No. 13 LSU is looking for improvement from its defense.
No. 20 Ole Miss is looking for improvement from its offense.
The Tigers (3-1, 2-0) and the Rebels (3-1, 0-1) will try to find the improvement they seek in an SEC game Saturday night in Oxford, Miss.
LSU has bounced back from a season-opening loss to Florida State with three straight victories, including back-to-back conference wins in the last two weekends. But in their most recent contest, the Tigers barely escaped with a 34-31 home victory over Arkansas last Saturday when Damian Ramos kicked a 20-yard field goal with five seconds remaining.
The Tigers couldn’t shake the Razorbacks, who scored 17 points on three second-half possessions before KJ Jefferson was intercepted on a desperation heave on the final play of the game.
“We have to do ordinary things extraordinarily well,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said of his defense. “We’re having a tendency of trying to chase too many plays on defense. We’re trying to make plays that are really not our plays to make and we just need to do our job. I think once we settle down, this can be a really good defense.”
The defense has a pretty good-sized margin for error thanks to the Tigers’ passing game — and more specifically quarterback Jayden Daniels, the SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week each of the last two weeks.
Daniels shared the honor two weeks ago with teammate Malik Nabers, who caught 13 of his passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns against Mississippi State. Nabers had two more touchdowns and 130 yards against Arkansas and Brian Thomas Jr. added two touchdowns and 133 yards.
“Nabers is getting a lot of attention (from defenses),” Kelly said. “You’ve got to be able to find other one-on-one matchups and Brian is capable of winning those matchups.”
Daniels had 320 yards with four touchdowns and one interception against the Razorbacks, a week after throwing for 361 yards and a pair of scores — along with running for two more TDs — against the Bulldogs.
Ole Miss’ offense was doing just fine as well, averaging more than 50 points per game through three nonconference games. But the Rebels struggled in a 24-10 loss at Alabama in their SEC opener last Saturday.
“We’ve got to get better,” Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin said of the offense, which had just 56 rushing yards among its 301 total yards against the Crimson Tide. “Got to coach better, involve different schemes, different things. Sometimes the running game is interesting. You’ll have these games, and then all of a sudden they’ll pop and you’ll have a bunch of explosive runs.
“We’ve just got to all go to work and figure out a way. It’s not like we’re a program that hasn’t ever ran the ball or hasn’t known how to run the ball. It would be really good to get back to that.”
The Rebels were 7-0 and ranked No. 7 in the country last season when LSU beat them 45-20 in Baton Rouge, La. Ole Miss went on to finish 8-5 while the Tigers won the SEC West.
Two years ago, Ole Miss rebounded from a 42-21 loss to Alabama to go to the Sugar Bowl.
“We’ve been in this situation,” Kiffin said. “Happened to be in the same situation two years ago. Went 3-0, went into Alabama and actually played a lot worse, ended up coming back from that game and going 10-2. Got a lot of football in front of us, and a huge one this week against, I would argue, maybe the hottest offense in the country.”