentucky game. “I think our guys up front really did a nice job. That was the plan coming in. Obviously [Kentucky employs] a pressure front. They bring a lot of field blitzes, a lot of boundary blitzes and I thought our guys did a nice job once we got on track.”

Pinning the Tigers’ offensive improvement solely on improved play from the offensive line would be too simplistic, however. It’s also receivers running better routes and getting separation from defensive backs. It’s running backs hitting the correct holes and making tacklers miss. It’s playing with a full complement of fullbacks for the first time in weeks and having them create consistent running space for the backs.

It also helps that the Tigers (6-2, 2-2 SEC) recently faced two mediocre teams from the SEC East -- clearly the lesser of the conference’s two divisions -- in Florida and Kentucky after opening league play against Mississippi State and Auburn, teams ranked No. 1 and 5, respectively, in the newest Associated Press Top 25.

They’ll move back toward the tougher end of the SEC spectrum on Saturday when No. 3 Ole Miss (7-0, 4-0) visits Tiger Stadium, bringing a run defense that ranks sixth nationally at 97.1 yards per game.

Facing the Rebels’ defense will be the true test of the progress LSU has made recently – and whether quarterback Anthony Jennings can truly be an effective performer against a top-flight defense. Although LSU seems to have settled on sophomore Jennings as the starter after freshman Brandon Harris struggled mightily in his lone start at Auburn, Jennings has hardly scared the major-conference defenses LSU has faced thus far.

“He really can play better than he played [against Kentucky],” Miles said. “There are a number of guys that he could have chosen to throw the ball to early on in the game and I think that he’ll see this and learn from that and I think he will be a better quarterback when we get to next Saturday.”

Jennings was 7-for-14 for 120 yards and a touchdown against Kentucky and 10-for-21 for 110 yards and one score against Florida. Harris threw an interception in his only pass attempt against Kentucky and didn’t play against Florida.

“I don’t know that it’s a competition as much as it’s just guys working to get better,” Cameron said. “It’s two guys that are growing just day by day, snap by snap and just maturing and understanding what we’re trying to get done.”

One objective that Jennings has met is taking care of the football. He briefly lost the starting job with three early turnovers against New Mexico State, but otherwise Jennings has not been plagued by turnovers. He has thrown three interceptions and lost one fumble through eight games, helping LSU tie for 11th nationally with a plus-7 turnover margin.

If all LSU asks of Jennings is to be a game manager, it will probably need to have more games like last Saturday’s, where it made big plays on special teams and controlled the contest with stout defense and a powerful running attack. It was the type of performance that LSU fans have grown accustomed to seeing under Miles.

“We’re trying not to put our defense in a tough position if we can help it. They do a great job of getting us the ball,” Cameron said. “Our special teams got us in great position. They scored tonight. I think it’s a collective effort.

“Anytime you block well and take care of the football, whether it be run blocking, pass protection, you should be successful. ... We’re in the back half of the season and we’re still getting better, and that’s a good thing.”

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Danny Kanell and Adam Rittenberg look back on Texas A&M and South Carolina from week 1. Did the first big game of the season point us in the wrong direction?

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Picks Of The Week: Ole Miss-LSU
Trevor Matich and Todd McShay make their picks for Saturday night's showdown between undefeated Ole Miss and LSU in Baton Rouge.
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