Introducing a new Friday content item: Beat Reporter’s take. Brody Miller covers LSU for NOLA.com and joined us to talk about this Ole Miss-LSU matchup. He shared his thoughts on the LSU offensive line, running backs, Joe Burrow and more.
1. Obviously the LSU offensive line is banged up and is a concern. As of this writing, what’s your best guest as to what the o-line looks like when LSU takes the field for its first drive?
It’s definitely been a concern. Even when this group was entirely healthy, the pass protection was an issue. Now, LSU will likely be using its fifth different offensive line combination in as many weeks. There have been junior college guys, a true freshman and expected backups stepping into major time.
My best guess would be Adrian Magee makes his return this week, but Saahdiq Charles remains out, in addition to left guard Garrett Brumfield already being ruled out for at least this week and probably a few more. Adrian Magee took first team reps at left tackle during our limited viewing session Wednesday, so I’ll say Magee goes to LT to keep Austin Deculus at RT where he’s played well two games in a row. Then, true freshman Chasen Hines gets the start at left guard, with established starters Lloyd Cushenberry and Damien Lewis at center and right guard.
2. In the last two years in this game, LSU has had a running back run wild on the Ole Miss defense. Derrius Guice ran for 276 last year and Leonard Fournette’s rushing total from 2016 is still being calculated I think. The Rebels have struggled mightily stopping anyone this season. Is Nick Bonnette or Clyde Edwards Helaire capable of having that kind of day that runs OIe Miss off the field? And how do the injuries on the line affect what LSU wants to do in terms of running the football?
This was an area many reporters, including myself, have been wrong through four games. We didn’t think there’d be much of an LSU run game at all this year, and if there was we didn’t expect it to come from Nick Brossette. Brossette has arguably been the rock of this LSU offense. He’s a patient zone runner who knows how to wait for his hole and burst through it. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a little more explosive and shifty, and he had his own breakout game against Louisiana Tech. Neither of these guys are world beaters like the Fournettes and Guices of the world, and neither will have a game like those two had against Ole Miss, but they will collectively have a solid day.
As much as the line has struggled this season, the run blocking has remained serviceable. There has
been at least one 100-yard rusher in every game except Auburn, and while the line isn’t blowing teams off the ball, it’s creating openings. Pass protection is the main issue with this line, but it can likely hold its own run blocking against Ole Miss.
3. Joe Burrow is completing just under 50 percent of his passing attempts, but doesn’t turn the football over and at least appears to enough of a threat in the downfield passing game to keep teams honest. Do you think he is capable of winning the game with his arm should it come to that?
I suppose my main response to that would be he won the game against Auburn when LSU’s back was against the wall. He led two consecutive scoring drives with some pretty impressive clutch passes through traffic.
I get in trouble for maybe giving Burrow the benefit of the doubt too often, but I see a quarterback who makes the right decisions, has pressure in his face often and deals with consistent drops from receivers. He doesn’t have great arm strength, no, but if you just break down the plays he has more than two seconds in the pocket and an open receiver, you’ll see a pretty solid quarterback.
He will probably never be the guy running an Ole Miss-level pass attack airing it out, but I think the under 50 percent passing numbers are a little off.
4. The Ole Miss offense was not good against Alabama and the receiving corps struggled against the Crimson Tide secondary. A.J. Brown said earlier this week he thinks the Tiger secondary is perhaps even better than Alabama’s. Is there a particular matchup that interests you most? And is there an area you think the Ole Miss offense could try to exploit?
This is obviously the selling point of this game. Greedy Williams vs. A.J. Brown is the most exciting one to watch when they are matched up, but it’s worth noting Williams historically sticks to one side. LSU has toyed with the option of having him follow top receivers before, but against a trio like Ole Miss has I wouldn’t expect it.
The LSU defensive backs are solid, no doubt, although corners like Kristian Fulton and Kelvin Joseph didn’t have great games going against Louisiana Tech’s Adrian Hardy last week. That performance was probably more of an outlier, but if there’s an area for Ole Miss to attack it would theoretically be whatever side Williams isn’t on. I’m very interested to see what LSU does in the slot, considering the size of all those Ole Miss targets. If the Tigers use a lot of safety Grant Delpit going against the Ole Miss slot receiver, then that’s my favorite match up.
The most important thing, I would argue, is whether LSU can get a pass rush against Ole Miss. Ed Orgeron was critical of that area in recent weeks, and it’s been tough for LSU to replace outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson, who is out for the season.
5. Prediction, plus anything else you’d like to hit on or add if you’d like.
My prediction is Ole Miss gives LSU some scares and makes it interesting at times, but LSU holds on. I certainly don’t think it’s going to be some domination others might. I know Ole Miss has struggled, but it still has an impressive neutral win against Texas Tech and some clear strengths.
I say LSU wins 31-20. Tiger offense won’t look flashy, but it will have its most efficient game of the season.